Local workers of Sheraton have stopped work and are on strike citing service unbelievably low charge, discrimination against workers and nepotism. According to one worker in the island, the service charge has been around an unimpressive 600$ for most of the year including in the high season. This is in contrast to $2k and above in Kihaava Villas and other top resorts in the country. It’s strange that big brands like Sheraton could have got things so wrong in the middle of high season when everywhere resort workers are expected to earn substantial incomes. One worker opined that the resort feels immune from pressure because of the strong connections to the resort owners (Universal Group) with the ruling class.
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..
Our sources in Villa Hotels tells us that the Villa Group of hotels, Sun Island, Paradise island, Holiday Island and Royal Island are to resume paying service charges to staff effective from this month. Initially service charge is expected to be fixed at 1000rf per staff (service charge “fixing” is illegal under the law!) per month and the resort is said to be in talks with tour operators to levy the service charge from accommodation which would significantly increase the service charge value. Villa Group resorts have sold blocks of rooms on allocations to various many tour operators under contract and renegotiating the contract according to the resort is not an option. So the group is reported to be trying to insert this issue whenever new contracts are signed with room allocation arrangements.
However as the group tries to induct new competent talent in to the resort, they are finding it increasingly difficult because of the service charge issue. Currently Villa group resorts are said to be in the budget holiday category hence life is hectic on these resorts with guests coming in sizable hordes and leaving in a similar fashion each day. The advantage for resort staff in these islands seems to be proximity to Male’ and ease of transportation which is one key demand of local staff who have families in Male’ and in neighboring islands. Staff retention rates are high in Villa Group resorts exactly for causes like this despite the hiatus in service charge, closer to a year now.
Human resources ministry is asking for comments and views from the public to fine tune the existing labor laws. (pls send your comments to email@example.com ) 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.
Strike action has taken place in Paradise Island Resort of Villa Group Hotels with protesting staff of the island demanding unpaid arrears of service charge and overtime pay.
The demands of the protesters were met by the Group and the chairman of the group himself came to negotiate with the protesting staff.
Mr. Gasim promised to pay the demanded monies as of this evening and explained the delays were caused by the recent sudden requirement by the government to repay some huge loans the Group had to pay to the BML and the global recession which is beginning to show effects on the tourism industry. The strike is reported to be resolved and the workers have resumed their duties.
Its the same picture thats being seen in all resorts and now its spreading beyond resorts to other places of work. Now its Maldives Ports Authority staff who are getting ready to strike because their employer i.e. the government of this country (its a wholly owned government company) has refused to comply with the labor law. The staff of MPA has issued a deadline to the management and is awaiting their employers response.
In most developed countries worker issues and laws and regulations governing the issues are respected in minimal terms because issues like these are thorny issues which can be used to mobilize masses to achieve anything and there is history behind it. However in Maldives the situation is different. Years of lawlessness has created this mentality in the employers that somehow laws cannot apply to them and any law they do not feel sufficiently pliable accommodating their desires shall be revised and before that rejected. This is exactly what happened in the case of labor law and why MATI is discussing ways with the government to water down the labor law so that it become a useless article for lawyers to argue back and forth. Litigation is costly business and MATI is aware that employees or bodies representing employees (i.e. TEAM) cannot compete with them in money terms.
The many or few privileges or perks the labor law is said to have given to the workers of Maldives is peanuts if compared with what is offered to workers elsewhere and MATI has failed to acknowledged that. For example the 48 hour week which is so resented by MATI and most employers is actually ancient if history is correct. It came only after the 84 hour week and is nothing to boast about. Same goes for public holidays and overtime. The only substantial benefit resort workers stand to gain from the labor law is the requirement that any service charge collected shall be distributed and this requirement has not been honored by >90% of the employers.
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).