Labour Tribunal instituted

Employment Tribunal members taking oath of office
Employment Tribunal members meeting the president

The government has instituted the Labor Tribunal today and appointed members for the tribunal. The members of the tribunal are:
President: Mariyam Nazima, G. Miran tel: 7757893
Vice President: Muhammad Ahmed, H. Haaji Edhuruge
Memebers: Ali Najeeb, Ba. Kudarikilu, Neel
Memebers: Ibrahim Rifath, H.
Memebers: Hussein Shameem, H. Shady corner
Memebers: Fathimath Shifaana, H. Shifaanaa Villa,tel: 7616261
Memebers: Shabaab Rasheed, S. Meedhoo, Shabnam Villa, tel: 7775642

The members of the tribunal are appointed by the government and the members are only names to the workers. The members have yet to show how capable they are or how useful they can make their services for the average worker on the job. If these positions are only gifted as favors for affiliations or political associations then it would be one lost opportunity to do tremendous good for the industry and we in the tourism industry will be carefully watching. Congrats for the ETMs (Employment Tribunal members) and best of luck.

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To climb up on the coorporate ladder…

“Have you chosen our resort as a career path ? Or would this be just another job…” Its standard question in many a job interview and the answer shall always be that the applicant would indeed want the position on offer to be his career path. No other answer is necessary and nothing else is expected. Its sometimes amazing how grown up people cannot grasp the eccentricity of the answers and the questions a typical job interview could unearth but its always taken in stride. For the applicant the situation demands it and for the interviewer its just part of the job. But how easy its to climb up on the corporate ladder and how rough a ride is the average career path of a resort employee?

Like all things in resort life, nothing is certain and the least that could be certain is of course the job or the career. What is needed for the doubt and suspense to end along with the career is sometimes a simple expression. “You are fired!”. What will follow is the termination papers and whatever is due as salary and that’s basically the end. Up until this very moment situation in resorts across Maldives is somewhat similar to this. Staff could be fired for anything and recourse to litigation is not something average Maldivians can afford.

To some extent how the staff can be hired can also be as hassle free if the right strings are pulled. This is true of Bangladeshis as well as Indians, Sri Lankans and Maldivians. To be hired if one is a Maldivian he or she should preferably have a close family member high up in the management hierarchy and if an expatriate than certain amounts of money will have to change hands before the deal is done.

What is important to note is that despite all the correct noises being made and the bills (not utility bills…) passed by the majlis, tourism industry in Maldives is still being steered as it was done before. What if anything changed, its the terminology and nothing else. Hence and for the reasons mentioned above, the way to climb up on the corporate ladder shall be obvious. What is required on the part of the employee is to be a “yes man” or a “yes woman” (to be affirmative no matter what..) The employee should not take it to heart all the good things preached so frequently by the management that they have to treat the resort property with as much loving and care as it were their own. Such advice are only good on paper and should be implemented if only there were witnesses to bear it or mangers passing by to notice it. The goal of the employee shall not be to be a do gooder. But to be seen as one! And that’s an important distinction.

Ways to help the local economy

local girls sweeping lawns
local lawn sweeping girls

Tourism workers need not all be waiters and room boys or office boys. There are girls as well. There are others whose work goes sometimes unnoticed. Enter the humble sweepers… or path cleaners or named whatever.

Although most of the resorts in Maldives do employ their own little or big force of sweepers and island cleaners who for the most part would be categorized as maintenance workers, there are some resort islands who do employ locals from nearby islands which is very good for local economy. Most resort islands in Maldives although being prosperous in business once developed as a hotel, used to be the picnic island of the closest inhabited island nearby and most islanders would have fond memories of the island only a few years back. However as soon as the island becomes a resort the island becomes exclusive and the nearby island locals derive no benefit from proximity to prosperous business except in name.

In the interest of being good neigbourly, resorts needs to take into consideration such issues of relevance to their neighbors to foster trust and goodwill which is the ultimate guarantee of safety in a business. For example the recent incidents in Herethere Resort where break-ins and burglaries happened in the resort is directly linked with the unemployment situation in Addu atoll. Hence its important for resorts to give whatever benefit which can be given to their neighbors and foster good relations with the nearby islands.

Coming back to the sweepers they would mostly be local women who would welcome any opportunity to be productive whilst the resorts also would benefit from their experience and efficiency which is nothing to be compared to the multi skilled inefficient resort employees. The same can be said of local fishermen who would only be too happy to supply reef fishes and such sea food if the resorts would buy from them. Most of the time they would be prevented from such mutually beneficial business either because the supplies department might have prior agreements with importers thanks to insider dealings or other such forms of corruption which goes largely unnoticed by the all knowing managements.

