The salutation

Most resorts have a standard form of salutation the staff shall use to great guests and to answer telephone calls to the resort. These forms of greetings are chosen and determined by the management sometimes after extensive research and a good amount of thought. Sometimes decisions are taken even after consultation with linguists, historians and tourism ministry itself. However the forms of salutations appear terribly unwieldy and out of place in the local language or to the guests who are absolutely baffled by strange forms.

In common normal starred resorts, the greeting maybe the standard forms everyone accepts such as the English forms and Italian, German forms. However resorts who wants to be classed as classy and exclusive choose exotic forms which are quite hilarious at times. For example the word “dharuma huri” is an invented form of salutation used in Anantara resorts in Maldives. The words are local and yet has never been use for forms of greeting in Maldives or anywhere else. “Dharuma” means something like blessing and is associated with Hindhu concept of Dharuma and Karma. “Huri” simply means there is and conjoining the words to form an exotic form of greeting to be used as standard simply does not make much sense. An alternative form infrequently used in local language is “Baajeveri” +”Hendhune”, “Raegande”, “Haveere” etc. These words are simple translations of the words good + morning, evening, afternoon etc. These same forms are used in Arabic such as Sabaah al kahir, Masaa al kahair, etc which is in addition to standard Islamic salutation of Assalaam alaikum.

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We commented in your name…

HR ministry website header
HR ministry website header

Human resources ministry is asking for comments and views from the public to fine tune the existing labor laws. (pls send your comments to comments@employment.gov.mv ) And we have taken the liberty of
commenting about some issues relevant to us the resort workers and sent them in your name. Here below are the comments we have submitted. Do you agree with these comments?

1. Instead of 3 days on the occasion of the birth of the child for the
father and 5 days for the circumcision of the child, these numbers of
days could be swapped so that 5 days is given for the the birth of the
child and 3 days for the circumcision of the child. Because the birth
of a child is a greater event than the circumcision of the child. Then
there shall be some consolation for the girl child as a girl child is
not circumcised. Other wise gender inequality issue might arise.

2. A fine of 5000rf to 10000rf for any violation of any clause of the
labor bill might be something for the small business but we believe
there shall be distinction for the resort owners. Because such figures
mean nothing to an average resort. Managements will not think twice to
re-offend with such paltry figures as fines. Our suggestion is to
raise the figure for the resorts by 10 folds.

3. Clause 19 (5) (haa). “Hingumuge is maqaamu thakugai thibey meehun”
This shall be clarified as resorts over the last few weeks have been
raising the statuses of almost everyone so that the 8 hour work
requirements could be evaded. A better classification for the resorts
could be that the above clause is mean to meant Managers which include division managers and department heads.

4. Service charge distribution detail (for resorts) shall be required
to be sent to the tourism ministry also (in addition to being made available for the staff via public notice board) because currently there is
massive fraud happening in this area. In a typical month on an average resort service charge distribution runs to thousands of dollars and managements has been shamelessly tweaking the figures to mislead the staff. This is all very common in resorts except a tiny minority. By having them report the figures to the ministry they will think twice before tweaking the figures because with such data the ministry could do a
correlation check if fraud is alleged to have happened.

5. Ramzan bonus shall be on a fixed rate and not proportional to the salaries recieved. Because the rate of hunger will be the same for all those who fast regardless of position.

away from home…

the long perilious journey ahead
the long perilious journey ahead

Except for the very rare ‘exceptions’, dedicating a whole life working in resorts is very rare in Maldives. The reasons are obvious. The resorts being tiny and cut from the rest of the world by the seas and lagoons that surround, the average resort workers works on borrowed time in resorts. And whatever length of time he or she would have spent on the resort would be a great sacrifice against family and friends back at home. However the sacrifice is worth the while for some while not for others. For those who will be able to make substantial savings while working in resorts, the life in resorts would have been worthwhile. But for the vast majority of resort workers this simply is not the case. Resort life is just a necessity to get by to support families and loved one’s back home.

    case in point:

Most of the Bangladeshi workers who work in resorts face a special dilemma in addition to being separated from family for extended periods of times. Most of them would have made to Maldives through ‘agencies’ or middlemen who charge exorbitant fees and commissions which are several times over the average of what could be earned in a year’s income in Maldives. With false promises and after having surrendered a mortgage on a title deed or a house or with live stocks the worker arrives in Maldives to find the situation very far from what was being promised. Promised monthly wages would seldom be given and yet the workers toil in resorts sometime for as long as 5 years without being of any benefit for the families back home or themselves. This is in fact labor exploitations big time. Officially most resort owners or managements are not aware of this exploitation and is seen as a peculiar circumstance relating to expatriate labor.

