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.

Minimum wage debate restarted..

Minimum wage is an emotive issue which has broad consensus of acceptance. Its evident from the ongoing dialogue on the issue in various media outlets. There was an attempt to set up a minimum wage for the country to prevent labour exploitation in the past which was duly shot down by the pro-business lobby in the People’s Majls. The current attempt to set the minimum wage comes at a time the balance of power is shifting in favour of the ruling MDP party which hopes to re-energize the local economy by creating more jobs for the locals, releasing and unsustainable peg on dollar to rufiyaa and introducing long overdue tax reforms. Although there are voices of dissent only from the bussiness lobby which includes resorts owners such as Villa group chairman Gasim Ibrahim, Sun Travel Shiyam the minimum wage issues is expected to proceed through People’s Majlis.

Contrary to popular belief, minimum wage when it becomes reality will not be as high as is expected of it. The figure could be based on criteria such as type of work or age of worker etc or one all encompassing one figure such as 2000.00rf etc. It remains to be seen how the the figure is arrived but one criteria the govt. will have on mind is to device it in such away that the current labour exploitation will be halted by this one stroke of legislation. The Minimum wage figure need only to be above the edge the employers are employing expatriates over locals such as 70$ or 100$ per month levels. With these levels of pay, the workers (often expatriates) are enduring back-breaking work in exploitative conditions and suffering for years on end without any regard to rights and benefits of work. If the minimum wage figure is higher than these levels, there is a good chance that construction industry will be more favourable for local employment.

The business lobby will work hard to undermine this measure and yet they do not have convincing arguments against the measure. Vague observations like “we will go bankrupt.. if this happens” only exposes the depth of their understanding of basic issues in running a business. If they do not offer credible objections or alternatives , then they are just a voice and no more. Running a business is no more like a running a slave-trade operation. That was some time back and does not reflect current working condition in resorts or construction industry or anywhere else.

The long overdue recognition of Worker’s Day

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.

Job stats revealed by ‘employment ministry’

employment minister

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.

Strike at Hilton Rangali and Baros robbery

Two important and interesting stories in the tourism sector at the moment. The first is about the strike at Rangali (which has ended now) which is one of the better resorts in the country and another is an attempted robbery at Baros which left one attacker dead.. the investigation continues. Links to both stories are here….

first story
at Haveeru
at Minivan
second story
at Minivan
at Haveeru

On the first issue, the protesting staff alleges discrimination of pay which is very common practice in resorts and elsewhere. Generally if two workers are employed in the same position and one being an expatriate and another local, the chances are that the local will get less. Its quite common and has been an issue protested over many times in different resorts and other businesses in the past as well. Another issue the protesters claim is that the employer holding back service charge which the resort denies. Although the strike is called off now we understand that the resort agreed to raise the service charge to levels in other similar level resorts which means agreement that service charge has been manipulated.
Under the labour law employers are required to pay all but 1% of service charges taken from guests to staff and yet most resorts withhold part of this income. But for a Hilton branded resort to go to this low to profiteer at the expense legitimate incomes of the staff is unbelievable!

On the issue of the attempted robbery at Baros , one attacker is known to have died and its not clear the circumstance of the death. However it is known that there are head injuries and that the attacker was pulled out from lagoon while trying to make escape after a scuffle with the staff. Its the second time this year that the robbers have attacked resorts and this time they were just not lucky enough. Resorts have to come up with better policies to protect the island and be more vigilant as the robbers are getting more daring and dangerous with each attack. Ideally the solution to these problems could be through policing and judicial system. However with the government and opposition parties firmly locked at horns, any useful measures to overhaul the judicial, and penitentiary system could not be expected. Its also understood that most of the violent and dangerous crimes that happen in the country are committed by hardened criminals who are released to the community in the midst of their prison term for various flimsy reasons.

Congrats to all fellow resort workers who became councillors


Our heartfelt congratulations to many fellow resort workers from various resorts, who joined the local council elections and won the seats. Politics and resort life are indeed not the same thing but for everything there has to be a start! We hope you will do a tremendous job and you will be remembered as the pioneers of councilmen in the country.

