Societe United Docks v Government of Mauritius; Marine Workers Union v Mauritius Marine Authority: PC 1985

(Mauritius) Dockworkers and the Ports Authority, submitted their wage dispute to binding arbitration. The award granted a substantial wage increase which the workers then sought to have enforced. The government, brought in legislation allowing the Attorney General to object to the award’s enforcement.
Held: Section 3 of the constitution of Mauritius is an enacting section, not a mere preamble or introduction. The more detailed later sections (section 8) did not curtail the ambit of section 3, and the Board held that: ‘A Constitution concerned to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual should not be narrowly construed in a manner which produces anomalies and inexplicable inconsistencies.’
Lord Templeman: ‘Prior to the Amendment Act the appellants were entitled to an order of the court making the award executory and enforceable and each relevant employee was entitled to sue the MMA for, and to recover, the difference between the salary and allowances in fact paid to him and the salary and allowances to which he was entitled pursuant to the award during the duration of the award. The Amendment Act has thus deprived and was intended to deprive each worker of a chose in action, namely the right to sue for and recover damages for breach by the MMA of its contract of employment.
Section 3 of the Constitution of Mauritius recognises and declares inter alia the right of the individual to protection from deprivation of property without compensation. The Board have already determined in connection with the contemporaneous case of Societe United Docks v Government of Mauritius that the protection afforded by section 3 is not confined to property which has been compulsorily taken possession of or compulsorily acquired within the meaning of section 8. The appellants rightly complained on behalf of the workers employed by the MMA that the workers had been deprived of property, namely their right to sue for and recover damages for breach by the MMA of its contract of employment, contrary to section 3 of the Constitution.’ and ‘It suffices that the Amendment Act was a coercive Act of the government which alone deprived and was intended to deprive the appellants of property without compensation and thus infringed the Constitution.’


Lord Templeman


[1985] AC 585



Cited by:

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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 05 July 2022; Ref: scu.192651