One of the newest brands to Maldives, Dusit Thani Maldives is a popular resort according to many reviews in TripAdvisor. Among the many endearing terms used in the review these terms stand out. Helpful people, eco-friendly resort, top notch service, prestigious resort… After every review in TripAdvisor there appears a thanking little message by GM of the resort thanking for the review.
For lack of a similar service where staff can rate their employer, we had to ask about from our friends in the resort to give us an honest, heart to heart review of the resort, and what we got is not amusing at all. Here is one review by a trustworthy source about the resort:
The resort has recently decided to drastically cut down on benefits for staff and is currently in the process for terminating 60 local staff. That’s almost half of the total employees whose agreements will not be renewed. While most of the resorts goes to great lengths to keep their longer serving staff in the island, this looks like a departure from that trend. RNR (Rest and Relax 1 or 2 week extra paid leaves given to manager level persons) will be restricted only to a handful top managers. Around 70 local regular staff has been kept in limbo without permanent work agreements (used as casual workers; mostly this is the case for expatriate laborers in other resorts). Laundry, stewarding, gardening and landscaping, powerhouse, pest control, and public area cleaning services are going to be outsourced. Staff will not be able to plan their holidays or accumulate pending off days or lieu days for public holidays when going on annual vacation. This is allowed and hassle-free in most resorts. Most of the staff who worked in the pre-opening team are being terminated for flimsy and sometimes made-up reasons by their superiors who joined later. The resort Financial Controller is reported to have said that service charge for local staff shall be capped at 250$ per month irrespective of occupancy. Many local staff have been threatened with summary dismissal for minor reasons. There are only 3 locals in management level which is very low compared to other resorts. It seems the management is not willing to listen to any complaints or suggestions; and staffs have been dismissed for revealing these grievances in meetings with GM. Despite these negatives, the staff believe it has more to do with the individual temperaments of the managers themselves than company policy, which is making the resorts appeal less to local talent.
Our assessment: overall this is a good employer which has to do some serious housekeeping work to make sure from the management side, things are as it should be. Frequently what would happen is resorts are part of bigger chain of hotels and local management is assumed to be in order from corporate office if the monthly figures look ok. But there is always room for improvement and if half of those on the payroll are to be replaced in a year, then there indeed is cause for alarm. As for employing local workers wherever possible, this should be included in the Corporate Social Responsibility agenda and followed through to execution especially considering the high level of unemployment in the host country and the potential for conflict which will ensue.
That was a comment by a recent guest to Kurumba who actually witnessed the strike action in Kurumba writing in Trip Advisor site. The guest mentions that the management of the hotel made no effort to explain the situation and that they (the guests) do not blame the staff for protesting against their poor facilities. They just believed that it should have been handled better by Universal the company that owns the island.
These are just typical lines of thinking by average guests and hotel managements shall be wary of thinking they scored points against protesting staff after intimidating them to end their legitimate strike by using security forces on made up charges. The sympathies of the guests are invariably with the staff when its known that the employer ill treats them. In the case of recent Kurumba strike, there was very little the management can, even if it tried to explain to the guests what caused the strikes in the first place because it would have raised more questioned than it would have answered.
The bottom line is that there is no excuse for not addressing the legitimate concerns of the staff because in the long run its far more cost effective to well treat the staff than to be mean with them. Kurumba certainly has played dual personality of the mean employer to the staff and the ever so gentle hotelier for the guests for too long. Now is the time to discard the dual personae and come clean like a civilized hotelier.
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.
Recent news from Kurunmba village is that the resort is shutdown for business and the guests has been relocated to other resorts while some guests who opted to cut short their holidays have departed to their countries. Its reported that the whole team of employees are on strike.
The strike was called by the staff who cite ill treatment by the management, poor food and accommodation arrangements, intimidation at work, deception on service charge payout among a long list of grievances. The list of staff grievances were submitted to the top management which was only able to promise better food and accommodation “in the future” and that the pay structure and service charge payout arrangements were said to stand as it is. It shall be noted that the main demands of the workers are better pay and the management failed to acknowledge just that.
