The International Union of Food workers [IUF] has expressed concern over the government’s new strike regulation at a joint press conference held by the IUF and the Tourism Employment Association of the Maldives (TEAM) today.
Dr Jasper Gross, Information Research Officer of the IUF, said that the new regulations – which requires staff to provide advance notice to employers of any strike action and not to inconvenience guests – violates the constitution of the Maldives. The regulation, if enacted, would contravene decisions of the ILO in regard to the rights of workers to strike.”
The Maldives became a member and accepted the obligations of the ILO constitution last year, becoming the 183rd member of the organisation..
‘’The new legislation is just a birthday gift from the Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports to employers,’’ said Dr Jasper. “It is a terrifying Act.”
Dr Jasper stressed that it was “remarkable” how many loopholes were in the regulations, “that basically mean workers cannot strike.”
“We are very very concerned about the new regulations,’’ he repeated.
In August, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) submitted a bill to parliament regulating industrial action conducted by employees in the Maldives, shortly after a strike at Kurumba resort reduced occupancy to zero.
Regional Secretary for IUF Asia Pacific, Ma Wei Pin, also described the new regulations as effectively banning workers from striking, which he believed “violates a basic right of workers”.
“Employers need to respect the rights of the worker, the resort management should accept the local trade union TEAM, and resolve these issues fairly,’’ said Ma Wei. “The suppression of the right of to strike is not helpful.’’
Ma Wei said banning strikes would be an obstacle to establishing a sustainable tourism industry in the country.
“The government needs to encourage workers and resort managements to deal with the trade unions, and urgently needs to deliver laws against the discrimination of trade unions,’’ he said.
Vice Pressident of TEAM Mauroof Zakir said the organisation had never initiated a strike, but only assisted when resort workers took the decision to strike themselves.
“We will stand against these new regulations, and we will bring this issue to the attention of the international community and trade unions,’’ said Mauroof.
Asked whether TEAM’s impartiality was subject to compromise because its President, Ahmed Easa, was also a ruling party MP, Mauroof insisted Easa was not influenced.
“We are controlled by the resort workers,’’ he explained, “and what Easa is doing in parliament is trying to protect the rights of labors.’’
Ma Wei said the IUF will draw the attention of the government to the fact that the new regulations on striking were inconsistent with the ILO convention.
‘’Everywhere else in the world, when a strike is conducted the customers are inconvenienced,” he said. “But we should also know that strikes have to be conducted due to the carelessness of the management.”
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.
In February this year management at the Centara Grand Island Resort in North Ari Atoll increased the service charge allocated to staff after workers held a strike.
A staff member told Minivan News that the staff held the strike because they were not receiving the service charges agreed them by management, adding that the management had persisted in giving them the lower amount “claiming that the room revenue was very low.”
On April 14 staff at Shangri-La were dismissed after they conducted a strike demanding to reinstate the job of four villa hosts, who were dismissed for playing PlayStation inside a vacant guest room.
More recently in August, more than 150 Maldivian and expatriate staff working at the Kurumba Maldives resort conducted a strike, demanding improvement of staff facilities.
A striking staff member told Minivan News that the 157 staff were striking over “low wages, pathetic accommodation, awful food, communication barriers between staff and management, and discrimination between local and foreign staff.”