Lying their way out of the problem.

When the fish processing plant workers in kuuddu were said to take week long leave every other week, with a half salary as a cost cutting measure, they had to strike to get the management to listen that they have also to share in the cost cutting measures. Each of the management person costs roughly 5 or 6 times the salary of an average line staff without their allowances and yet they did not feel like sacrificing a coin for others.
When the salary of the dhoni crews and captains failed to reach them at the end of the month, the staff had to resort to kidnapping themselves and their dhonis for the management of Dhoni Service to listen to them and grudgingly release their salaries.
In the recent Shangri la case, (which is comical in that its all about a playstation) the staff had to protest at dismissal of the four butlers which warranted in their own dismissal prompting further unrest but now the management is trying to distance itself from its earlier decisions. But one wonders, why does everything have to come to this bitter end? Why does even solvable simple problems become monster sized and waste so much of energy and money from each side? The answers probably lie in inaccurate judgment. Employers have to be more considerate about their staff and their welfare. Employees are also fellow human beings who have dependents on them for their earnings. We are all in this for a purpose. The purpose may not be the carefully concocted words of the “core values” of this company or that company. Those words mean nothing when the company has to defend itself from allegation of mistreatment to the workers etc. In such times of crisis, a higher set of morals take precedence over those core values which is all about Public Relations and damage limitations. Ultimately its all about lying their way out of the issue and failing to address the real cause of the problems in the first place.

Shangri-La on strike over a playstation!

the gamesters on strike

Sounds hilarious, but its true! The problem occurred when 4 butlers of the resort were found playing a game on a Playstation console they brought to a vacant room and the security personnel noticed it. The security personnel tried to do a military style investigation using military language like “no body moves…”, “stay where you are” and took photographs of the “crime scene” which irked the gamesters. Things got out of hand when the security chief tried to manhandle one staff when he exited the “Crime scene” which followed heated exchanges and the matter was taken up by the HR which hastily decided to dismiss all the 4 butlers. When staff protested at the unusually harsh measures, all 64 protesting staff were suspended from work which was understood by staff as summary dismissal. The end of the matter is still not in sight and the police have also been called by the resort to thwart imagined threats to property by playstation loving staff! Latest news from the island have it that the big shots from the head office has arrived and consultations with the protesters will be conducted tomorrow morning.

villingili shangri la
Shangrila Villingili

Now it clearly goes beyond the pale of human reasoning as to how a five star resort with a good reputation can become so incomprehensible dealing with youthful staff and the whole situation becomes a full blown strike for what? A playstation game?

Butlers by nature of their job are always supposed at the beck and call of the guests and if the resort does not provide adequate facilities for staff recreation such lax in standard might occur. However, given the harmless nature of their “Crime” and the chain of events that ultimately lead to these drastic measures, calls into question the attitude by the management to the staff. In average low key resorts, owned and managed by the local owner or entrepreneur such “crimes” are common and equally drastic measures against such “crimes” are much more common. However what is NOT common is for big brand names in tourism sector like Shangri La to fall in to childish mistakes and take a hit on their reputation.

destroyed for demanding rights

Even though all resorts have their own small rules-of-engagement books for staff, such rules shall not contravene the labour law of the country. The labour law is very clear in that it allows not summary dismissals unless on very serious issues such as dishonesty, threat to property or life.

Shangri la staff on strike: all because of a playstation!

politicizing everything…

The former government politicized football. So much so that footballers were made stars overnight and for every goal they scored or every match they won, huge sums of money were lavishly poured over the team. The effect of politicizing football did not go well if the results of the latest international matches our teams participated in, were any indicator. The summit of football madness was when former president Maumoon used the football trophy for his campaign which saw the trophy and some team players went on island hopping for each island just to let the islanders take a pic with the trophy. That was when everybody was calling on everyone else to cut cost and to economize for a better future.

Coming back to the present, the same mistakes are being repeated by the current government in a different way. This time its about music and the government taking an ill advised stand on one side of the issue. Its about some controversial foreign musician being invited to perform in the country and the government increasingly coming under fire from a sizable majority which is only calling for respecting their views and culture. The correct way for the government would be not to antagonize and further polarize an already restless situation and always make an effort to be seen as a seeing and a listening body rather than a dictating one from a high pedestal. It used to be everything in the past and now its about ultra liberal secularism which is bound to bring clash of cultures to the front.

The new tourism taxes

Royal Island Horubadhoo

Two new taxes are soon going to be introduced to tourism sector replacing one old tax which is the bed tax. The first tax which will be replacing the bed tax will be land tax which is going to be set as follows:

11$ per square meter for an island which is less than 50000m
9$ per square meter for an island which is between 50000 – 99999m
7$ per square meter for an island which is between 100000 – 499999m
2$ per square meter for an island which greater than 500000m

Also in the works are arrangements to lengthen the period of rent for resort islands from current 35 years to 50 years which has been a persistent demand by resort owners for quite some time.

