Alidhoo staff on strike, again!

Alidhoo Cinnamon Island JResorts Maldives

Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island)


We are getting reports that a strike is happening at Alidhoo Cinnamon Island over last month’s pay. Apparently the resort has still not paid August month’s pay to the staff and is not even able to tell the staff when the resort can pay them. The same situation was repeated in June when staff had to go on strike to get their pay! That time the resort fired 12 staff for their legitimate demand on pay.
SAARC secretary General Dhiyana and JResorts owner Abdulla Jabir

Chairman of Yacht Tours Jabir with his wifeDhiyana former AG


Under the labour laws of the country, every employer is required to pay the previous month’s salary no later than the 10th of the next month. Cinnamon Island resort which is owned and managed by JResorts Maldives (formerly Yacht Tours Maldives) has a history of abusing workers rights and flout labour laws without fear of reprisal. The managing director of the company happens to be a senior member of the ruling MDP and a former parliamentarian whose wife is the current SAARC secretary general. It is scandalous that such high profile persons can afford to openly flout laws of the country with impunity.

We call on the Tourism Ministry and the Human Resources ministry to look in to the recurring problem of delays on staff’s monthly pay at resorts managed by JResorts and to bring those responsible to justice.

The skilled 8.5k


Under the economics reform agenda, it was decided that 8500 people will be trained in various areas of study in work related fields to combat widespread unemployment among young people. According to the plan there will be 56 areas of study for study which will certify the participants in 1 to 6 month duration courses some of which will be accredited internationally.

According to latest statistics of HRM, there are 2000 vacancies in construction industry, >3000 vacancies in tourism industry, 700 vacancies in transport industry and 800 vacancies in fisheries industry.

Out of 205033 locals eligible for work, 38602 are out of work whilst another 73840 expatriates works in different sectors throughout the country.

In theory this is alright, jobs are there lying vacant unmatched to prospective job-seekers. Job seekers also would have to be helped to become skilled if they are not. But the real problem that 30% of people eligible to work who remain unemployed is because of unrealistically low wages. Consider the picture below.

The picture is a typical job ad by a top local business brand which clearly is seen offering an unreasonably low pay for a demanding job. As for skills required, fiber optic networking could not be attempted without skills. Yet a lousy 3k per month is offered for full time employment which actually means, the employer is not interested in hiring locals. A local simply cannot survive on that kind of pay in Male’ island if he does not live in a hole or a cave or needs to eat and drink water even if occasionally!
Job ads like these are clearly designed to exclude locals from work and is all the more reason why we shall have a basic minimum wage and other protective measures like work visa quotas. Ideally a country would be left better off not having to legislate on issues like this, but if employers do not take the social responsibility then they shall be prompted to. Its also worth noting that the worst offenders when it comes to dodging social responsibility are the local employers who still have pre-slave era beliefs about the worker class.

Useless trainings…

frequent trainings are held in resort irrespective of purpose or use
Trainings come in various sizes and shapes! Mostly if a resort employs an in-house trainer he or she will make sure that a project is always going on even if its of use to no one. These trainings goes by various names. It could be about ‘brand orientation’ or ‘company philosophy’ or ‘green globe -whatever’ etc.. Sometimes outside parties such as marketers of a brand or a product might be invited to the resort to lecture a section or a department to introduce their products, all in the guise of a training. Basically these trainings are created and implemented so that the trainer wants to be seen to be doing some work!

The worst part of a useless training would be to be expected to learn some archaic abstract meaning of the shape of the company logo or the personal history of the humble beginnings of the company. For example, For The Taj Group it will be long long story of how the British were in India, The East India company, the Rajs of the time and inevitably the freedom struggle all somehow related to the company and how the founders toiled hard to please the always-right customer in their small hotel! (And remember, the founder was always smiling! {that’s important}) Similar stories goes for every employer. It maybe a required obsession of the employer to inflate the corporate ego but in this day and time, it might be worthwhile to check the return value of such an exercise. Namely what the resort or company gets by forcing uninterested employees the intricacies of their humble beginnings except wasted hours and soft-drinks and T-shirts etc.
If all in-house trainers in every resort acts up like this, its a little solace that similar schemes are not thought of by in-house resort doctors who might come-up with ideas to vaccinate staff routinely on various imaginary ailments!

Alidhoo Staff fired asking for salary!