Now the govt. is also being accused of non-compliance to labor law

mpa-logo1
It’s the same picture that’s being seen in all resorts and now it’s spreading beyond resorts to other places of work. Now it’s Maldives Ports Authority staff who are getting ready to strike because their employer i.e. the government of this country (it’s a wholly owned government company) has refused to comply with the labor law. The staff of MPA has issued a deadline to the management and is awaiting their employer’s response.

In most developed countries worker issues and laws and regulations governing the issues are respected in minimal terms because issues like these are thorny issues which can be used to mobilize masses to achieve anything and there is history behind it. However in Maldives the situation is different. Years of lawlessness has created this mentality in the employers that somehow laws cannot apply to them and any law they do not feel sufficiently pliable accommodating their desires shall be revised and before that rejected. This is exactly what happened in the case of labor law and why MATI is discussing ways with the government to water down the labor law so that it become a useless article for lawyers to argue back and forth. Litigation is costly business and MATI is aware that employees or bodies representing employees (i.e. TEAM) cannot compete with them in money terms.

The many or few privileges or perks the labor law is said to have given to the workers of Maldives is peanuts if compared with what is offered to workers elsewhere and MATI has failed to acknowledged that. For example the 48 hour week which is so resented by MATI and most employers is actually ancient if history is correct. It came only after the 84 hour week and is nothing to boast about. Same goes for public holidays and overtime. The only substantial benefit resort workers stand to gain from the labor law is the requirement that any service charge collected shall be distributed and this requirement has not been honored by >90% of the employers.

Apartheid in canteen!

food cart
food cart arrives!

Although its a waning trend, junior and senior staff canteens is still a very common phenomena in most resorts in Maldives. The name junior and senior is not meant to be taken in its literal sense as its not the age of the employee which makes him eligible or ineligible for meals from a particular canteen. The demarcation is based on the seniority of the position and yes there might be the occasional ‘executive staff canteen’ above and extra to the two classes of canteens said above. Prevalence of this trend is seen less in resorts managed or owned by foreign companies whilst the locally owned and managed resorts seems not to have done their math on the viability of the mathematics involved in this food apartheid!

In the order of relevance here are the cons of the having apartheid in staff canteens!

1) Economics is firmly opposed to this as benefits of economies of scale are clearly lost when pointless 2 or 3 canteens are operated side by side serving the interests of bloated egos of some management staff.

2) While most resorts in Maldives have a premium on land use where the staff compound or quarter is squeezed in tight mostly in the middle of the island or wherever there is less beach, the big fat point of hosting an extravagance in the form of separate canteens is highly questionable.

3) The resentment among staff to such exclusive preferential treatment to some staff while the rest are treated as second class workers goes very much against the preachings of “social equality” and “empathy” quite common words in customer care briefings.

etc

Although some resort owners are sympathetic to resort workers with varying degrees of fondness, the need for restraint and efforts to preserve the status-quo are invariably the work of management people who have this belief that they stand to loose on exclusivity which they have enjoined for many years. What has to happen is in the immediate future is for resort owners and business managers to come to an understanding that the days of treating staff as second class human beings shall be put to rest. That to provide top class service to guests the resort shall need top class staff who are happy with their job and and working conditions.

Cheats guide to promotion

advice
There are no hard and fast rules about being promoted in resorts even though there are books and treatises written on this such as the famed dummy series books. The main points to remember should be:
1) Use your voice. Be assertive and aggressive where needs be. The underlying idea is to be heard above the crowd. Resort managers would love to see that trait in workers if not over done.
2) Remember to use correct form of salutation when addressing mangers or directors such as the all important “sir” or “madam” if the boss is Indian.
3) If working in front office or reservations be sure to know your facts. if pressed by a superior invent your facts!
4) Have a healthy dose of disdain for computers because most hotel managers and directors are not computer literate hence they will be suspicious of anyone competent in computer use.
5) Do not find fault with your food even if its unpalatable. Have your own supply of cup noodles and tuna tins and biscuits stock up for bad times. Because resorts managers have special dislike for employees complaining about food.
6) If working in maintenance department be sure to find work in or near areas of office and in office time. Make sure your work is noticed and make a big fuss about things if needs be. Never let them underestimate the dexterity or expertise required by your work.
7) Make a list of faults of your colleagues and and keep a note book and pen always. But don’t overdo in complaining. Because ultimately it will come back bouncing.
8 ) If you couldn’t convince them, confound them! This is applicable if you work in engineering or technical fields because most resort managers are not well versed in technical jargon. eg: use E=mc2 when calculating power but don’t get caught in the process!
9) Don’t ever forget Gm’s birthday or his family members birthdays if you are working in pastry. Make special birthday cakes for the occasion.
10) If working in housekeeping make sure GM’s or resort managers room is in perfect order and decorate with flowers. Be attentive to detail. Guests may not notice the fine print but GM will.