Kurumba Village “loyalty” bribe

kvOn every 5th of the month the employees in Kurumba Village receives a sealed envelope containing money the amount of which is different for different people. The only people who are excluded from this generosity are the executives. This new found generosity to KV staff by their employer is understood to be nothing but bribery says critics who point out that since the labor law came to effect nothing substantial has changed in Kurumba and nothing is likely to change. The envelope labeled “loyalty” is effectively bribing staff not to strike or demand their rights which is perfectly understandable from some employers who would find it difficult to be honest and upright.
The much overused marketing catch line for Kurumba Village from times immemorial has been to allude to the first great days of tourism in Maldives and how Kurumba village was the first and the best. Nothing could be farther from truth. For a start the first days of tourism in Maldives were anything but great. The first group of tourist were in fact a band of nature terrorists who came to Maldives armed complete with angler’s gear including fish guns (which are banned in Maldives since) and looking for a place to strip and look like zombies. If being first was an honor than indeed Kurumba is entitled to that but there are lots of positive points to Kurumba as well.
Strictly from the point of view of the average local resort worker Kurumba is a transit hotel. It’s someplace the guests as well as staff move to other places with memories and experiences respectfully. The clientele of Kurumba would mostly be the toughest and most demanding of the bunch hence resoluteness and good service to the guests is only asked and given. Most of the guests who would have spent time in Kurumba would have wholeheartedly recommend Kurumba to their friends and kudos for Kurumba for that. One other positive point for Kurumba is its proximity to Male’ and the ease of transfer to and from Male’ to the island. This is the reason why there are employees in Kurumba who have toiled 10 to 18 years and still find Kurumba a good place to work for despite all that is wrong with Kurumba.
The cons of being a Kurumba employee are as many as the pros are few. For a start the abusive behavior of the management towards rank and file staff is famous in its notoriety. The reason for this is the influence and power the Kolige clan wielded in the former government and to a large extent is still the case. They are simply untouchable and beyond reproach or criticism. There is no question of dialogue or discourse or discussions. The orders come from above and no dissent or even a rational objection is tolerated. Bereft of any recourse to justice, staff toiled in these islands of Universal Group in the truest sense of a transit hotel.
Then there is the case of differentiation of meals and accommodation and its all but public knowledge that staff accommodation blocks for “room boys” and “waiters” were often referred as animal dens such as “bakari koshi” or “himaaru koshi”. Although not officially sanctioned these names are known to staff and the management unrepentantly uses these phrases in daily discourse. Even as such amenities as hot water and air conditioned rooms for staff became standard facilities for staff everywhere in resorts in Maldives, Kurumba remained the exception until very recently. In short Kurumba village despite its vainglorious history is one of the best and worst hotels to work for in Maldives. Best if the position held by the employee is a managerial position. Worst if the position of the employee is a low semi skilled job. What is at fault is not the resort but the mindset of the management that runs it.

Staff accommodation

all employees are equal... but some are more equal than others...taking a nap… in a card board box.