SAARC secretary General Dhiyana and JResorts owner Abdulla Jabir

Chairman of Yacht Tours Jabir with his wife Dhiyana SAARC Secretary General

Not to be unfair or one sided but if a survey is made of all the resorts in Maldives and asked which employers are the worst, Jresorts will come to the bottom of the results. There is very little doubt about that. Its a combination of bad politics and corrupt business practices which views the workers as nothing better than paid slaves. This is in very contrast to the excellent service resort workers give to their high paying clients who blissfully are unaware that the workers who pamper them in their expensive holidays sometimes go without pay for months while they still retain the smile.

Our solidarity with the wronged staff of Alidhoo Cinnamon Island who were summarily dismissed for asking for their last month’s salary. This sends a chilling message to honest workers who toil hard in resorts far away from family and friends that employers can still cheat and threat and getaway with everything and nobody seems to take notice!

Here are some background info about Alidhoo the resort, the parent company and the owner of the bussiness.

The owner:
Jresorts is owned and managed by Mr. Abdulla Jabir who is frequently referred to as a self made businessman from Huvadhooo Atoll. However like all creations of the state Mr. Jabir was also a creation of the former administration. Specifically Mr. jabir rose to prominence in tourism industry by association with Yameen the powerful minister who held many ministerial portfolios and half-brother of the Maumoon the last president. It could be safely assumed that almost all of Jabir’s resorts were built, renovated or maintained by finances and materials from deals with the State Trading Organization whose board chairman was also Yameen at the time. So unlike most resort owners who struggled with finance arrangements, Jabir had an important friend at the right place and time. Mr. Jabir’s wife the Diyana the current SAARC secretary general is not associated with his bussiness but its frequently noted in forums and local news that the position for Dhiyana was offered as part of a political deal to keep Mr. Jaabir away from ruling party politics. He is the only prominent politician/businessman in the country to have been in all major political parties, DRP, MDP, Jumuhooee Party, And People’s Alliance (Yaameen’s party) in so a short period of time. Basically he is an opportunist businessman involved in politics for the business interests like everywhere else around the world.

The resorts:
Jresorts currently owns Alidhoo, , KudaRah, Vatavarreha, Funamaudda among many other islands. The parent company of the islands is Yacht Tours Maldives. Past management deals and ownerships include Dhonveli Beach and Spa which has been sold to John Keels Holding Co of Sri lanka and Herethere which was leased from MTDC. The Herethere deal has since been abandoned after a sizable loss to everyone including the MTDC. Jresorts has also been awarded an island in lieu of a failed bid he presented to Vilivaru and Biyadhoo which was a precedent which has since not been replicated.

Better living conditions at work site by law

typical resort workers accomodation  would look like this.

typical resort workers accomodation

When employers are remarkably stubborn, everything has to be done by the force of law! Atleast that seems to be how it works in the country. Although we have a booming tourism and an accompanying, construction industry, workers of both industries generally live in medieval conditions. The plight is especially worse for construction industry as the workers are mostly expatriate workers. Worse means ‘small’ things like having to work 7 days a week, no pay for 6 months, a makeshift toilet for one in 50 people and things like that. However its to their credit that Minivan observes that the most frequent complaint of expatriate workers is about unpaid wages, while that for locals is about living conditions. However the ever persistent demand by resort workers about service charge is also about money which is also legally theirs.
Minivan has an excellent article on these lines here… Pls follow to read.

Although our construction workers build world class resorts, their work accommodation is definitely other-worldly..

accomodation for resort construction workers

typical construction workers accomodation

The numbers behind the illegal immigration problem


The problem of illegal workers has soared to new heights as the country is listed on US State Department’s human trafficking watch list for a second year. To tackle the problem the military has been manning the immigration counters and human resources ministry to investigate the root causes of the problem. Prior to this takeover the two offices (immigration and human resources ministry) were not able to solve the problem of which office keeps which monies associated with the immigration and visa fees process. The problem was resolved that neither office gets to keep any monies related to expatriates visas, deposit fees, work permit, return ticket etc. Instead Maldives Inland Revenue Authority takes over the money matters from the two offices.
 