However these arrangements still will need the approval of the majlis to be passed as law and it remains to be seen how much of a hurdle these measures will go through. Critics of the measures point out that the failure of latest batch of new islands given to be developed as resorts are really the problems of the developers and that the government does not need to lengthen the years by which the resorts are rented out. Resorts owned by Universal which were developed in the first batch of resorts will do lots of lobbying the majlis members to secure another 15 years and its nobody’s guess. The length of resort rent initially was 20 years which was raised to 25 again and still later raised to 35 years by resort owners pressuring the government. It has nothing to do with the wellbeing of resorts or tourism industry or workers but what it had was greed – plain and simple. The resort owners do not want to let go off their resorts easily and want to keep the property in family business forever.

click here to read the story is also in Haveeru

Shaviyani Vagaru under construction

The beautiful island of Vagaru which is a proper geographical atoll, is said to open in December 2010. The resort will be operated by the Viceroy Group of hotels which is one more big name that’s shortly coming to the country. The resort is being constructed by an “EON” group which is .. the Eon Group.. On the about page of the EON resorts there is absolutely no useful info about the big shots of the company or any such info. Through our research into the reason of this secrecy, we found out that this in fact is another front company hiding the business interests of the former president’s family which is said to own 4 resorts. Construction in the island of Vagaru is said to have started in the election year and following the defeat of the then president, his family was said to have come under harsher times (money wise) which apparently is the reason for the sell off to the American Viceroy Group company.

Tribunal orders Airports to give 1.9m to employees.

The employment tribunal has ordered the Airports Company to give 1.9 million ruffiyaas for 21 of its staff, who were retired as compensation for unfair retirement compensation. The said employees were retired according to a “policy” of the airports which they were not able to present or prove to the tribunal. Shows how much Airports Company value the services of workers who have given half of their adult life to the company. The story is reported in Haveeru and read the rest here..

The idea of a Tourist Village..

Some industry experts are suggesting an interesting new concept of a tourist product in Maldives which is the Tourist Village. The idea is to create several hotels (5 or more) in a big island with lots of accompanying services to be outsourced to other businesses. Currently all our resorts are dedicated hotels in one island which is running in complete autonomy. The idea is very interesting as it will be an opportunity for lots of businesses to do business in one island. For example the security, transportation, staff accommodation can all be handled by different companies instead of one resort management which will be a very welcome different work atmosphere. Although the idea is just an idea it is expected to get some serious thought from the government as they are already exploring further ways to extend the already proven profitability of tourism. With the recent swamping of Male’ by the arrival of tourists from a passenger liner, the industry leaders are agreed that there needs to be more to do to facilitate further arrivals by big ships in the future.

Using staff as window dressing..

Some common practices such as  signing of contracts between two companies etc are associated with archaic practices which nobody seems to be bothered about. The pic above shows the ceremony of signing security contracts between defense ministry and airports company attended to by two female employees one of whom is evidently irritated to have been called on to wait on the gentlemen signing whatever they signed. Usually what will happen is the two gentlemen will sign all the pages on both of those folders and the “employees-in-waiting” will take those folders somewhere inside the office and disappear. The gentlemen will rise from their seats with big smiles on their faces and shake hands for the camera following some little speech about how they expect to be happy with the arrangements. Now the question is what is the big need of using two female employees unnecessarily to wait on them for the occasion? The gentlemen appears to be perfectly healthy and the folders and papers do not seem to be excessively heavy.. so why cannot they keep the folders on the table till the ceremony ends and take the folders inside the office themselves when the media and everyone is gone? In this new labour ruled times, it certainly makes sense to lessen the amount of time staff are retained in office without work to ease pressure on the budget to which the president has already called for a couple of times. Also imagine the unnecessary preparations those female employees would have to go through knowing their picture will be captured in the media.. Things like cosmetics are of course a drain on earths scares resources but how much of those will be used for the fluke of a moment thing?

Short of condemning this archaic practice, we at the Maldivesresortworkers call upon the employers to refrain from such excessive aggrandizement of their work and to respect the workers as fellow human beings. The workers are there not as a “garnish” or as a window-dressing… The workers are also fellow human beings who expects rational works be assigned to them. We also ask the employers to respect gender equality and not to use female employees as waiting girls for their little ceremonies.

Resort life: its all about pretence… lots of it.

