The government has added May 1 to the list of official public holidays after a cabinet meeting yesterday. Its an improvement from over the years where a day for workers rights was unheard of. Workers rights in the Maldives has largely been championed by the tourism sector workers who have put a lot of effort to raise the issues of workers and has suffered the most. The last workers rally conducted by the TEAM was attended by a few dedicated resort workers and was a novelty kind of approach to voice workers issues. The few attendees held placards displaying various issues faced by the workers. The issues included calls to implement the provisions of labour law as well as demands to review the labour laws! The situation is worse this year as recent patches to labour law crafted by MATI (resort owner’s cartel) has been added in to labour laws, which almost effectually bans workers protests in resorts.
The employers appears still firmly locked in medieval mindset when it comes to playing fair with the workers. What has to dawn on employers is the fact that a happy, loyal, motivated workforce will be more productive and more beneficial for the business they are employed in. It doesn’t make anybody a genius to know that and to apply these. It would also be universally acknowledged that employers in this day and time couldn’t be that daft not to know such a basic truth. However it should be beneficial to be reminded that we are dealing with the same employers who raised fears that resorts would have to hire double the amount of staff they were currently employing just to comply with the 8 hour work rule when the labour law was enacted. Its a sign of how low the employer class been and how much catching up there is.
The island of Kudafinolhu is north of fun island is in the press with the Villa Group claiming the tourism ministry’s revision of the rent for the island is against the original agreement signed with the ministry. The island was leased to the Villa group at a paltry 1500 dollars as a picnic island. The revised rent is based on the size of the island and amounts to 51,784 dollars annually.
The case highlights the corruption and self-interest at play in the tourism ministry over the years and its an encouragement that the tourism ministry is at-last seen to be doing something about these issues.
Although a picnic island by itself does not generate income like a ‘resort’, resorts sell excursions to guests which is a lot of money on a yearly basis. For the purpose of rent for the k.kudafinolhu, 1500 dollars is only symbolic. This goes in the same line where Villa group was awarded a plot of land in Male’ for filling station for only 6rf per sq-ft. If we consider another similar island Kuda Bandos, which is a primarily local picnic island, the rent for the island is 1,130,333 dollars! so the kinds of money expected from picnic island is not paltry at all when dealt farily. There are more islands and more stories like this which needs to come out to light and accountability.
The long expected devaluation of local currency Rufiya has happened with an official range of 10.28rf to 15.42rf per 1$ announced yesterday. The immediate implications of this exchange hike would be a jump in consumer goods prices so one Rufiya would have less buying power than it had one day ago. This measure was enacted by president Anni with consultations of financial experts to curb a thriving black market for dollars at higher than official figures for exchange rate. The official storyline is that although there will be a lift in consumer goods prices in the short term, the crisis will pass and that dollar to Rufiya rate will fluctuate on a daily basis and everyone will live happily ever after. However with the current political realities its difficult to believe this measure will go unchallenged by the opposition.
The implications of this dollar exchange rate will be negatively felt by resort workers in resorts where the staff are paid their salaries in Rufiyas. Although there is no real reason for resorts to pay salaries in Rufiyas, several resort do exactly that. This is despite the fact that all the revenues generated in the resorts are foreign currency.
The construction industry will also be affected by this exchange rate measures, which hopefully will consider offering more work opportunities for local workers. The current model for construction industry is to employ illegal immigrant workers at near extortion rates for back breaking work and to employ only illegal immigrant workers (because they will be unlikely to pursue their rights in official channels) to do the job all the while saying local talent is unavailable. Nothing can be further from truth. Locals are as or more willing to work for a reasonable pay which the ‘construction industry’ does not seem inclined to give.
Ultimately, the solution to dollar shortage in the country is to adopt more financial reform measures which will be fought with on every step of the way by our opposition political parties which has only mission in office; to oppose the government weather its right or wrong!
Armed with partial statistics on jobs in the Maldives, the employment minister it appears have rightly waded in ‘hot water’ territory deriding fellow countrymen for not seeking work. According to the ministry’s latest job survey there appears to be 1639 vacant jobs in various businesses at the moment (in Male’ area) while only 300 applicants seemed to have applied for jobs via their obscure job matching system, hosted in the ministry’s site. The survey seems to indicate that of the total 22642 workers currently working in 24094 businesses, only 12432 workers are local. The minister appears to observe that lack of qualification might be the prime reason why workers remain unemployed despite many vacant positions.
Responding to the minister’s argument in a Haveeru thread, most readers of observes that the youth minister Hassan Latheef is not fully aware of the scope and magnitude of the problem. While its common knowledge that the ‘best’ jobs will be acquired by the most qualified workers, there are so many other problems which checks the workers from applying for jobs. The survey conducted by the ministry does not seem to include anything else except vacant jobs in business properties. It could well include elements to determine the problems why seemingly large numbers of eligible workers refrain from entering the market. In short the many problems why people do not enthusiastically take up vacant jobs could be:
low paid jobs: this is a problem that have not kept up pace with the inflation of the economy and unrealistic expectations of employers.
wage benefits: to a large extent if local and expatriate workers are compared in similar positions in Male’, the local will be at a disadvantage by benefits such as housing and food allowances which mostly does not apply for locals. This is despite the fact that the a large number of locals who work in Male’ are from local islands and pay for their own accommodation in Male’ as well.
inconsistent job specs and unrealistically high qualifications: this defies explanation. Some employers simply ask for bachelors degree qualification even for such mundane jobs as store keepers! In return they are willing to pay only the lowest wages in the market.
Despite the half hearted surveys, its a good sign that the ministry is at least concerned about these issues and hopefully better mechanisms to get people to work will be implemented in the future. This measure is on the heals of another important problem the government is seemingly at work on which is the dollar shortage problem. According to official figures there is a 2m$ outflow of dollars from Male’ as remittances by expatriate workers which is one of the many factors aiding pressure on the pegged dollar exchange rate.