Briefly the various numbers associated with the illegal immigrants are as follows
 

  • 130milion Rf as lost visa fees per year for the country.
  • Greater than 40000 estimated illegal immigrants in the country. The two separate databases kept by the Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry has a variance of greater than 20000 which is making it difficult to estimate the size of the problem.
  • All legal expatriate worker pays 250rf per month as work visa fees.
  • 1 office serves visas. 1 entry point for immigration.
  • Expatriates are estimated to remit 10m$ per month. The dollar shortage problem is frequently associated with this problem. However the single most drainer of dollars is high government spending.
  • Its also estimated that workers remit 100-800$ per month per worker which is contrary to popular belief that illegal workers work almost for pennies!
  • Recruitments agencies are charged 1500rf per worker as deposit.
  • To counter the unwieldy problem, the government resorted to a new boarder control system which also fell foul to corruption: The monies involved in the new boarder control system are $220m for 20 years for a company called Nexbis: A comparable system that is employed in in Sri Lanka costs 2.2$m to install and to develop!

 

links
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113427
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113237&category=cTrOpir

 

Finding a job for everyone..


The recent round of middle east turmoil and popular action to remove corrupt regimes from power started with an economic problem. Joblessness. The same kinds of problems are being experienced in more developed countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. Here in Maldives, we had a culture of government appointing political and civil service jobs as favors for katheeb’s and atholhuverins and their friends and families for a long long time. At that time those who didn’t have the right connections had to make their own way to resorts or somehow manage to scrape a living. Time however has changed with the new popular administration and the changes that are currently being brought simply needs an urgency in creation of jobs for the local people. The current thinking for solving the housing problem is through real-estate business like as done anywhere else, which is almost a new concept for the country. There still is more needed to be done to facilitate this type of business such as changing existing laws on land ownership and laws on mortgage etc. All these measures will soon be taken up and fast-tracked as our version of ‘welfare-state’ is being built, after which the problem of jobs will come again around with a vengeance. This time it will be in the form of home-owners who needs jobs to pay for mortgage!

Fortunately we currently seem to have the capacity to provide jobs for prospective homeowners and taxpayers in the private sector as well, but its by no means in an orderly fashion. Our current job market is in serious chaos and it needs drastic restructuring to be efficient and useful for the local economy.

Broadly here are the industries and the situations thereof which needs to be taken in to consideration.

Tourism industry:
Tourism industry provides most jobs for local economy and this industry can still provide more opportunities by quota adjustment by profession. Currently the situation is that almost any number of foreign workers for any position can be employed for any length of time. Apart from a requirement that 50%ratio of expats to locals workers need to be maintained (even which is not a hard or fast rule!) there is no more encouragement for employing local workers.

Construction industry:
construction industry has vast potential for local economy but is actually the worst in terms of work opportunity for local workers. Its not a problem of lack of talent but rather lack of willingness to tackle corruption in the industry. Construction industry as its currently running is only useful for a handful of big contractors and a few smaller ones who are have the right connections to the big ones. Its almost a no-go area for local artisans and craftsmen because of lack of job security, poor work conditions, and extremely meagre wages designed to discourage local workers. Being businesses everyone tries to get the most profit which equates to finding the cheapest labor which is where the local worker looses out.

Fishing industry:
This is one industry which can be better managed by innovative means. Only depending on one type of product, one type of boats, and one methodology to fish have exhausted the industry and drastic measures needs to be made to revive the industry.

Agriculture industry:
Although we would love to call it an industry, we do not yet have much of agriculture in any comparable industrial scale. Because our islands are small and soil is not very fertile, traditional methods of agriculture as practised in other countries will not work. Things like hydroponics and aquaculture are perfectly suitable for some varieties and needs to be propped up. A most pressing problem for this industry is financing and small business assistance, which also needs to come up somehow somewhere and the sooner the better!

Manufacturing:
Apart from The Static-Company (they export R/O plants) we do not yet seem to have any exportable manufacturing products but there are many encouraging signs. We have successful businesses in bottling plants for water and soft-drinks and a few canning factories for fish cans. What we can successfully introduce to local economy with little effort and financing include, cookies, biscuits, soap, detergent, lotion , perfume etc. These small scale productions can be introduced to aspiring enterprising souls through chambers-of commerce activities and small businesses initiatives.

Financing:
There is great urgency in propping up institutions and mechanisms to help create and sustain other industries by providing capital and finance services. With the upcoming income tax regulations and associated restructuring, its hoped that the government will not be forced to take loans from local banks which is the cause of all financing woes the the country faces.