All resorts in Maldives with very few exceptions are self contained islands where from electricity to water and food to everything else is either produced or supplied by the island and self sustained in a manner quite unique. So is the case with staff who are lodged in staff accommodation blocks mostly in inconspicuous places in the middle or corner of the island while the guests have their villas spread across the lagoon or beach or both. With restrictions to limit built-up area, most resorts do indeed have a problem of staff accommodation which might range from staff having to share 6 or 8 or even 10 in an average sized room to having to stack beds 3 or 4 rows vertically up! Besides the fun of having to live in these conditions and the constant pressure from the superiors at work to perform ever so better and greater on and off duty, at the end of the day the tired and worn out staff would again have to face another adventurous night and the monotony continues.
The few lucky resorts who have dedicated staff islands or arrangements to accommodate staff on nearby inhabited islands fare somewhat better being able to provide some job satisfaction in this area for the staff. One another real big issue in staff accommodation seems to be is disparity in quality of accommodation despite terrible limitations of land whereby the all powerful management gets pavilions and mansions sometimes better accommodation than the guests.
Ideally all resort employees shall have private rooms by themselves however scantily the furnishing should have been. Alternatively the same job satisfaction could be delivered if regular staff ferries from resort to Male’ could be arranged so that the local staff would have maximum time with their families and yet be able to work in the resort. This would apply to the majority of the resort islands closer to Male’ and to the majority of the local staff who by law are required to constitute half the population of any resort.

All the hype about staff training…

pat_on_the_back_1
It’s not infrequent that resort managements and hoteliers in general would pat themselves on the back congratulating them on how well they are providing much needed training and educational opportunities in resorts to their “associates”. (Yes that’s the popular word for staff nowadays). But the word is only a word and the self congratulatory pat on the back is just that and no more! This is especially true of the vast majority of resorts in Maldives excepting maybe a couple or more resorts that do provide these services to the staff. On behalf of the grateful, thanks and ‘well dones’ are in order.
Here are some facts on the situation…
The rationale for providing educational assistance on job is a widely known and established practice in most parts of the world and the benefits of which is known and acknowledged. The benefits far outweigh the investment provided that reasonable limits are kept. However from resorts that has not heard yet about this concept to resorts which send their staff on lengthy scholarships abroad is all too common a scene in the tourism sector in Maldives. The range and scope of applicable education opportunities to staff vary from resort to resort. In some resorts even the physical makeup or build of the owner or GM might influence his decision on the type of educational assistance his staff gets. In the majority of the resorts that do actually have some budget or a policy on this (this said majority is in fact a tiny minority) what is taught goes not beyond the history of the founder of the business and how tough times were back then! These newly employed who would have to go through this training session would have only to repeat what the trainer said word for word like a parrot and that’s basically the end of training for life on a particular resort for a particular employee.
The situation being such there is indeed need for much work to impress upon the employers the need to consider relevance, usefulness and worth for money which at present seems to be lacking in these areas. What is offered as education or training to staff shall not be something to gloat over by the management but useful skills and knowledge which once applied at work would be of use for the betterment of the business.

Before strikes began…

extra curricular activities...
extra curricular activities...

Strikes and demonstrations were indeed something of a novelty to the tourism industry in Maldives and in the past few weeks a series of strikes 6 resorts have left the industry bosses worried. They are worried (they say) because of the implications of the strikes in the middle of high season among other things. Granted that industrial strikes were a novelty and that they are not the best possible solution but there has to be admission that it was a necessary evil. Tourism industry has its ups and downs and tourism workers had their problems and worries which should have been given some thoughts from day one. But the standard answer to staff complaints from the majority of the resorts would be things like this…
• “If you are not happy with how things are going here then there is jetty…”
• “So you think you know some things we don’t?”
• “So you are saying that I am doing a bad job here… eh?”
• “Go on… go to complain… Go to ministry go to court or wherever…”
• “Why are you making all this fuss? Haven’t you been in cadet while in school? There is a rule in cadet that you are not to question why…but to do and die… remember?
• “I have noticed that the Maldivians here are the most trouble makers… they make all the trouble”
Etc Etc at al
Now if this is the kind of mentality the “managements” had then (which up to now they have) there is little reason to be optimistic that talks with “managements” will yield any results. Hence there were strikes. And there is likely to be more to follow. But what was the standard course of action before strikes began?
It was mainly futile “calls” to the tourism ministry and sometimes petitions and on a very few occasions court cases which needless to say failed most of the time. On average what would happen when a disgruntled staff or a group of staff would call the tourism ministry and lodge complaint is that they would listen and if the nature of the complaint is sufficiently convincing they would send some nobody from the ministry to the resort in question. The “nobody” will of course meet the managers and scribble some “nothings” on his clip folder and take some pics of the staff area and have lunches or dinner with the human recourses boss in the restaurant and be gone in the next departure boat. That would possibly be the end of the matter and the “management” out of courtesy or whatever might say a few soothing words to the angry staff and possibly that would be the end of the matter.
Letters and petitions to the ministry would yield much less and nobody in the tourism industry could recall any written answers the ministries or offices sent them answering or even acknowledging receipts of the complaint.
Now as to what would have happened to the staff who might have lodged a complaint to high offices, he or she would certainly be dismissed one way or another and even signing on a petition would be like signing one’s own dismissal forms. He or she would fall in the categories of “insubordination” or something similar and would be on a black list from the moment.
This is not something’s which happened in a long distant past but is happening even right now. What that has changed is that there is new government which came to power using people to demonstrate on the streets against injustices hence an understanding of a novelty use of a form of protest. What the protesters rely on is a hastily passed labor law by the then government for their own political scores rather than genuine empathy for resort staff. What is understood from the strikes is that the all powerful business elites would have to think about reforms and treat resort staff as human beings.