Universal Group of hotels which operates Kurunba is notorious for its treatment of workers and its commonly acknowledged fact that workers will apply for job there if other attempts fail at securing a job at other better international brands of resorts where conditions are better. The sad fact of the times is that Kurunba Village despite being the first resort to open in the Maldives, has not learned the lessons from its history. Namely that staff are the most valuable asset a service business has and its indicative of the fact that the resorts occupancy fell to 0% from 85% just one day after the strike action began.
Following the story in many places (mentioned below) its amazing to learn how the management of Kurumba Village is out of touch with reality in terms of seeing the staff as a team and all the modern adjectives associated with team work etc. Grudging basic necessities such as air conditioning to staff in these five-star resorts to staff is beyond belief in this age and time in these world class resorts. This is all more bizarre that other 2 star and star-less resorts are able to provide better services and better pay to staff than kurnmba which is run by the biggest business group in the country.
A very relevant point one reader commented in Haveeru is that the cause of the strike have much less to do with the demands the staff has given to the management but to the policies of the managing company Par Aquam (A partner company of Universal) and how it deals with the staff. The writer states that the company introduces haphazard policies to staff and require immediate compliance, and the management company sidelines loyal staff who have served the company many long years infavour of their friends or acquaintances who take over those jobs (which is where the discrimination factor is). Generally the writer alleges the strike can soley be blamed on the management company’s attitude to staff rather than anything else.
Elsewhere talking to MNBC One, Mp.Easa the Tourism Employees Association’s president stated that the demands the demonstrating staff put to the management were actually rights enshrined in the labour law which cannot be compromised or talked over. Easa maintained these are not favours for the management to give but rights the staff are entitled.
Yes Finally the Universal owned resort Kurumba Maldives formerly known as Kurumba Village is officially on strike! Despite catering for diplomats, prominent businessmen, and generally to an affluent clientèle, the resort has a tall list of grievances against the staff to address which is the reason of the strike. It is quite true that the staff of KV are low paid, poorly fed, and unlovingly accommodated whilst job and work discrimination exists to a level where it can be said to be above the sky. To cap the list of woes, the service charge which the resort charges from guests are cheated on while being distributed to the staff. Then there is the little issue of over working staff without overtime pay which is brazenly against the labour law and accepted norms of business. The situation was quite the same for 38 years and now it appears the staff are protesting these conditions.
Here is the story @ Velidhoo.com
Here is the story in Minivan News
The story is also on Maldivestoday.com
Some common practices such as signing of contracts between two companies etc are associated with archaic practices which nobody seems to be bothered about. The pic above shows the ceremony of signing security contracts between defense ministry and airports company attended to by two female employees one of whom is evidently irritated to have been called on to wait on the gentlemen signing whatever they signed. Usually what will happen is the two gentlemen will sign all the pages on both of those folders and the “employees-in-waiting” will take those folders somewhere inside the office and disappear. The gentlemen will rise from their seats with big smiles on their faces and shake hands for the camera following some little speech about how they expect to be happy with the arrangements. Now the question is what is the big need of using two female employees unnecessarily to wait on them for the occasion? The gentlemen appears to be perfectly healthy and the folders and papers do not seem to be excessively heavy.. so why cannot they keep the folders on the table till the ceremony ends and take the folders inside the office themselves when the media and everyone is gone? In this new labour ruled times, it certainly makes sense to lessen the amount of time staff are retained in office without work to ease pressure on the budget to which the president has already called for a couple of times. Also imagine the unnecessary preparations those female employees would have to go through knowing their picture will be captured in the media.. Things like cosmetics are of course a drain on earths scares resources but how much of those will be used for the fluke of a moment thing?
Short of condemning this archaic practice, we at the Maldivesresortworkers call upon the employers to refrain from such excessive aggrandizement of their work and to respect the workers as fellow human beings. The workers are there not as a “garnish” or as a window-dressing… The workers are also fellow human beings who expects rational works be assigned to them. We also ask the employers to respect gender equality and not to use female employees as waiting girls for their little ceremonies.