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.
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.
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.
The service charge issue has been taken up by a thread in a tripadvisor forum and here is the link: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g293953-i7445-k3462287-10_Service_charge_update-Maldives.html
Although the intro of the thread has been deleted by tripadvisor police, the issue is quite obvious and those of us who are in the know, know this is a real McCoy of a true issue. The thread includes a list of ‘bad employers’ who ‘steal’ (for lack of a better word) from staff service charge in an attempt (a commendable one) to name and shame them. The list of resorts is:
The Chaaya group
Sun island island
Of the islands listed above the resorts run by Villa group (Sun island, Paradise island, Holiday island,Fun island, Royal Island) have not been giving any service charge to the staff for the past many months possibly for a year now. To evade the new labour rules which obliges employers to pay 99% of any service charge collected, they are reported to have added the 10% to pricing and maintains they are not charging service charge from guests now.
Adaaran and John Keels resorts have had workers strike over this issue and where there is a good case for a resort boycott, these resorts perhaps deserve such a boycott.
Filitheyo, Medufishi, Eriyadhoo, Vilamendhoo and the brand Zitahli are all in the lower end of caring for staff and its a good thing that big websites like tripadvisor are taking these issues on workers behalf. A few lines of comment asking the management to reconsider their policies towards staff by guests would go a long way to address these issues.
One surprise name in the list is Anantara which is somewhat comparable to Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Landaagiraavaru where service charge is compared in the higher end. By far the best resort when it comes to service charge is W Maldives at Fesdu.
One important omission from the list is Kurumba Village and Universal Group resorts which will fit somewhere in between the lower and middle portion of a worker care scale.
According to local media reports there is indeed a protest going full swing in Chaya Island with the protesting staff calling for the employer to abide by the labour law among the many concerns. The protestors are seeking written assuarances from the management that they would indeed do so which would be a difficult demand since issuing such a writ would be admitting to breaking the law which no employer would willingly do.
Among the various concerns the dissatisfied staff raise are:
that the resort pursues a policy of racial discrimination whereby the Sri Lankan staff are said to recieve favourable conditions in work and pay while the rest Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivians are said to recieve the less than adequate or favourable treatment in comparision.
That the management has deliberately filled up all managerial positions in a discriminatory manner and gives no scope for development.
That the resort has failed to observe the ratio of expatriate quotas which is a direct violation of labour law.
And the protesting expatriate staff have been threatened with dismissals should they continue with the protest.
Chaya Island which used to be Dhonveli Beach Resort is a popular destination for surfers from Australia and has a full year long tourist season which is unlike many resorts in Maldives. Although popular among surfers the resort has had a bad reputation for illtreating staff under various managements. The current management under John Keels group of hotels has done nothing to address this issue and has infact made matters worse by their unflinching stance on improving relations with staff.
On discrimination the new labor law is very clear. It is prohibited. Here is the text.
“4. (a) It is prohibited to discriminate amongst persons carrying out equal work either in the granting of employment, determination of remuneration, increase in remuneration, provision of training, determination of conditions and manner of employment, dismissal from employment or resolution of other employment related matters, based on race, color, social standing, religion, political beliefs or affiliation with any political party, sex, marital status, family obligations, and in so far as it does not contravene the provisions herein age or disability. ”
As its in human nature to find ways to evade a disagreeable thing so is the case of discrimination even as it is prohibited by law, most resorts are finding ways to evade the law and find breaches in law to contravene it. The extent of discrimination amongst workers is quantifiable and is proven. And the ways of discrimination are quite different from what is popularly perceived. For most of the world workers discrimination would happen on color and sex. The whites get more and the girls get less. Tourism industry in Maldives seems to be no exception to this trend although this is an arguable position. Discrimination on pay among color lines is never attributed to color but is always defended with the assertion that expatriates were sought when locals were unavailable and once they are sought they have their say in dictating terms. In theory this seems to be plausible but in reality it is much more complicated than that. And it’s a long story that should be brought to light. Hopefully we will write on this very soon in this blog.
A case in point in lots of resorts in Maldives is the alignment of the management to a certain nationality and the love lost among other employees of the resort who do not fall in to favored nationality. In Universal Groups resorts the fondness and general benevolence is mostly to Sri Lankans as the owners of that group identify themselves with their close relationships and connections in Sri Lanka. The recent entries to the resort market in Maldives from Sri Lankan hoteliers John Keels and Eitken Spence is reputed to be a little bit overzealous in this respect. The same can be said of Taj resorts who seems to be forever trapped in the pioneering history days of the Taj founders and medieval India. Enter the Italians with their “club” conception of resorts and everyone is frowned upon if not Italian. Yes they would rather not have even the British as guests if their fellow countrymen could be found. Enter Banyan Tree and Bandos and everyone except Maldivians are automatically disqualified. And the list goes on and its an interesting trend to observe.
BUT: interesting or not, the law of the land shall be observed. The law is clear that there shall be no discrimination against workers based on the qualifications in the relevant clause.