Stop resort strikes says tribunal…


Stop strikes in tourism industry says the newly formed tribunal at the labor ministry. So says Tourism Employees Association president Easa and so says almost everyone. Even the self proclaimed shameless Tourism Workers Union which is representing anything but the tourism workers is singing the same tune. But should they be listened to? Are they justified in preaching  peace when the change is in the air? Lets take a closer look at the issue in question.

Although the majority of tourism workers in Maldives are young they are not staging demonstrations and calling strikes for fun. There are real issues which they are raising and most of the issues they raise are solvable and realistic issues. Political opportunism has not yet entered the fray although the momentum is there. Examples of issues the workers raise include the all important  service charge (fair distribution of which), improvement on food and accommodation and sometimes pure drinking water. Then of course there is the odd demand or two of a few dismissals who most of the time would have been a management person who openly advocated against the wishes of the protesting staff. These being the kinds of issues the protesters raise lets see why these issues rarely comes to discussion between management and staff which in theory would have eliminated the need to strike and loose a little bit of reputation of the hotel as well as a few badly needed reservations..

As all those who urge the tourism industry workers to refrain from staging strikes and demonstrations reiterate, the way forward shall be with negotiations be it directly with the management of the involved resort or with government agencies as third parties who seems to have found a new fondness of brokering peace between these two classes. The way forward indeed is through dialogue and not confrontation but this is strictly in the realm of theory and abstract academics. In real terms if an employee or a group of employees appraoach the management of any resort management in the Maldives with a list of demands, propositions or even a few ideas to discuss the probability that the group or the person will be fired the next day is very great. The most optimistic probability would be greater than 50% which is not an acceptable risk most workers are willing to take. Hence the idea of strikes or demonstrations become more attractive than talking politely or begging blithely. So aswell as  urging the workers to refrain from staging strikes the peace making lobby shall criticize the managements of resorts to trim their collective egoes and be a little bit democratic in their ways of thinking. This unfortunately does not seems to be happening and is indicative of how out of touch with reality the preaching lobby is.

Boat pass? what boat pass?


Although standard procedure in many resorts in Maldives, the practice of issuing boat pass to staff visiting Male’ is a questionable one. First lets look a the reasons why there shall be a need for boat pass. In different resorts this issue is differently treated as the situation demands it. For example in some resorts in Maldives staff ferry dhonis do take on board locals from nearby islands who wish to go to Male’ as a ferry dhoni may not be readily available on their island. In some resort islands this is no matter at all, everyone is free to go and come as one wishes whilst beknown to his or superior. The most common reason for boat pass would be the requirement to know by the resort as to the actual headcount of the people of the island at any given time. This is about logistics and properly so. Such information becomes invaluable at times. However the requirement to obtain signature and approval from the management to go to visit family members in Male’ or etc on a hard earned off day is basically infringement on the right to freedom of movement. Because what one does in his or her free time shall be no one’s business (much less that of the employer) and this question of boat pass wouldn’t have been a question had Maldives been one land mass like the majority of the world’s countries. Therefore a feature of a country’s geography shall not be a reason to be big-brotherly and preside even on the staff off day. So the practice of obtaining and granting “permission” or “approval” shall be put to debate and acceptable language sought. Here are one suggestion:

+ There shall be no signatures on the pass except that of the security officer or boat captain which is acknowledgment… not “approval” or “disapproval” or “permission” etc.