TEAM press release

team-logo
Ref:T.E.A.M/005/2008

Tourism employees association of Maldives (T.E.A.M)

PRESS RELEASE

The constitution of the Republic of Maldives and the laws and regulations under it should be followed by all persons living in the Maldives. Therefore, not abiding by the Laws and regulations is perceived by this Association as a gross violation.

The Association strongly condemns all the activities by Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) to restrain and denigrate the efforts by the employees of resorts in Maldives to gain their rights due to their exclusion from the Employment Law. The employees of resorts are working for their rights with patience and responsibility, doing so within the limitations of the legal framework.

This Association sadly denotes that till present, MATI has not made any efforts for the rights of the thousands of Maldivian employees working in resorts. Whilst this has been the situation, the current policy of MATI is to restrain, in any way possible, the efforts by the employees of the tourism sector to obtain their rights. As MATI has not made any efforts towards creating qualified employees to work in resorts in its 25 years of existence, this is a clear indication of the lack of concern by MATI for the employees of resorts.

In relation to the allegations made against this Association by MATI on the 18th of November (Ref: MATI/RH/205/2008), we would like to point out that this Association was also established under the same laws and regulations as MATI. Therefore, MATI does not have any higher legal status than T.E.A.M, even though the actions of MATI give the impression that it has some special privileges.

Further, regarding the circular of MATI to its member’s dated the 2nd of December, 2008 (Ref: MATI/XX/246/2008), it is not a crime to stop work in peaceful protest when the employer at a work place does not follow the laws. Even if MATI views it as illegal, the laws of Maldives do not forbid the right to strike. And hence, T.E.A.M calls upon MATI to further review the laws and regulations thoroughly. Meanwhile, it is a right of every employee to do everything he could if and when he feels his rights stipulated under the Maldives Labour Law have been violated. However, MATI described the peaceful protests for employees’ rights by some resort employees as violence. Despite MATI’s view, T.E.A.M believes that the protests were in accordance with the right to strike stipulated within the threshold of the Maldivian laws.

T.E.A.M does not perceive that tourism sector employees are entitled to special immunities and privileges. However, following the initiatives of T.E.A.M, the Maldives government has acknowledged the need for further advancement of tourism sector employees.

TEAM notes that the Press Release issued by the Labour Relations Authority was issued without proper investigation and misleading. The reality is, during the past seven months, T.E.A.M has held several meetings with all relevant authorities, lobbying to amend the Employment Act, and urging resorts to comply with the Law. Furthermore, T.E.A.M has on several occasions appealed to resorts to comply with the Employment Act.

In addition to this, on 8th of October 2008, T.E.A.M filed complaints against the resorts that were not complying with the Law to the Labour Relations Authority. In response to this (NO: L-2008/4629), Labour Relations Authority ensured that it would take the necessary steps required to address this issue. However, T.E.A.M regrets that whilst different resorts interpret the Act differently and are not complying with it, the Labour Relations Authority did not make appropriate interventions. In this regard, some parties regard speed boat crew as seamen.

T.E.A.M notes that the formation of a Labour Tribunal is still pending, while the institution should have been formed months ago.

In the MDP’s News Conference following the Reethi Rah work stoppage, the address by three parliamentarians of the Party contradicted the viewpoints they expressed in the Parliament. These parliamentarians actively participated in protests, and spoke in favour of protests in the Majlis. While these parliamentarians have also described the current constitution as the “constitution of protest”, the comments made in the above mentioned Press Conference that the Reethi Rah work stoppage was politically motivated leaves their integrity in question. T.E.A.M perceives this comment as prioritising their own interest above that of ours. We deny this allegation by MDP.

On this occasion, T.E.A.M would like to assure that without standing back, we shall do whatever is required to achieve the rights of tourism sector employees.

December 16, 2008

Would you be appalled?

is there no limit to this?
is there no limit to this?