Our country needs new ideas and new institutions and perhaps a clean break from the old ways. Local council as we have in the country is not the most effective solution to our problems with a parallel line-up of ‘katheebs’ the opposition will want to keep in office, but advocating against a benefit to an island community is political suicide. So it will be a top-heavy federal type of government with local administration coming from party offices in Male’, that controls the councils which is definitely a negative development.

However we hope against hope that local councils do actually work and becomes useful to the people and the country.

avoidable unneccesary tragedies

Sun island Nalaguraidhoo

Guests drowning off the resort lagoons is becoming an alarming situation throughout the country. Its becoming more common now and almost every month we hear about a fatality of a guest or a few guests. However there doesn’t seem to be a realization of this problem in the tourism industry as something which can be acted or prevented upon. Just as any resort is perpetually concerned about the comfort, privacy or personal preferences of the guest, so shall a resort be concerned about the safety of the guest. In fact safety shall come first.

In all resorts, guests are free to swim anywhere around the island and whenever they want. However the snorkelling or diving gear is sometimes exclusively sold or rented by the dive shop which may or may not be operated by the resort. The majority of the dive shops in resorts are operated by third parties so its likely that the responsibility for the guests’ care and safety falls in between and no party really wants to take responsibility for this. However what is known as a fact is that diving and snorkelling gear is always rather a little bit expensive so sometimes guests bring their own snorkelling gear. Some travel websites and forums advice guest about this fact which doesn’t seem to have registered with resorts yet. Rates for hiring a snorkelling guide are per hour and not cheap because dive-shops and resorts all make an effort to run the operations with a streamlined workforce and bloated profit margins!

To overcome this tragic situation, resorts could in theory do implement a few of these following measures:

  • Employ full time life guards in the resorts. The guards shall be trained and equipped with rescue gear vessels etc.
  • Implement stubborn safety rules such as making it mandatory to wear buoyant safety vests on journeys to and from resort, airport, Male’ etc
  • Make sure that the guests are fully competent in swimming before lending them snorkelling gear and making a point of knowing if the guest needs additional help and providing them such help free of charge.
  • Have an arrangement or an understanding with dive-shops to lower the rates of basic snorkelling gear for novice guests or to provide a discount so as to encourage more guests to use appropriate gear and help of water sports folks.

Successful businesses count on being headstrong and stubborn! No amount of theorizing, preaching or advising will work on resorts. Employers or managements seldom need or read advices or recommendations. Its just the reality of running a resort which is tough, complicated and demanding work. Nobody really has the energy to do anything else after a hard day’s of work. So the only thing that can get the resorts attention seems to be legislation by law makers or purposeful action by the tourism ministry.

Associate Opionion Surveys

Associate Opinion Survey is a pompous way of saying Employee Opinion Survey. Its the same thing and its a management tool used to gauge the staff temperature on and about various issues and departments of the resort. While most better resorts do employ this tool to feel good about themselves, the majority of resorts in the country does not seem to be aware of things like this. These surveys are conducted (where they are conducted) on an annual basis and sometimes when the HR receives the news of an imminent strike on the island. The survey is a questionnaire that goes like, “how would you rate this hotel?” and “would you keep working in this hotel in the coming century?” (that is if you are not terminated tomorrow!) and things like that. Ofcourse the answers shall always be affirmative if there is a slightest chance the ‘authorities’ can trace an employee to his/her questionnaire. For this reason the surveys shall be as anonymous as possible because people are more apt to tell the truth the more they are free from association. (that’s why the police interrogates suspects in private..makes sense right?:)) The best way to conduct such a questionnaire will be on printed paper and distributed to staff to be filled in by themselves at their own time and place. The questionnaire shall also be generic (the management will want it be specific so that they can identify areas to ‘correct’ ) so each employee will be filling the same form and employees shall not be asked to state their name or department etc.

A properly designed/worded questionnaire’s result will give a good average reading of what the staff thinks about the establishment and is a good way to rectify and focus on areas to improve. However a questionnaire that sits in a computer under armed guard (possibly inside the HR department) would hardly elicit the true feelings of the staff and would not have met the purpose of the operation in the first place.

