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José Constant, the life of a docker

José, the docker, was very proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Velogic. Present in the team for what seems to be close to its very beginning, we met this emblematic figure of 63 years on the docks of Mer Rouge, where he spoke passionately of his job.

The glow of 50 years of hard work illuminated José Constant’s face as he told of the old times with foregone circumstances: “Everything then happened at the granary. We would lift jute bags weighing up to 80 kg, carrying them above our heads and barefoot.” Although he received his daily pay at 2.30p.m. every day, it almost instantly vanished into his plate. “Every night, I would go to the market to buy what I needed to refuel”, he reminisced.

A tough job for equally tough men is what José kept of these memories. “During my first days, my legs would quake under the weight of the bags, and at night, my neck was sore. But my seniors encouraged me to bear with it, and so I did. It only took 15 days for my body to get used to it, and then I wasn’t sore anymore.”

Back then, the docker used to carry oil barrels and flour bags to a truck that would later deliver them to the wholesalers in Port Louis. This gruelling task would be repeated until the dockers had no more energy to continue. Today, however, things are very different. José took us to the docks to show us this evolution.

Our guide was proud to share his daily work with us: “The reconditioned cars arrive in these containers, and there can be up to six of them.” Unloading them has its peculiar rhythm too: “One is up in the air, the other on the ground; and we manoeuvre them in teams of three.” Further away, frozen goods are being delivered. “Thermal gloves and protection shoes are mandatory to protect us from electrocution.”

“Our job has changed a great deal”, marvels José as the machines, manoeuvres and automation have projected his colleagues and himself into a new era. “Although the physical nature of this line of work remains unchanged, the conditions are ten times better! We have paid leaves and overtime, but also a lunch break, tea time, an end of year bonus, uniforms, safety equipment and health check-ups.”

The cherry on top: “Velogic also organises jolly sports days and grand end-of-year parties!”. “But all good things come to an end: in two years, I’ll be retiring”, teases José.

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