Maybe this is as bad as things can be or worse yet can there be. But is it not too much if the staff of a resort at the end of the year would have to pay for the resort 1500rf while going to their annual holiday just as a ‘mortgage’ against themselves for not showing up after the holiday? Which employer has done this or is there any depth of depravity employers would not go just to extort the money they so grudgingly gave to the staff for their hard work?
It is commonly asked by resort employers to the staff to treat the resort property as home and do their work with as much diligence and sincerity they would do for their own home. This is all good advice and common sense and most staff are only too happy to go the extra mile to be sincere in their work. But what is the result? At home most people do not go hungry because the fridge is locked or the kitchen is locked. In the resort (some resorts that is) it is almost impossible even to get drinking water after the meal time is over. At home most people are not locked inside prevented from going out say to enjoy a bit of fresh air in the porch. In some resorts it is strictly prohibited even to be seen outside the staff block after 2200 hours. This is just one of the few draconian measures resort managements put on place to harass their staff just because their mindset is still locked somewhere before the Bronze Age. But it has to be pointed out that all is not sad and gloomy in resorts in Maldives. While it is true that some resorts do even offer to their staff dedicated wifi , cable TV channels, shuttle transfers between resort and Male’ etc and varieties of menus to choose from at dinner in par with what is on menu for the guests, these resorts are few and far between. What has to happen among the resort employers of Maldives is to wake up to a realization that staffs are their staff not their competitors. That the staffs are the most profitable machinery they have on their business. That time has changed and that its a few years past the 21st century and they need to upgrade their collective backward thinking. That to have a good product you need to appreciate the people who make all the things happen. Etc etc.

And yes if one is doubt as to the identity of this so called employer who charges money from staff going on annual leave staff as security against them not showing up again– yes the employer is Kurumba Village. Despite their massive turnover in profits which is reflected on their astounding growth Universal Group of resorts has a larger share of justifiable criticisms against it than the rest. One another example of how averse this employer is to the rule of law is that despite the labor law being explicit that any service charge collected must be distributed 99% or totally, the resort has failed to acknowledge this. While most new comer resorts to Maldives are capable of substantial amounts as service charge KV the so called pioneer of Maldives tourism is lagging far behind. (Last month 900mrf).

Kurumba Village “loyalty” bribe

kvOn every 5th of the month the employees in Kurumba Village receives a sealed envelope containing money the amount of which is different for different people. The only people who are excluded from this generosity are the executives. This new found generosity to KV staff by their employer is understood to be nothing but bribery says critics who point out that since the labor law came to effect nothing substantial has changed in Kurumba and nothing is likely to change. The envelope labeled “loyalty” is effectively bribing staff not to strike or demand their rights which is perfectly understandable from some employers who would find it difficult to be honest and upright.
The much overused marketing catch line for Kurumba Village from times immemorial has been to allude to the first great days of tourism in Maldives and how Kurumba village was the first and the best. Nothing could be farther from truth. For a start the first days of tourism in Maldives were anything but great. The first group of tourist were in fact a band of nature terrorists who came to Maldives armed complete with angler’s gear including fish guns (which are banned in Maldives since) and looking for a place to strip and look like zombies. If being first was an honor than indeed Kurumba is entitled to that but there are lots of positive points to Kurumba as well.
Strictly from the point of view of the average local resort worker Kurumba is a transit hotel. It’s someplace the guests as well as staff move to other places with memories and experiences respectfully. The clientele of Kurumba would mostly be the toughest and most demanding of the bunch hence resoluteness and good service to the guests is only asked and given. Most of the guests who would have spent time in Kurumba would have wholeheartedly recommend Kurumba to their friends and kudos for Kurumba for that. One other positive point for Kurumba is its proximity to Male’ and the ease of transfer to and from Male’ to the island. This is the reason why there are employees in Kurumba who have toiled 10 to 18 years and still find Kurumba a good place to work for despite all that is wrong with Kurumba.
The cons of being a Kurumba employee are as many as the pros are few. For a start the abusive behavior of the management towards rank and file staff is famous in its notoriety. The reason for this is the influence and power the Kolige clan wielded in the former government and to a large extent is still the case. They are simply untouchable and beyond reproach or criticism. There is no question of dialogue or discourse or discussions. The orders come from above and no dissent or even a rational objection is tolerated. Bereft of any recourse to justice, staff toiled in these islands of Universal Group in the truest sense of a transit hotel.
Then there is the case of differentiation of meals and accommodation and its all but public knowledge that staff accommodation blocks for “room boys” and “waiters” were often referred as animal dens such as “bakari koshi” or “himaaru koshi”. Although not officially sanctioned these names are known to staff and the management unrepentantly uses these phrases in daily discourse. Even as such amenities as hot water and air conditioned rooms for staff became standard facilities for staff everywhere in resorts in Maldives, Kurumba remained the exception until very recently. In short Kurumba village despite its vainglorious history is one of the best and worst hotels to work for in Maldives. Best if the position held by the employee is a managerial position. Worst if the position of the employee is a low semi skilled job. What is at fault is not the resort but the mindset of the management that runs it.