Parliament debating prohibiting protests at resorts

Dr. Hassan Saeed Leader of DQP

People’s Majlis is today debating prohibition and severely limiting freedom to protest by workers in resorts. The bill was submitted to the parliament by a member from Dr. Hassan Saeed’s party. If the bill goes ahead and gets passed by the Peoples Majlis, the country would take a serious blow to freedom of expression and the right to protest against injustices. The debates are still going and both sides of the political spectrum seem to be aware of the negative implications of this bill.

For a healthy democracy to survive more needs to be done to open up rather than closing in which seems to be the only outcome of limiting and restricting freedom of expression and speech. The trigger for workers in a typical resort to come to a protest will normally be fired after many many attempts at a solution which eludes them. Unlike other countries where unionism is already established and workers organize and plan their protests, the protests that happen in resorts in Maldives are more like an ‘uprising’ than a protest. It so happens because the workers rights are not protected and are already at the bottom of the rights ladder and yet the People’s Majlis is already finding ways to stop and repress the workers rights even further.
The only party that will benefit from this law when and if it becomes one, will be the employers as they would even be able to ‘preside’ over any protest by the workers suffering injustices under the employers.

Not that there are many ears to listen to resort workers demands, but at least for the record, we the resort workers call upon Dr. Hassan Saeed to withdraw this bill (if it isn’t already too late!) and to reconsider oppressing the workers! Its tourism, resorts and resort workers who contribute overwhelmingly to the country’s budget from where the non-productives like politicians and civil-servants get their monthly pay, perks and benefits.

Please follow the story here at Haveeru:
and also an earlier article we wrote a while back here…

The most pressing problem

For a successful tourism industry, a safe image of the destination is essential. The last thing a tourist will want to be worried about is the safety of their stay while on holiday. Towards this end, the key players involved have to keep their acts together. The owners, the workers as well as the government has to project this image of a clean, happy, inviting and ultimately safe destination for the guests to feel welcome at our resorts.

However recent developments in the country and the continuing attention seeking behaviour of top government officials seems to be doing more harm to our delicate tourism industry than any good. To name just one name, our ambassador at UK Dr. Farahnaz Faisal is reported to have been story-telling to prominent media outlets mostly about little known topics in the Maldives; female genital mutilation, religious extremism, supposed religious scholars exhorting folks to shun vaccination etc. To the average local Ahmed or Mohamed (the equivalent expression for average Joe..?) in Maldives, these are frankly NEWS to them. Its very unlikely the average Ahmed or Mohamed would have heard of these themes either in the media or through word of mouth. The reason is simple! These themes are very unfamiliar and hardly common practice in the country. There are no known scholars or mullahs (or whatever) who exhorted people to avoid vaccination in Maldives. Female Genital Mutilation which has been popularized and sensationalized by media is another red-herring which is totally out of place in Maldives. Most Maldivians would have heard about this practice in media as happening in some parts of Africa akin to killing albinos for supposedly traditional medicinal purposes. There are no known cases of female genital mutilation in the country and no known designs to introduce such practices to the country by any groups or ideology.

This is not to say Maldives is a trouble free country. No country is devoid of problems and problems like everything else has causes and remedies. The most popularized religious problem that happened recently in Maldives is the Himandhoo issue which was caused by the then government’s strong-man tactics rather than Al Gaidha setting up shop in the country. The issue was caused by the government sending military forces to close an unauthorized mosque constructed by the islanders for successive three years in the holy month of Ramazan. The issue could have been easily resolved had the government sent a team of religious men to talk to the people involved and engage them in dialogue. The islanders issue with the mosque was that the mosque was allegedly constructed on top of a cemetery which is forbidden in Islam. The government’s stand at the time was that the government’s position is immovable and has to be respected regardless of the circumstances.

Coming back to the issue and to set the record straight, the most prominent issue that’s currently facing Maldives has nothing to do with religious intolerance or female genital mutilation. The most pressing security problem facing the country is gang warfare and drug abuse which is sweeping through the country and is showing little sign of abating. However in the latest stats presentation offered by the security forces on the independence day, the percentage of ‘reported crime’ rate was said to have fallen 43% which is a definite improvement if all other factors were constant.

