After detaining the 19 protesters in Kurumba in the high security jail Dhoonidhoo, the strike came to an end at Kurumba but many questions remain unanswered.
The management of Kurumba does not seem to be bothered about the very valid issues the staff raised and effectively used their connections to the government to silence the voices of the workers. The police maintain the 19 who were detained in Dhoonidhoo were not in detention which is a blatant lie as Dhoonidhoo is the Maldivian equivalent of Guantanamo Bay which is common knowledge. It only shows how unashamed the authorities are in helping out their business partners at the cost of impartiality to legitimate hardworking staff.
The fact that no violence occurred during the whole ordeal and no vandalism were committed by the staff did not seem to register with the authorities, which shows the demonstration was peaceful and for a reason.
In an interview with Minivan News, a director of Universal Group of resorts is said to have reported that the company might have lost 2 million dollars because of the strike which shows the kinds of money this resort in question makes and yet how poorly they are prepared to treat the staff. A case in point is the demand of the staff that there be a minimum wage of 3000rf which is peanuts compared to the money the resort generates from serving to world class clientèle. However the resort would not even consider it, shows how miserly the employer is to the employees.
During the whole ordeal the resort did a great PR campaign which is to their credit. The resort does not have to suffer and the owners does indeed have rights for their business not to suffer. However the important lesson that hitherto humble and law abiding staff arose and demonstrated for a reason sadly does not seem to have sunk to the collective consciousness of the management or owners of the resort. Perhaps it maybe caused by the inwardly policies of the group which blinds them to the reality of how staff are pampered in other resorts. Its now common for most resorts of the country to treat the staff especially well with amenities and services such as hot water, air-conditioned rooms, wifi, organized picnics, celebrating staff birthdays etc as standard and the difference being issues like training, promotion, education and staff exchange schemes, service charge distribution etc.
Reports of a local being stabbed by an Indian colleague has been received but the details are sketchy. The incident seems to have been about an argument between colleagues which somehow came to blows and inadvertently stabbing. The attack is not life threatening and the victim is said to be receiving health care and recuperating well. However the management is said to have taken sides in being sympathetic to the expatriate in true tradition of Universal Group policies which enraged the local staff who demanded that the attacker be handed over to police for questioning. The police were contacted by the staff while the management of the island did everything possible to prevent police from conducting their investigation by refusing approval for police boat to come ashore. However police was finally left with no choice but to come ashore despite the resort’s approval because some staff have threatened unspecified action if the attacker was let scott free. The police did conduct their investigation and the attacker is said to have been taken to Male’ for further questioning.
The main points in the whole episode in which the staff are voicing concern are:
That the resort is going miles in its way to protect the expatriate downplaying the offense while had the same action been attribute to a local staff he or she would have been behind bars in a matter of minutes.
That the management is highly abusive of the staff and this is not secret in Universal Group resorts. Standard greeting by manager of the resort to rank and file staff would consist of swearing or such street talk. Verbal abuse to staff is taken for granted in Kurumba and all Universal Group resorts. Talking politely or respectfully or courteously is obviously not Universal style.
That the resort is still relying on pulling strings in government to have things done their way irrespective of the legality of the actions. Here in this particular situation the resort has clearly hampered police work on an assault case which is nothing but obstruction of justice.
Universal Group resorts are not exactly new to controversies and it is not likely that their resorts would see much improvement in staff relationships as long as the owners of the resort fail to come out of the mindset of the abusive employer and embrace modern staff friendly management practices. The reason being that the cozy relationship that existed between the government and the Group was conducive for abuse and nothing seems to have changed.
Maybe this is as bad as things can be or worse yet can there be. But is it not too much if the staff of a resort at the end of the year would have to pay for the resort 1500rf while going to their annual holiday just as a ‘mortgage’ against themselves for not showing up after the holiday? Which employer has done this or is there any depth of depravity employers would not go just to extort the money they so grudgingly gave to the staff for their hard work?
It is commonly asked by resort employers to the staff to treat the resort property as home and do their work with as much diligence and sincerity they would do for their own home. This is all good advice and common sense and most staff are only too happy to go the extra mile to be sincere in their work. But what is the result? At home most people do not go hungry because the fridge is locked or the kitchen is locked. In the resort (some resorts that is) it is almost impossible even to get drinking water after the meal time is over. At home most people are not locked inside prevented from going out say to enjoy a bit of fresh air in the porch. In some resorts it is strictly prohibited even to be seen outside the staff block after 2200 hours. This is just one of the few draconian measures resort managements put on place to harass their staff just because their mindset is still locked somewhere before the Bronze Age. But it has to be pointed out that all is not sad and gloomy in resorts in Maldives. While it is true that some resorts do even offer to their staff dedicated wifi , cable TV channels, shuttle transfers between resort and Male’ etc and varieties of menus to choose from at dinner in par with what is on menu for the guests, these resorts are few and far between. What has to happen among the resort employers of Maldives is to wake up to a realization that staffs are their staff not their competitors. That the staffs are the most profitable machinery they have on their business. That time has changed and that its a few years past the 21st century and they need to upgrade their collective backward thinking. That to have a good product you need to appreciate the people who make all the things happen. Etc etc.
And yes if one is doubt as to the identity of this so called employer who charges money from staff going on annual leave staff as security against them not showing up again– yes the employer is Kurumba Village. Despite their massive turnover in profits which is reflected on their astounding growth Universal Group of resorts has a larger share of justifiable criticisms against it than the rest. One another example of how averse this employer is to the rule of law is that despite the labor law being explicit that any service charge collected must be distributed 99% or totally, the resort has failed to acknowledge this. While most new comer resorts to Maldives are capable of substantial amounts as service charge KV the so called pioneer of Maldives tourism is lagging far behind. (Last month 900mrf).