Discriminating against workers

hey come back!

On discrimination the new labor law is very clear. It is prohibited. Here is the text.

“4. (a) It is prohibited to discriminate amongst persons carrying out equal work either in the granting of employment, determination of remuneration, increase in remuneration, provision of training, determination of conditions and manner of employment, dismissal from employment or resolution of other employment related matters, based on race, color, social standing, religion, political beliefs or affiliation with any political party, sex, marital status, family obligations, and in so far as it does not contravene the provisions herein age or disability. ”

As its in human nature to find ways to evade a disagreeable thing so is the case of discrimination even as it is prohibited by law, most resorts are finding ways to evade the law and find breaches in law to contravene it. The extent of discrimination amongst workers is quantifiable and is proven. And the ways of discrimination are quite different from what is popularly perceived. For most of the world workers discrimination would happen on color and sex. The whites get more and the girls get less. Tourism industry in Maldives seems to be no exception to this trend although this is an arguable position. Discrimination on pay among color lines is never attributed to color but is always defended with the assertion that expatriates were sought when locals were unavailable and once they are sought they have their say in dictating terms. In theory this seems to be plausible but in reality it is much more complicated than that. And it’s a long story that should be brought to light. Hopefully we will write on this very soon in this blog.

A case in point in lots of resorts in Maldives is the alignment of the management to a certain nationality and the love lost among other employees of the resort who do not fall in to favored nationality. In Universal Groups resorts the fondness and general benevolence is mostly to Sri Lankans as the owners of that group identify themselves with their close relationships and connections in Sri Lanka. The recent entries to the resort market in Maldives from Sri Lankan hoteliers John Keels and Eitken Spence is reputed to be a little bit overzealous in this respect. The same can be said of Taj resorts who seems to be forever trapped in the pioneering history days of the Taj founders and medieval India. Enter the Italians with their “club” conception of resorts and everyone is frowned upon if not Italian. Yes they would rather not have even the British as guests if their fellow countrymen could be found. Enter Banyan Tree and Bandos and everyone except Maldivians are automatically disqualified. And the list goes on and its an interesting trend to observe.

BUT: interesting or not, the law of the land shall be observed. The law is clear that there shall be no discrimination against workers based on the qualifications in the relevant clause.

Staff accommodation

all employees are equal... but some are more equal than others...taking a nap… in a card board box.

All resorts in Maldives with very few exceptions are self contained islands where from electricity to water and food to everything else is either produced or supplied by the island and self sustained in a manner quite unique. So is the case with staff who are lodged in staff accommodation blocks mostly in inconspicuous places in the middle or corner of the island while the guests have their villas spread across the lagoon or beach or both. With restrictions to limit built-up area, most resorts do indeed have a problem of staff accommodation which might range from staff having to share 6 or 8 or even 10 in an average sized room to having to stack beds 3 or 4 rows vertically up! Besides the fun of having to live in these conditions and the constant pressure from the superiors at work to perform ever so better and greater on and off duty, at the end of the day the tired and worn out staff would again have to face another adventurous night and the monotony continues.
The few lucky resorts who have dedicated staff islands or arrangements to accommodate staff on nearby inhabited islands fare somewhat better being able to provide some job satisfaction in this area for the staff. One another real big issue in staff accommodation seems to be is disparity in quality of accommodation despite terrible limitations of land whereby the all powerful management gets pavilions and mansions sometimes better accommodation than the guests.
Ideally all resort employees shall have private rooms by themselves however scantily the furnishing should have been. Alternatively the same job satisfaction could be delivered if regular staff ferries from resort to Male’ could be arranged so that the local staff would have maximum time with their families and yet be able to work in the resort. This would apply to the majority of the resort islands closer to Male’ and to the majority of the local staff who by law are required to constitute half the population of any resort.