The most pressing economic problem is unemployment which to a large extent was an artificial situation created by an unimaginative education system. In a nutshell, a whole generation of youngsters grew up in conformity to 3 streams of subjects (Arts, Commerce and Science) and much too little in the way of vocational education. The non-too-distant ‘maha-singa’ (funny when names are invented) on educational policy was a good start on identifying these problems and the coming years will hopefully see changes to educational system where these issues could be addressed.

The most pressing health problem that is facing the country is lack of facilities and standards. The problem has already been a challenge with the geography of the country whereby small distant islands are further more isolated by lack of a reliable public transportation system. Seeing at a distance, the top positions of the health ministry and the members of lower the rank in the industry seems to be engaged in a proper warfare throughout the industry on a wide range of issues. The outcomes are mixed with more improvements in facilities and infrastructure promised in the near future (as is always the case).

The most pressing social problem that’s facing the country could be the lack of facilities for island communities to get together and do anything ‘social’ to while away the time and participate in social projects. Apart from the Eid festivals the average island’s social calendar is uneventful throughout the year and has been so for ages. With the anti-social behaviour and anti social elements on the increase, this maybe the opportune time to consider such an initiative.

There are indeed many more pressing problems facing the country in many walks of life, but from the perspective of tourism industry nothing can be more damaging than our own political elite spewing out unsubstantiated negative information on the country coveting media attention and personal publicity.

Our take on the bungled Vilu Reef wedding ceremony

The video that went viral in Utube of a Swiss couple who had their weddings renewed in the Vilu Reef resort, who got taunted insulted unwittingly at the ceremony as the ceremony was conducted in dhivehi (the local language), is generating quite big waves in otherwise a sleepy tourism industry in Maldives. The language used in the video is inexcusable is undeniable but there are more factors that needs to be explored. There indeed is more to the story than is acknowledged. Before we analysed the issue in detail, our heartfelt sincere apologies for wronged couple on behalf of all the workers of tourism industry. Our country also took hit on reputation by the foolish actions of a few fellow workers and we hope that this event will make everyone including the government work more to help the industry encounter the shortcomings and failings in the future. Resort workers are the most neglected bunch of workers in the country who are seldom cared, thanked or even entertained. In the vast majority of resort islands, the staff live below substandard pay, accommodation as well as food and other services. Resort workers are also human beings who have families and friends yet they sacrifice almost all their entire life on these tiny beautiful paradise islands which serves as their second home just as convicts who serve their time in isolation. Now lets analyse the story surrounding the incident.

1. The story first appeared in Minivan News from where its gone truly global now. The story is now taken up by http://www.vancouversun.com,Montreal Gazette,www.expatica.com,www.gulf-times.com etcHowever anyone who have really seen the article in Minivan News would agree that the article is excessive in its detail for a purpose. The article itself is a tiring long detailed tirade of ‘insults’ for the purpose of creating maximum shock value. Considering that the victim in this instance is not only the couple in the video (the whole country is also victim because this incident identifies with the country), the excessive details is just doing more harm to all the parties involved; the wedded couple, the country, the resort, the staff etc. The only party who benefits from this story is Minivan.

2.The story when it appears in global media got another twist and a make-over. Now it is about “Couple victim of hate video” -which is the headline at http://www.straitstimes.com. The said video was shot by a staff at the scene and was anything but. However when global media takes an issue every blemish is magnified multiple folds for a good reason. To reach maximum ratings and generate as much shock value. The amateur wedding video now termed a hate video interlaced with religious themes (which is useful vitriol) as if the video originated from Tora Bora. To make the matters worse some readers of Haveeru has indicated that they will put English subtitles to the video which will add insult to the injury.