In resort life everyone tries to be what he or she is not according to circumstances. Sometimes this behaviour is required as part of the profession and sometimes it happens out of inclination. For example:

The managers: they come in all shapes and sizes. Some comes with a perpetual frown on their faces whilst others hide their true expression behind an engaging smile. But they all share in the pretence.

The guests: Most guests are also notorious at deception. Its ingrained cultural habit to smile and make light of everything however annoying. However there are those who are exactly the opposite– the realists and the con-guests who will complain at the smallest inconvenience to get a free champagne bottle or a discount on their stay.

The HR: The HR used to think and play god till the arrival of the dreaded labour laws. Now that mantle of power to terminate staff indiscriminately for whims and wishes can at last be challenged in the labour tribunal which thankfully is a little bit even handed.

The reservations people: Together with ‘sales and marketing’ people, they will have everyone else believe that if not for them the resort will close down for business in a few days time. Nothing can be further from truth. The fact is that most tourists just choose to come to our resorts having come to hear of our beaches and small islands from internet mostly via tour operators. Tour operators do not necessarily depend on reservations but sometimes they have agreement with the resort to allocation of rooms which is ‘handled’ by these pompous people. In technical terms they are just clerks and data entry people making a big fuss of their work. Of course there are some sweet down to earth people who do not aggrandize their work but in resort life such humbleness is exception rather than the norm.

the maintenance people: The maintenance people will include generally the engineers and the usually unseen crowd. They will be the happiest when something really major breaks down like an engine or a water plant because that’s the only time they can shine (like a star…) and their work will be valued or respected by their superiors. Also they are prone to make the smallest issue as big as possible just to get the attention of the managers because that’s the only way up on the corporate ladder at that level.

The waiters and room boys and girls: Generally honest and hard-working these gentle people have a tendency to make a purely service task a technical one, which is comical at certain extents.

The launch section guys: perhaps the most realistic in appearance and attitude are found in the ‘launch section’ team. They have a reason for that too. Extended periods of time spent in monotonous journeys between islands and airports wear them down which makes them difficult to please or irritate.

The IT guys: The it guys are all smiles and kindness until a computer terminal is said to be terminally ill and the IT guys is called in. From that moment the IT guy is bossy, unfriendly, talks in jargon and will generally look down on the rest of humanity. However a by-law of Moore’s Law have it that advances in technology will soon make them redundant as networks, computers and devices become more and more user friendly and intelligent. They had their day in the days of windows 3.2 and dot matrix printer era at which time being an IT guy is not for the faint of heart. Nowadays the IT guy is pretty much alive thanks to Microsoft’s windows and the uncommonness of common sense.

The Chefs and the kitchen crowd: There is unending war between the restaurant guys and the kitchen folks because all the hard work is done at the kitchen but all tips are received at the restaurant. However as most resorts are mindful of this war, generally their salary is higher than the rest which is some solace to the animosity. The kitchen guys generally do not subscribe to false smiles and half-hearted greetings cos their life is hectic and hard.

Gardeners, labourers and the like: At the bottom of the ladder they are resigned to their fate or position , and they automatically have the rubbery smile and artificial greetings for all guests and superiors. No such smiles for their peers and others. There is no saying that ambition is lacking in this department, there is as gardeners are frequently fond of watering the plants around the Gms office etc hoping he or she will take notice of the effort….

There is so much hypocrisy to go around in resort life but its worth the fun it is. If resort folks including the guests all are expressionless die hard realists,life in resort will indeed be tough..

The untidy fish market..

Trading floors come in different shapes and sizes. Here in Maldives we have our own modest securities trading floor which sells a few shares once every few weeks and most of the employees of the exchange needless to say are adept at playing solitaire most of the time. Then we have the trading floor of our local fish market which is the second best place for guests as an ‘attraction’ in Male’, which is exactly the opposite of securities trading floor. Money (several thousands of them…) daily are exchanged here as prices for various types of fishes and yet the place is very dirty and neglected. The main floor of the market is extremely dirty and will fail any medical test for cleanliness. The place smells extremely foul and unhygienic. Tourists being tourists, they will not complain and think its part of their holiday to know and feel different cultures and places. But its culturally neither acceptable nor really representing dhivehin’s lifestyle to be untidy.. The place is in obvious neglect and somebody needs to take notice of state of the place for the benefit of everyone.