All the hype about staff training…

pat_on_the_back_1
It’s not infrequent that resort managements and hoteliers in general would pat themselves on the back congratulating them on how well they are providing much needed training and educational opportunities in resorts to their “associates”. (Yes that’s the popular word for staff nowadays). But the word is only a word and the self congratulatory pat on the back is just that and no more! This is especially true of the vast majority of resorts in Maldives excepting maybe a couple or more resorts that do provide these services to the staff. On behalf of the grateful, thanks and ‘well dones’ are in order.
Here are some facts on the situation…
The rationale for providing educational assistance on job is a widely known and established practice in most parts of the world and the benefits of which is known and acknowledged. The benefits far outweigh the investment provided that reasonable limits are kept. However from resorts that has not heard yet about this concept to resorts which send their staff on lengthy scholarships abroad is all too common a scene in the tourism sector in Maldives. The range and scope of applicable education opportunities to staff vary from resort to resort. In some resorts even the physical makeup or build of the owner or GM might influence his decision on the type of educational assistance his staff gets. In the majority of the resorts that do actually have some budget or a policy on this (this said majority is in fact a tiny minority) what is taught goes not beyond the history of the founder of the business and how tough times were back then! These newly employed who would have to go through this training session would have only to repeat what the trainer said word for word like a parrot and that’s basically the end of training for life on a particular resort for a particular employee.
The situation being such there is indeed need for much work to impress upon the employers the need to consider relevance, usefulness and worth for money which at present seems to be lacking in these areas. What is offered as education or training to staff shall not be something to gloat over by the management but useful skills and knowledge which once applied at work would be of use for the betterment of the business.

When all the resorts follow the labor law to the letter and spirit…

pier1

What would happen if the this were to happen? Would indeed this happen and who would benefit most? These are all important questions easier to be asked than to be answered as is the case with most questions that are answerable. As for the fact that the law is binding and compliance is required is a mere statement on paper. What is supposed to happen is for the employers to find fault with the law (as had already happened) and find ways to water down the law to suit them. This is nothing new. Rule of law is applicable to the masses. To the elites same law would have to be customized to suit their needs. Hence MATI with its loyal fat business clientèle has summoned their fat legal team and are said to be discussing changes to labor law. One should not be too much surprised if they have it their way because there is very little awareness in the public about how serious the implications of these issues will be.

In the short term all resort managements will do their part in conforming to labor law provisions some with obvious signs of feet dragging while others taking things in their stride. Those resorts who would not find much difficulty implementing the law requirements would mostly be the big already reputed to be good to staff resorts such as W, Four Seasons, Banyan Tree etc. What that is easier for these resorts to adjust is the portion of service charge to staff of which they were distributing a bigger percentage to staff than the other resorts which are renown for notoriety to staff such as Universal group resorts and Villa and Champa group resorts. These resorts would have to find ways to adjust their accounts to where service charge was involved as service charge is to be wholly distributed staff by law.

As for the other requirements such as the 48 hour week all the talk that was then prevalent is now reversed by a turn of 180 degrees. The industry bosses had predicted that the resorts would have to take on additional staff to comply with time restrictions of the law which at present seems not to be the case. In fact most Human Resources departments in resorts are now compiling lists of redundant staff citing compliance to labor law requires them to cut cost which means job cuts .

Whatever will be will be and the coming weeks and months will show where the industry heading. In the bigger picture the prospects doesn’t seem to be all sad and gloomy as compliance to labor laws will inevitably force some unwilling hands of the tourism industry from the economic slavery they have been subjecting our fellow resort workers for some long long time.

Imminent strike in Dhonveli

Reliable sources tells us that there indeed is indeed going to be a strike in the island over withholding of service charge of which 99% according to labor law shall be distributed to staff. Currently whatever percentage that is distributed in the resort amounts to 50$ per person and the staff are reportedly not very happy about it. At Dhonveli service charge is distributed on the 15th of every month and the staff are awaiting the coming of the 15th of this month.
It’s becoming a sad fact of life that the majority of the employers in Maldives still have the mentality that they are allowed to break the law whenever it suits them and expects total compliance when it comes to laws applicable to staff.

Before strikes began…

extra curricular activities...
extra curricular activities...