3.Modern media is both a blessing and a curse. Media like everything else is controlled by people and people have different agendas. For some its a way of earning recognition and fame at the expense of others, be it against their own family or country. In the case of Minivan News, the paper had a non too a humble beginning, became at one point a full blown printed paper and then went into decline. Currently Minivan is said to be run at a desk inside the office of the president by people who are close to him. However the genie that just escaped from this journalistic bottle inside the President’s office is likely to give the president a few headaches for a few days possibly till the furore dies down.

4.The money argument which is also mentioned in the straitstimes article is a non-starter. The fact of the matter is that almost every service, in a typical resort has a price tag attached. However, events like weddings do not have standard procedures in most resorts, so staff do with improvisations that go along with the experience they get from events like these. A staff who worked in Vilu Reef as far back as 2003 confirmed that what he has seen in the video is no more sinister than what he has witnessed in the island when he worked there. The meaning is that the staff did not intend the slang and improper wording they used as an insult to the guest, but for them its a kind of joke. The difference this time is that the media caught them off-guard. Its a little bit like the philosophical question of weather the tree has fallen in the far off jungle if there was no body to witness it.

5.Knowing full well the implications of this journalistic Coup_d’état, we have tried to do damage limitation on Minivan News and will be doing in other sites as well. This is not about not-acknowledging a wrong to the Swiss couple in question or being insensitive to their unwitting ordeal, but this is about redressing the wrong and trying to help the workers and the industry. We urge all our readers and fellow workers to do the same and help encourage constructive dialogue. Feeling ashamed of being a resort worker or a Maldivian will hardly do the job.

Links:

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/World/Story/STIStory_596065.html

http://minivannews.com/society/resort-%E2%80%98wedding-ceremony%E2%80%99-in-dhivehi-degrades-tourist-couple-as-infidel-swine-mocks-islam-12671

http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=102622

http://www.montrealgazette.com/travel/story.html?id=3733527

Magudhuhaa update


The beautiful island of Magudhuhaa is soon going to open in the even more beautiful atoll of Gdh. A closeup aerial pic of the island is not yet available in Google Earth as when the pic was snapped over the atoll, the satellite was essentially sleeping… Anyways, Here are some pics from the project report the resort submitted to MTDC which can be found at the MTDC site…


The local newspaper Haveeru, also reports that the resort is putting out to tender the design of logo and resort name, which will award 4000$ for the winner.

Although the resort will look just like any other beautiful resort, the staff areas look dull and unimaginative… Resort designers and architects should consider these as once erected, the structures will just stand there irritating those who occupy it for years to come. It wouldn’t cost awful lot of money to build sensible accommodation blocks for staff. Its sad that most employers still design staff accommodation blocks just as an afterthought after going through world-class designs for the guest areas.

The new medical policy


Most resorts in Maldives do not have an in-house doctor to provide medical care to the staff. Hence being able to come to Male’ to seek medical services is relatively hassle-free in most resorts (the ones which are close to Male’). However there are those resorts which are relatively close to Male’ (the capital city) which has in-house doctors in residence and has inconceivably insensitive procedures for the staff to seek medical attention. Consider this new medical policy of a resort.

The steps involved in being able to show to doc.

  1. notify your supervisor
  2. supervisor to fill a form
  3. the patient to retrieve the form from supervisor’s office and go to doc
  4. the doc checks the patient
  5. the doc may or may not refer the patient to a hospital in Male

Of course this new policy is only applicable for the lower ranking staff and the doctor has always to be available for higher ranking staff. The policy is said to have come as a result of perceived abuse of the system by the workers which is understandable. However to overcome abuse in a system, a resort does not have to be insensitive to everyone. Those who are known to abuse the system could be straitened instead of being punitive to all. Lets go through all the steps in the procedure.