The problem in Meedhupparu.

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The main points raised by the ongoing protest in Meedhuparu are:
• Discrimination against staff: this is a true and a real issue and needs to be addressed. Part of the problem seems to the wayward mentality of the management still stuck somewhere between 1900 and 2000bc. In a work environment staff shall not be discriminated on the basis of religion ethnicity or race color etc. etc. those who are successful in this industry as resort owners know this problem and have grown out of these bad ‘habits’. For example the salary distribution in Meedhuparu is ludicrous if it’s viewed in right context with foreign exchange rate set as 10rf inside the resort which is clearly criminal offense if this comes to that. On top of that how hard is it to do math with exact exchange rate of 12rf to 1$? Are the accountants somehow finding it difficult to do arithmetic? No calculators or computers in Meedhuparu? Why does expat gets 200$ while the local gets 2000rf. Is it so hard to multiply 200$ to 12.75 and get 2550? If the Meedhuparu accountant should find this much of mathematics difficult then please contact me immediately! I am always ready to help. Lol
• Compliance to labor law seems to be a sizeable problem to all resorts in Maldives with few known exceptions like Bandos. But if it’s clearly warranted by law is there any choice other than compliance? Besides what exactly are the sticking points the management of Meedhuparu seems to be stuck about? On the one hand the management is giving all the right signals that they are doing compliance and on the other hand they are refusing even to discuss legitimate points raised by the staff where compliance is seen to be lacking. The current management thinking in Meedhuparu is to stick by known routine procedures to address issues which roughly mean compliance by staff to management’s whims and tantrums and talk good ethics from high pedestals disregarding the issues raised by staff. This is not a unique problem to Meedhuparu. Every other resort in Maldives seems to have got stuck in this thinking and is a becoming a real stumbling block to progress. The correct thinking should be to be able to meet the challenge wherever it arise, to address the issue however it comes, to throw away this old fashioned thinking that somehow resort workers are little school boys who can be bribed with sweets! Am I right? Or wrong?
• Mr. Mahdy who speaks on behalf of Meedhuparu management is adamant that staff cannot demand removal of certain persons from managements and it’s quite true. There are things people can demand and things people cannot. But strikes and demonstrations are not exactly learnt from school text books and the formulas of strikes are not accurate. Nor are they meant to be. It’s easy to get into rational educated discourse with people individually and profit from that. But to talk to a group of people collectively is quite another thing. The reasons seems to be that the output of such a talk or conversation would be average of the groups thinking, the average of rationalizing process inside their individual minds and the sum total of the strength of their vocal chords (measured in dbs of course..) etc. (I am still formulating the exact parameters of this theory…) lol. So in short there is nothing staff cannot demand especially if they are claiming constitutional rights!
• The striking staffs are also complaining about the quality of food and accommodation which is a very much relative thing as everyone has his or her personal preference when this comes to that. But the trick to crack this problem is not to introduce more tuna chunks to the curry bowl. The trick is in simple things… first to listen to what the staff really needs. To ask the staff how to save money and how best to economize and yet utilize resources fully. Most of the resorts in Maldives fall to this pitfall of not listening to staff and seeking advice from them. The staff if they are appreciated or made to feel so would help greatly as most staff bring about them much experience from their past employers and would be only too happy to join the decision making process. But there is one problem common to almost all resorts in Maldives which is the language barrier. Most locals of this country are quite a happy people and finds school text books a chore to go through! So poor English maybe hamper effective communication but this same problem is also applicable to Sri Lankans who are the de facto management of Meedhuparu. So as every local knows who have fallen in with a Japanese guest recently it’s not all about language. The relationship will bloom and blossom if the will is there. If it’s done from the heart…not some polite nothings from the tip of the tongue!
• The resort being managed by Sri Lankan team it’s understandable that the management somehow might think they are somehow immune to criticism especially with regards to the close connections they enjoyed under the former regime and warm and cozy relations with the then minister Dr Shaugy but where criticism deemed necessary it’s justifiable. As is the case now. This attitude to staff and the thinking of being untouchable is very bad for business and those who are to score or to get score points from these protests need to take heed from this. An era has passed, a new government is in place and old connections to tourism ministry are not as strong as it was. Yes I am talking about being able to bribe the tourism minister and high society will be a little bit difficult now for many reasons.

