Mayday at Maldives, the drudgery continues…

Isn’t it ironic that most resorts in Maldives still do not recognize May 1 as a public holiday despite Mayday being officially declared a public holiday in 2011 by then president Nasheed? It shall be more so, considering the fact that this affects tourism workers who are by far the most productive workers and the most deserving of a Mayday break from workplace. However stubbornness have it, that its always the unproductive, demoralized, polarized civil workers who gets all the benefits while the resort workers toil hard, unloved and uncared for. This is not to belittle the civil workers,  but to emphasize a massive wrong doing done to resort workers which nobody seems to notice. On the issue of Mayday, it is indeed past time that we seem to come to a conclusion about which is a public holiday, which is a govt. holiday, a bank holiday, or a religious holiday or whatever. Currently the resort HR’s are still sticking to an outdated portion of the hard-fought-and-almost-lost-cause-called-labour-rights-bill which has a section for “miscellaneous matters” where it  says:

“public holiday” shall mean Fridays, Day of Commemoration of the Birth of Prophet Mohamed, Day of Commemoration of the Maldives converting to Islam, Independence Day, National Day, First Day of Ramazan, Day of Eid‐ul‐Fitr, Victory Day, Republic Day, Hajj Day and Day of Eid‐ul‐Ad’ha;”



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

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.

How to do 8 hours work?

To get employees to work to 8 hours in compliance with the new labor laws in Maldives,  resort managements are going to great lengths and are doing everything short of  arresting them.  This shall not have been the case if most employers do make occasional use of common sense (which sad to say is the least common thing on earth).  For a start if the  ‘management’ is aware that there indeed is a little bit of difference between say a garments factory and a luxury hotel, progressing from thence would be a little bit easier.  A textile or garments factory worker doing a shift duty say sewing or cutting clothes etc his or her work is directionally proportional to the amount of time he or she spends on the factory floor with his or her machine if all other factors are accounted for.  The same is not true for a luxury resort worker in Maldives and the reasons shall not be hard to understand. Take for instance the all too common “roomboy”. However punctual or overzealous or fretful the roomboy is he simply cannot do his job according to his own tempo. His work is dictated for him by the daily habits of his guest or the particular mood or temperament of his supervisor who might send him on little annoying errands just because he felt like it. The same can be said of the plumber whose work will start when some disagreeable fitting came loose or the likes of such.  Mindful of these inconsistencies in the nature of work and the need to get worth of salt for every penny (or cent or whatever) the venerable Human Resources Departments are coming out with ingenious ideas. One such idea is the stratification of time with fancy names as ‘up time’, ‘down time’, ‘on time’ etc. The idea is to find as many reasons to detain staff on the job and be as economic as possible which makes perfect business sense. But somethings doesn’t quite fit in.

The majority of human race would prefer straight talking. Straight talking meaning honest talk without attached strings or barely legible subscripts. Enter the case of 8 hour day which was a hard fought and won battle somewhere around 1800. Roughly 200 years later the employers and employees seems to be still at it trying to reinvent the wheel. What the ‘management’ is trying to do is to introduce into a regular work day qualifications of time which will make it impossible for any worker except them (because some sections of labour law doesn’t apply to them) to be able to do their prescribed “8 hours”. For how can a telephone operator claim to have worked 8 hours on a particular day if the call timers in the phone machine is not matching what is claimed? What is at fault here is sincerity. If the employers would like to admonish staff to be sincere in work and in attitude they could advice themselves first and mend their ways of thinking.