  • To notify to the supervisor: This is requires convincing the supervisor with ailment and symptoms that affect the worker. Having to divulge what ails the worker to others before doc is bad enough and is rightly adding insult to injury. Given a choice most human beings would not like to divulge their medical problems to others than their medical practitioners. However when a resort requires the workers to do just exactly this, it shows how insensitive a resort can be to staff.
  • Supervisor to fill a form: This is another layer of work to already work-overloaded supervisors which means delays and further red-tape between the sick staff and his/her treatment. Frequently, the supervisors have innumerable meetings and trainings so the sick staff having to depend on his/her busy supervisor to fill documentation for him/ her is needlessly cruel.
  • The patient to retrieve the form from supervisor’s office and go to doc: When a person is sick, and he/she has to undergo the indignity of having to divulge his ailment to ‘a superior’, after which he/she has to wait for the documentation to be prepared, after all this he/she has to go and find the supervisor wherever he or she maybe to retrieve those same documents and then again go to meet the doc who resides in another island… The steps are far too long and far too demanding of the sick. Just indicative of how evil a policy can be when it comes to lower ranking staff.
  • The doc: The doc is also a staff in the pay of the employer and its not uncommon for the the doc to be pressured not to issue ‘bed rests’ or any kind of rests to the staff to lengthen the time staff are required to work. Further the doc frequently is instructed not to refer the patients to further treatment at Male’ to save the employer money and to keep the worker at job despite his health.

What happens when Eid festival (a public holiday) coincides with Friday?

Nothing as far as the labour law is concerned. Our labour law is ignorant of situations like these and the employees of resorts and hotels has to depend on the generosity of the resort managements to be offered another day in lieu of these two public holidays coinciding or one-and-half-times pay for working on such a day or situations like these. The relevant clause in the labour law is brief. It reads:

“Working on a public holiday
38. An employee required to work normal hours on a public holiday shall be
paid at least an amount equivalent to half of the minimum wages earned on a
normal day of work in addition to over time.

The clause ends there and there is no further ado it. However the need to add further qualifications and clarifications to the clause is evident from problems like this.

In different parts of the world there are provisions for situations like these where two public holidays coincide and here are some excerpts.

____________________________________________________________

http://www.hooeyremus.com/Guide_ESAHolidayPay.html

….If a public holiday falls on a day that would ordinarily be a working day for the employee (and the employee is not on vacation), the employee gets the day off and receives holiday pay for that day.
If a public holiday falls on a day that would not ordinarily be a working day for the employee (and the employee is not on vacation), the employee gets a substitute day off and receives holiday pay for that day. The substitute day off must be a day that ordinarily would be a working day for the employee. The substitute day off can be in advance of the public holiday. The employer can also designate another day within three months after the public holiday. As well, the employer and employee can agree in writing on a substitute day that is within 12 months after the public holiday. There a ministry policies that deal with irregularly scheduled employees.__________________________________________________

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/your_money/employment/holidays_and_holiday_pay.htm

…You do not have an automatic right to take bank or public holidays off work, with or without pay. This will depends on your employment contract.
____________________________________________________________

http://www.ask.com/wiki/Public_holidays_in_Australia?qsrc=3044

…If a standard public holiday falls on a weekend, a substitute public holiday will sometimes be observed on the first non-weekend day (usually Monday) after the weekend, whether by virtue of the public holiday legislation or by ad hoc proclamation. If a worker is required to work on a public holiday or substituted public holiday, they will usually be entitled to be paid at a holiday penalty rate.____________________________________________________________
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/life/employment/bank_and_public_holidays.htm
…When the usual date of a bank or public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, a substitute day is given, normally the following Monday. For example in 2009, Boxing Day is actually on Saturday, 26 December, so there is a substitute bank holiday on Monday, 28 December.____________________________________________________________

Coming back to the issue of public holidays, different countries have different number of public holidays and for different reasons. Here in Maldives we have comparably fewer public holidays than in other neighboring countries. Below is a list of a few neighboring countries and their public holidays:

Sri lanka (27 public holidays)

Tamil Thai Pongal Day
Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day
National Day
Navam Full Moon Poya Day
Maha Sivarathri Day
Milad-Un-Nabi (Holy Prophet’s Birthday)
Medin Full Moon Poya Day
Good Friday
Day prior to Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day
Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day
Additional Bank Holiday
Bak Full Moon Poya Day
May Day
Wesak Full Moon Poya Day
Day following Wesak Full Moon Poya Day
Poson Full Moon Poya Day
Esala Full Moon Poya Day
Nikini Full Moon Poya Day
Binara Full Moon Poya Day
Id-Ul-Fitr (Ramazan Festival Day)
Vap Full Moon Poya Day
Deepavali Festival Day
Il Full Moon Poya Day
Id-Ul-Allah (Hadji Festival Day)
Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day