why Mr. Deen is always fooled?

barber1Bandos is obviously one of the pioneers of tourism in Maldives and has created precedents in almost all fields of relevance for a resort in Maldives.
Bandos is a first to provide provident fund benefits to staff in Maldives as well the first one to preempt labor law provisions among the many that can be sung to her praise. Mention also has to be made of the “family effect” created in Bandos and is a unique feature of the island few disagrees. These being the most obvious pros of the resort there are also cons.
One such might have been the top brass team the ever so kind Mr. Deen forever mistakes to be honest and yet all the while he is only fooled by appearance. From as early as 1990 there were consistent rumors that managers misappropriate company and left Mr. Deen in the lurch. And the trend hasn’t stopped yet. According to reliable sources who work in Bandos things are so bad that Mr. Deen has finally given upon judgment on others and assigned the task of day to day running of the resort to a daughter so that he wouldn’t be swindled again. The current batch of management staff are said to be not in favor of this appointment and an atmosphere of a family feud appears to be in the making. The problem seems to be lack of trust with recent revelations that top management staffs were involved in smuggling out costly hardware items without knowledge of the owners. Little wonder while most resort owners in Maldives moved up from humble beginnings, Mr. Deen seems to be stuck forever in a level plain thanks to unwavering trust to anyone who demands to be trusted.
There is a popular Sri Lankan fable in which a kind hearted barber takes money only from affluent persons for his services while letting go of the poor for free. One day an ‘elua’ (a goat) notices how kind this barber is, decides that he needs a hair cut among other things…

Resort workers strike updates:

First it was Reethi Rah resort staff followed by Anantara staff in solidarity with them, next comes Medhuparu staff all demanding basically that the resorts follow the rule of law. Quite simple eh?
But the managements of these resorts don’t seem to agree.
Here are some points to ponder:
• At anantara the HR has teamed up with Universal Group to get clarifications of the various points of the law basically because the HR is headed by an expat (expats are more cautious when it comes to matters of law and rightly so…) but the point here is that as one of the most reputed staff friendly resort as Anantara is they have chose then worst possible partner to discuss staff issues. Universal Resorts Group is renown for its notoriety to staff and Anantara stands to loose from such collaborations at least in reputation.
• W Maldives by far the best employer in terms how much service charge they can pay to staff also has agreements with Universal Group as they have lease agreements of 2 islands from the group but w Maldives doesn’t seem to be as fond of asking clarification of every clause of law from Universal Group lawyers. Y?
• Compared to Anantara Bandos Island is basically a one man job with Mr. Waheedu Deen as the owner and yet Bandos has preempted compliance to the labor law even before the law came in force. While Anantara boasts many hotel properties worldwide it is still struggling to follow through compliance to labor law.
• The 8 hours work to be deduced from a clause of the labor law was interpreted by Anantara lawyers as meant to mean 8 hours work exclusive of meal times and rest times etc etc. if this same logic is applied to all ranges of work in equal measure to resort workers, some workers will fail to do their 8 hours work no matter how hard they try. Take for example the case of telephone operator. If work is meant in this case the time spent in work then a telephone operator’s work consists of talking on phone and call timers in pabx system will be the best indicator of the work he or she did on a particular shift or day. Now it remains to be seen whether an average size resort’s operator can talk 8 hours call time in 24 hours! I doubt this.
• Although Anantara management like all managements reiterate that they don’t temper with service charge its simply not true… like Gayoom said. Lol. The proof lies in 2 staff meetings where the management said they would have to deduct some monies from service charge for damages caused by staff (1 was the case of a flat screen tv which was broken by construction staff, another was a time when some monies were stolen from a guest room).
Many more points to come…
Send ur comments and happy reading!