Strikes and demonstrations were indeed something of a novelty to the tourism industry in Maldives and in the past few weeks a series of strikes 6 resorts have left the industry bosses worried. They are worried (they say) because of the implications of the strikes in the middle of high season among other things. Granted that industrial strikes were a novelty and that they are not the best possible solution but there has to be admission that it was a necessary evil. Tourism industry has its ups and downs and tourism workers had their problems and worries which should have been given some thoughts from day one. But the standard answer to staff complaints from the majority of the resorts would be things like this…
• “If you are not happy with how things are going here then there is jetty…”
• “So you think you know some things we don’t?”
• “So you are saying that I am doing a bad job here… eh?”
• “Go on… go to complain… Go to ministry go to court or wherever…”
• “Why are you making all this fuss? Haven’t you been in cadet while in school? There is a rule in cadet that you are not to question why…but to do and die… remember?
• “I have noticed that the Maldivians here are the most trouble makers… they make all the trouble”
Etc Etc at al
Now if this is the kind of mentality the “managements” had then (which up to now they have) there is little reason to be optimistic that talks with “managements” will yield any results. Hence there were strikes. And there is likely to be more to follow. But what was the standard course of action before strikes began?
It was mainly futile “calls” to the tourism ministry and sometimes petitions and on a very few occasions court cases which needless to say failed most of the time. On average what would happen when a disgruntled staff or a group of staff would call the tourism ministry and lodge complaint is that they would listen and if the nature of the complaint is sufficiently convincing they would send some nobody from the ministry to the resort in question. The “nobody” will of course meet the managers and scribble some “nothings” on his clip folder and take some pics of the staff area and have lunches or dinner with the human recourses boss in the restaurant and be gone in the next departure boat. That would possibly be the end of the matter and the “management” out of courtesy or whatever might say a few soothing words to the angry staff and possibly that would be the end of the matter.
Letters and petitions to the ministry would yield much less and nobody in the tourism industry could recall any written answers the ministries or offices sent them answering or even acknowledging receipts of the complaint.
Now as to what would have happened to the staff who might have lodged a complaint to high offices, he or she would certainly be dismissed one way or another and even signing on a petition would be like signing one’s own dismissal forms. He or she would fall in the categories of “insubordination” or something similar and would be on a black list from the moment.
This is not something’s which happened in a long distant past but is happening even right now. What that has changed is that there is new government which came to power using people to demonstrate on the streets against injustices hence an understanding of a novelty use of a form of protest. What the protesters rely on is a hastily passed labor law by the then government for their own political scores rather than genuine empathy for resort staff. What is understood from the strikes is that the all powerful business elites would have to think about reforms and treat resort staff as human beings.

How to do 8 hours work?

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To get employees to work to 8 hours in compliance with the new labor laws in Maldives,  resort managements are going to great lengths and are doing everything short of  arresting them.  This shall not have been the case if most employers do make occasional use of common sense (which sad to say is the least common thing on earth).  For a start if the  ‘management’ is aware that there indeed is a little bit of difference between say a garments factory and a luxury hotel, progressing from thence would be a little bit easier.  A textile or garments factory worker doing a shift duty say sewing or cutting clothes etc his or her work is directionally proportional to the amount of time he or she spends on the factory floor with his or her machine if all other factors are accounted for.  The same is not true for a luxury resort worker in Maldives and the reasons shall not be hard to understand. Take for instance the all too common “roomboy”. However punctual or overzealous or fretful the roomboy is he simply cannot do his job according to his own tempo. His work is dictated for him by the daily habits of his guest or the particular mood or temperament of his supervisor who might send him on little annoying errands just because he felt like it. The same can be said of the plumber whose work will start when some disagreeable fitting came loose or the likes of such.  Mindful of these inconsistencies in the nature of work and the need to get worth of salt for every penny (or cent or whatever) the venerable Human Resources Departments are coming out with ingenious ideas. One such idea is the stratification of time with fancy names as ‘up time’, ‘down time’, ‘on time’ etc. The idea is to find as many reasons to detain staff on the job and be as economic as possible which makes perfect business sense. But somethings doesn’t quite fit in.

The majority of human race would prefer straight talking. Straight talking meaning honest talk without attached strings or barely legible subscripts. Enter the case of 8 hour day which was a hard fought and won battle somewhere around 1800. Roughly 200 years later the employers and employees seems to be still at it trying to reinvent the wheel. What the ‘management’ is trying to do is to introduce into a regular work day qualifications of time which will make it impossible for any worker except them (because some sections of labour law doesn’t apply to them) to be able to do their prescribed “8 hours”. For how can a telephone operator claim to have worked 8 hours on a particular day if the call timers in the phone machine is not matching what is claimed? What is at fault here is sincerity. If the employers would like to admonish staff to be sincere in work and in attitude they could advice themselves first and mend their ways of thinking.

MATI trying to rewrite labour law.

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Imagine the students of a particular school were given the opportunity to write the school rules for teachers! Imagine how much fun they will have doing that?
Quite similar is the case of MATI which is trying to rewrite the labour law according to their whims and wishes. And the saddest thing is there seems to be little public debate or awareness about this issue. So lets start from the beginning.

MATI or Maldives Association of Tourism Industry is a group of elitist business people in Maldives who to all known extents are known to serve their interests first second and even last. The former government had close contacts with these elitists and when the current government assumed power most of the elitists found themselves on the wrong side of the divide which is why the group seems to toothless at the moment.  However it will be only a matter of time before they regain their former positions thanks in large measures to the sorry state of the economy of the country.

