A strike by Maldivian employees at Alimatha Resort in Vaavu Atoll ended on Friday after 30 police descended on the resort.
Two resort staff were arrested, while 27 were subsequently dismissed. The workers were striking over a demand for an increase in their service charge compensation.
“They tear gassed all the staff”: striking resort worker
Dismissed reception supervisor at Alimatha Resort, Ahmed Fayaz, told Minivan News that police arrested the leader of the striking workers.
“The police arrested our leader Hassan. We were surrounding him, saying they couldn’t take him. We were trying to keep the police from arresting him.
“If they were going to do that, we said we would be very angry, so they tear gassed all the striking staff,” he alleged.
“In peace the police went out”: Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef
Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef confirmed two people had been arrested and were later released without charge. Police received information from resort management and “tried to help negotiate”, he said.
“The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly act doesn’t allow protesting in resorts,” Haneef noted.
“There was no tear gas, no pepper spray, and no violence.”
“l’m not here to spell out what has been done”: Alimatha General Manager
Alimatha Resort General Manager Abdullah Nashiz told Minivan News that resort management wanted to talk and gave many chances to the striking workers.
“We explained this is not the way to make demands. We confronted and commanded them to return to duty,” Nashiz stated.
Nashiz claimed the striking workers were shouting and forced laundry operations to stop by frightening Maldivian staff in that department.
“We do not know what threats were made [by staff] beyond stopping operations. I’m not here to spell out what has been done. The police can tell you that,” Nashiz said.
“The first time, I requested the supervisor call the police for the safety and security of the clients, staff, and property, and two or three [officers] came.
“We called the police the second time because the strikers were shouting at and threatening [us]. We were scared,” he claimed.
Nashiz said that after the striking workers were terminated, they were unwilling to take the termination letters and started shouting. However, he also claimed that all 27 former staff have since signed the termination letters.
He said that 99 percent of service charges were being given to staff and that the amount of compensation requested by the former employees was “impossible” and “not within the budget of the company”.
“It’s not company policy to give the total service charge, not at the [US$300-$400] amount requested. It was not foreseen in the budget or present employment contracts.
“One part may be given this year, and the next year we can reconsider based on work performance,” Nashiz added.
Fayaz meanwhile stated that the striking staff did not want to resign, nor did they want to cause any trouble for tourists at the resort.
“The management is not giving the right information to the media, what they’ve said is incorrect,” he alleged.
“[General Manager] Abdullah Nashiz is wrong. They did a very, very, very bad thing.
“We were not disturbing guests, or other resort workers. We were just sitting in our rooms and refusing to go work,” Fayaz said.
Fayaz said resort management did not want to negotiate with the striking employees, particularly through collective bargaining. Instead they insisted the staff keep working.
Ultimately, 27 staff were terminated and forced to leave the resort following Hassan’s arrest.
According to Fayaz, resort management charges guests 8-10 percent service charge as stated in the guest catalogue, but then does not distribute 99 percent of those service charges to employees, as mandated by law.
“We were only given US$25-$50 in service charges each per month. This is the same service charge amount employees received in 1997,” he said.
“If they were unwilling to give us the proper service charge amount, we proposed a US$300 pay increase as an alternative,” Fayaz stated.
Resort “has a history of serious problems”: TEAM Secretary General
Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) Secretary General Mauroof Zakir told Minivan News the union are providing consulting services to the former employees at the resort, and noted that the workers had a history of striking for wage increases.
Strikes have occurred on the resort annually since 2009 and pay has increased from MVR 1200 (US$77.42) a month to MVR3000 (US$193.55) a month in 2012, he said.
“Management has refused to the workers’ demands, because if they accede they will have to pay all the service charges from 2008 until now,” Zakir stated.
He also explained that the constitution guarantees workers’ rights and that the Maldives had ratified the International Labour Organisation covenant, which protects the right for form associations for collective bargaining.
Zakir also said police “warned” strike leader Hassan and then arrested him in his room, at which point the other striking employees held onto him to prevent the police from taking him, and were ultimately pepper-sprayed.
“The staff were really really afraid because of the police involvement,” Zakir said.
He added that since the resort is private property, the police said the terminated employees could not stay and forced them to leave the resort.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media the “disruption of services and harmony in resorts is unacceptable”.
“Tourism is the most significant industry in the Maldives. Adverse impact on the industry as a result of such protests would directly affect the entire nation. It could also have a major effect on our economy,” Adheeb said.