Presidential mistakes

Lets begin at the beginning.
His Excellency Mohamed Amin Didi was our first president and he is said to be the founder of the present “Republic” that Maldives is. Many important initiatives like formal education, creation of main roads in the islands are credited to him. However His Excellency’s rule was short lived and was brutally murdered by a mob. Despite his revolutionary and progressive governance, he does not associate himself with the common men and was elitist in appearance and style. It maybe one of his undoings of which clearly there were many. Mahatma Gandi was also educated but in Oxford and yet, to associate with the common populace, he wore clothes like a beggar. At that time Amin Didi was in power, few men in the ‘republic’ had the wherewithal to wear a shirt or anything to cover their bodies. Yet Amin Didi always wore either military uniforms or western attire…

Ibrahim Nasir was the second president after a brief spell of kingdom of Hassan Fareed. Ibrahim Nasir was a president brought to power by the elitist power brokers in Male’ and was not well loved or respected during his whole reign. Nor did he need love or popularity of the common people as he based his rule on fear and intimidation. Its said that he did not use bodyguards and walked the streets of Male’ alone and unattended yet it was common knowledge that His Excellency was not a person to be messed with. At the time his dictatorship only knew force, violence and torture to solve most of the cases. At the time political dissenters disappearances were not uncommon and prison inmates were routinely tortured sometimes to death. The most poignant example of Nasir’s notoriousness was shown on the occasion when he depopulated the island of Thinadhoo because Thinadhoo islanders allied themselves with the short-lived Suvadive government.
The current government’s effort to portray Nasir as a proper president making best of a rough situation, not as a dictator seems to be an effort to chip away the popularity of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Its commonly used tactic in politics to discredit an entity by presenting competing further entities which seems to be the case.

In the short lived Suvadive government (in Addu), the president was Afif Didi and he reigned in tumultuous times. During the short reign of Suvadiva, they were able to do pretty much everything a new country aught to do save perhaps the efforts to consolidate on what was achieved and to move forward. There were many reasons for their failure and on a personal level Afif Didi was more popular, loved and respected by his countrymen than any other. Most of the factors that lead to their ultimate defeat of the Suvadive Republic were possibly beyond their power. The involvement of the British and the Male’ government’s unwilling to let go of the souther three islands were certainly factors. The leadership of Afeef Didi on a personal level was impeccable but there were elements of aristocracy and elitism which would not have gone down well with the freedom loving masses.

Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom comes from an aristocratic family in Male’ and was pushed into presidential hot seat (it was much colder then…) by the favor of his predecessor Nasir. Under his rule lots of good and bad things happened and the list of his presidential mistakes were indeed long. Although a lot of propaganda goes both ways, the fact that he nurtured a personality cult and was a nepotist is true. Further mistakes would involve curbing freedom of expression, imprisonment and harassment of the Ulema. One of the most damning things for which Maumoon will be remembered is for his extravagant life style which is summed up in the gold decorated toilet in the Presidential Palace at Theemuge.

The incumbent president Mohamed Nasheed entered to the list of the presidents on popular vote after defeating his predecessor Maumoon in the first “real ballots” this country has seen (possibly) for the first time. Prior to coming power, he was a constant (and consistent) thorn for Maumoon’s government, forming a broad based popular opposition and basically twisting the Maumoon’s arm while he was still in power. After coming to power with a coalition of partners, Anni was lauded for his prudent economic policies which in his own words were in a state of jaahiliyya. It might be too early to state the full list of Anni’s presidential mistakes but there are indications that the once grass-roots president is loosing touch with the roots and bowing to pressure from the elitists in his party. The issues are social and religious which Anni used not to dictate in principle but at the insistence of the aristocracy and his inner circle of party members, the president is getting into uncertain waters. Adhaalth party which is the political partner of ruling MDP, consists of the most respected religious leaders of the country is increasing coming under pressure from the elitist camp in MDP which is basically trying to set the agenda on how Anni operates. It maybe Anni’s undoing for letting this vocal minority influence his relationship with Adhaalath Party which is in a position to make or break who will ask for votes come the next election.
enumerating the mistakes:
1) Signing agreements and pacts with Israel which by world’s consensus is the most roguish state currently in existence. This is the same country which uses the passports UK citizens to murder people in other countries despite the fact UK is the country which actually gave birth to Israel and is closest to them save the US.
2) Trying to legalize sale of wine in inhabited islands which was revoked by mass protests. The front for the issue was city hotel business but was actually done to placate the wishes of the MDP party backers who were linked with the Holiday Inn hotel in Male’.
3) Seeking help for Islamic sharia from Germany which is ironic as this country is still respected by world’s Muslims as one of the few surviving 100% Muslim countries in the world. The idea is not actually to seek help for sharia but perhaps some financial gains which was given cold shoulder by Germany, as Islam and Europe do not mix. Its currently not acceptable political language in Europe to talk about Islam to the chancellor.
4) Aligning with and giving his moral backing and support to a vocal minority of secular elitists from his party activists and others. Democratic principles is firmly on the side of majority and the majority of this country still has not signed up to secularism.