Now where and when MATI started dabbling with labour law is quite known. The labour law was drawn and sent to Majlis and passed hastily by the then government controlled Majlis all inside a carefully orchestrated political drama a few known or cared about. But the implications of the law seems to be creeping up to places most people never thought about. Hence she was quite right when the newly appointed Attorney General said that although MATI has raised many objections to the labour law it has failed to name one offending clause of the law. MATI took hint from this and has started the arduous task of re-writing law to which they have no mandate! They are not writing law per se  but lobbying the Majlis members and the government to change the law to make it suits them. As they are organized unlike the resort workers are and they have well oiled machinery to carry out these sorts of undertakings those who shall be concerned shall be concerned. What is at stake is hard fought freedoms and liberties the labour law gave.

Stop resort strikes says tribunal…


Stop strikes in tourism industry says the newly formed tribunal at the labor ministry. So says Tourism Employees Association president Easa and so says almost everyone. Even the self proclaimed shameless Tourism Workers Union which is representing anything but the tourism workers is singing the same tune. But should they be listened to? Are they justified in preaching  peace when the change is in the air? Lets take a closer look at the issue in question.

Although the majority of tourism workers in Maldives are young they are not staging demonstrations and calling strikes for fun. There are real issues which they are raising and most of the issues they raise are solvable and realistic issues. Political opportunism has not yet entered the fray although the momentum is there. Examples of issues the workers raise include the all important  service charge (fair distribution of which), improvement on food and accommodation and sometimes pure drinking water. Then of course there is the odd demand or two of a few dismissals who most of the time would have been a management person who openly advocated against the wishes of the protesting staff. These being the kinds of issues the protesters raise lets see why these issues rarely comes to discussion between management and staff which in theory would have eliminated the need to strike and loose a little bit of reputation of the hotel as well as a few badly needed reservations..

As all those who urge the tourism industry workers to refrain from staging strikes and demonstrations reiterate, the way forward shall be with negotiations be it directly with the management of the involved resort or with government agencies as third parties who seems to have found a new fondness of brokering peace between these two classes. The way forward indeed is through dialogue and not confrontation but this is strictly in the realm of theory and abstract academics. In real terms if an employee or a group of employees appraoach the management of any resort management in the Maldives with a list of demands, propositions or even a few ideas to discuss the probability that the group or the person will be fired the next day is very great. The most optimistic probability would be greater than 50% which is not an acceptable risk most workers are willing to take. Hence the idea of strikes or demonstrations become more attractive than talking politely or begging blithely. So aswell as  urging the workers to refrain from staging strikes the peace making lobby shall criticize the managements of resorts to trim their collective egoes and be a little bit democratic in their ways of thinking. This unfortunately does not seems to be happening and is indicative of how out of touch with reality the preaching lobby is.

Imminent strike in Dhonveli

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Reliable sources tells us that there indeed is indeed going to be a strike in the island over withholding of service charge of which 99% according to labor law shall be distributed to staff. Currently whatever percentage that is distributed in the resort amounts to 50$ per person and the staff are reportedly not very happy about it. At Dhonveli service charge is distributed on the 15th of every month and the staff are awaiting the coming of the 15th of this month.
It’s becoming a sad fact of life that the majority of the employers in Maldives still have the mentality that they are allowed to break the law whenever it suits them and expects total compliance when it comes to laws applicable to staff.

Boat pass? what boat pass?


Although standard procedure in many resorts in Maldives, the practice of issuing boat pass to staff visiting Male’ is a questionable one. First lets look a the reasons why there shall be a need for boat pass. In different resorts this issue is differently treated as the situation demands it. For example in some resorts in Maldives staff ferry dhonis do take on board locals from nearby islands who wish to go to Male’ as a ferry dhoni may not be readily available on their island. In some resort islands this is no matter at all, everyone is free to go and come as one wishes whilst beknown to his or superior. The most common reason for boat pass would be the requirement to know by the resort as to the actual headcount of the people of the island at any given time. This is about logistics and properly so. Such information becomes invaluable at times. However the requirement to obtain signature and approval from the management to go to visit family members in Male’ or etc on a hard earned off day is basically infringement on the right to freedom of movement. Because what one does in his or her free time shall be no one’s business (much less that of the employer) and this question of boat pass wouldn’t have been a question had Maldives been one land mass like the majority of the world’s countries. Therefore a feature of a country’s geography shall not be a reason to be big-brotherly and preside even on the staff off day. So the practice of obtaining and granting “permission” or “approval” shall be put to debate and acceptable language sought. Here are one suggestion:

+ There shall be no signatures on the pass except that of the security officer or boat captain which is acknowledgment… not “approval” or “disapproval” or “permission” etc.