Thailand(20 public holidays)

1 January – New Year’s Day
Chinese New Year (new moon day of third lunar month)
Magha Puja Day (full moon day of third lunar month)
6 April – Chakri Memorial Day
13–15 April – Songkran Festival
1 May – National Labour Day
5 May – Coronation Day
9May – Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Visakha Puja Day (full moon day of sixth lunar month)
Asalha Puja Day (full moon day of eighth lunar month)
Buddhist Lent Day “Wan Kao Pansa” (day after full moon day of eighth lunar month)
12 August – H.M. The Queen‘s Birthday
End of Buddhist Lent Day “Wan Awk Pansa” (full moon day of eleventh lunar month)
23 October – Chulalongkorn Day
Loy Krathong (full moon day of twelfth lunar month)
5 December – H.M. The King‘s Birthday
10 December – Constitution Day
31 December – New Year’s Eve

Bangladesh (17 public holidays)

21 February 2010 – International Mother Language Day
27 February 2010* – Eid-e-Miladunnabi
17 March 2010 – Birth day of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu
26 March 2010 – Independence Day
1 May 2010 – International Labour Day
27 May 2010 – Buddha Purnima
28 July 2010* – Shab-e-Barat
13 August 2009* – Posthumous
15 August 2010 – National Mourning Day
1 September 2010* – Janmastami Bangladesh Revises Janmastami Public Hpliday Date Again
7 September 2010* – [Laylat al-Qadr|Shab-e-Qadar]
10 September 2010* – Jamat-ul-Bida
11 September 2010* – Eid ul-Fitr
17 October 2010 – Durga Puja
17 November 2010* – Eid ul-Adha
16 December 2010 – Victory Day
25 December 2010 – Christmas Day

Nepal (17 public holidays)

1 January – New Year’s Day
14 and 15 January – Makar Sankranti
20 January – Saraswati Puja
12 February – Maha Shivaratri
24 February – Education Day
28 February and 1 March – Phagu Purnima
14 April – Nepali New Year
24 August – Raksha Bandhan
25 August – Gaijatra
1 September – Krishna Janmashtami
10 September – Dar Khane Din
11 Septenber – [ Teej in Nepal, fasting by women ]
4 to 7 November – Diwali

South Africa (12 public holidays)

1 January – New Year’s Day
21 March – Human Rights Day Sharpeville massacre
The Friday – before Easter Sunday Good Friday
The Monday – following Easter Sunday Family Day
27 April – Freedom Day
1 May – Workers’ Day
16 June – [Youth Day] Soweto uprising
9 August – National Women’s Day
24 September – Heritage Day
16 December – Day of Reconciliation
25 December – Christmas Day
26 December – Day of Goodwill

Maldives (11 public holidays)

National day
Prophet’s birthday
1st sitting of the peoples Majlis
The day Maldives embraced Islam
Independence day
Beginning of Ramadan
Eid al fitr
Victory day
Republic day
Hajj day
Eid al alha

India (11 public holidays)

1 January – New Year
14 Makarara Sankrati – (calculated)
26 January – Republic Day
1 May – Labour day
15 August – Independence Day: Marks the day India achieved independence from the British Empire
10 September Eid ul-Fitr (calculated)
2 October – Gandhi Jayanti: Birth Day of Mahatma Gandhi
5 November – Diwali: Ram returned to his kingdom after defeating Ravan Diwali
14 November – Childrens day: Nehru birthday
16 November to November 19 Eid al-Adha (calculated)
25 December – Christmas

So the number of public holidays cannot be as burdensome on businesses as in other countries than in Maldives. In fact Maldives has far fewer public holidays than other neighbouring countries, so employers shall not feel pressed to be mean and frugal when it comes to allowing the employees days off with their families in well deserved public holidays.

sources:wikipedia
:www.qppstudio.net