Union leaders’ dismissal leads to staff arrests on Full Moon Sheraton

Four members of staff at Sheraton’s Full Moon resort in Kaafu Atoll were taken into police custody yesterday, following the refusal of three dismissed employees to leave the premises.

While the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) has said the individuals were dismissed due to their participation in Labour Day celebrations earlier this month, representatives of the resort have said the dismissals were preceded by “a number of incidents”.

“There is no freedom of association or freedom of speech in the Maldives, especially not in the tourism industry,” said TEAM Secretary General Mauroof Zakir.

Police have informed Minivan News that the staff members were arrested for obstructing police duty following a call from resort management yesterday afternoon.

Shumaes Rasheed, Marketing Communicating Manager at Full Moon, provided further details:

“As the associates refused to leave the island, Maldives Police Service were notified to assist them in escorting them off the island.”

“Another four associates were arrested by the police for obstruction in carrying out their duties, and these associates have also been dismissed,” added Shumaes, noting that the welfare of the guests had not been affected by the incident.

Zakir told Minivan News that those initially dismissed were “key trade union leaders” on the resort, who had been preparing to  enter collective bargaining with resort management.

Zakir said that the letter of termination issued to those dismissed referred to a gathering on May 1 during which the TEAM members decorated their association hut with banners calling for a minimum wage to US$600, improved freedom to speech, and other internationally recognised union rights.

“We cannot accept that, a wilful and peaceful gathering organised by the union is allowed in the ILO convention,” said Mauroof – noting that this was a convention to which the Maldives is a signatory.

The arrests followed a gathering by employees calling for their colleagues’ reinstatement,  into which police “immediately intervened”, said Mauroof. He suggested police had been on the island for a number of days as part of a pre-planned operation.

Yesterday’s unrest was the latest in a number of incidents of staff unrest among the workers in the country’s largest industry which contributes an estimated 80 percent to the country’s GDP.

Figures from the Tourism Ministry have today revealed arrival figures to have increased by 11.2 percent this year compared with the same point in 2013 – a year which saw a record 1.3 million tourists arrive in the country.

Rising number of incidents

“It is unlikely anything will come out of parliament that will give protection to the workers,” noted Mauroof, suggesting that concerted industrial action by the country’s 26,000 tourism workers may be the only way to improve workers rights. 25 percent of the 17th Majlis are themselves resort owners, he added.

Despite the political turmoil of recent years, the country’s primary industry has remained sacrosanct, with the Majlis even passing legislation prohibiting such acts.

The tourism boycott bill passed the house in October last year, making it illegal to call for a boycott, to support or endorse of a boycott, to participate in a tourism boycott, or any act that would incite fear amongst tourists.

Mauroof suggested that the rising frequency of unrest on resorts in recent months could be attributed to a combination of a rising cost of living in the country and greater awareness of workers’ rights.

Increasing “overuse” of the Freedom of Assembly Actmuch criticised since its introduction in 2012 – by authorities was also cited by the TEAM leader as cause for the dismissal of over 150 tourism employees.

“If the government has positive intentions to protect workers – things might change. Otherwise we will need some international leverage.”

Despite the general desire to separate the country’s primary source of income from its fractious politics, a number of resort workers have alleged in recent months that their dismissals were directly linked to the political leanings of their employers.

Both Gasim Ibrahim – owner of the Villa Group – and Ahmed Shiyam – owner of Sun Siyam Resorts –  have been accused of purging staff rosters of staff members aligned with opposition political groups. Gasim and Siyam are the leaders of the ruling coalition Jumhooree Party and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), respectively.

Earlier this week, a small but vocal protest could be heard circling the capital Malé, with a lone demonstrator pleading with the MDA leader:

“Sun Travel, I’m begging you on my knees, don’t threaten your employees. Don’t force people into your party. Don’t do this.”

Last month it was revealed that police were investigating a threatening phone call allegedly made by Siyam to a former employee of Vilu Reef resort.

“Let me tell you, you don’t have any rights,” the Dhaal Meedhoo MP was heard to say. “If you try to harm my business I will destroy you.”


6 thoughts on “Union leaders’ dismissal leads to staff arrests on Full Moon Sheraton”

  1. And one day Shiyam will die and leave it all behind - what an idiot. For him, his employees are slaves to be beaten down while they make money for him. Oh for justice; but then this is Maldives - what can anyone expect.

  2. Actually there are two sides to these stories. There are employers who mistreat the employees and employees who take advantage of the employers. As long as both sides are not considered equally and the right action is not taken against the employers and employees, then these issues will not be resolved. The stupid actions of some employers and employees cost other employers and employees a lot too.

  3. Mariyam, care to share some more details about employees who take advantage of the employers? Exactly how do they manage to do that?

    They stand in an ultimately weak position, not protected at all. There are countries where unions are so powerful they indeed can and do use that power to take advantage of employers. I highly doubt employees here are able to do that.

  4. Ekaloas, you might want to first of all stop being biased, then only can you look at reality. Since you have decided that it's only employers who mistreat employees well then no matter what anyone says you won't be able to think differently.

    We constantly hear about and see how local employees are treated differently from foreigners. Sure in some cases there is discrimination without any justified reason for it, but it's not always the case. There are some excellent Maldivian workers serving the tourism industry, but there are also some downright lazy ones who use the foreigner and locals argument as an excuse to demand higher wages and benefits while not doing much besides free riding on the back of those locals who do work hard. It's not about local and foreigners, it's about individuals. There are also foreign workers who come here and don't perform and any profit making business will not tolerate lazy workers, local or foreign. Then when such locals are terminated from their positions, they run to the tribunal and the tribunal generally looking at one side only, ask the employer to reinstate the employees. This is just one example. Unions are not necessarily always the best option for workers as unions and their leaders themselves have their own agendas and it has been shown in different countries how unions have made vulnerable workers even more vulnerable. It's always better to bring in the right and balanced rules and regulations for employers and employees. Sadly we have a culture of youth not used to working hard for their income and while politics is to blame more than anything else, fact is no business will tolerate and want to employ lazy bums. And there is such a thing as performance based incentives in many resorts in Maldives and businesses, and there are both local and foreign employees who go over and above their job requirements to perform well, and THAT is something. It's not for those who don't want to work to complain about lack of promotions and wage increases when they are just looking at doing the basics eh. Stop giving our youth an excuse to not being productive and teach them that it's a global community, and to survive, we need to work harder and harder every day. Look at the number of local GMs in the resort industry compared to earlier, and the number of local HoDs in many resorts. When they work, they get somewhere, as opposed to trying to find the easy way out and complaining and running to the tribunal for every little thing. I know for a fact that even those who have been terminated from their jobs during the probation period are seeking claims through the tribunal. What claims, when the law clearly states that both the employees and the employers can resign or terminate the positions without prior notice? You see, there are many ways that some employees can also take advantage, and that's what I am referring to.

  5. @mariyam

    Perhaps you should stop relaxing in Ruder Fin offices in New York and come visit Maldives and see how things really are instead of making up stories about nonexistent structurals.

  6. @ Mariyam I am a woman worked in Sun Island for three years and I left there because the wage between the middle management,junior staffs as well as the foreign labours never changed compare to the senior management. Living condition was such labourer lived 12 to 25 people one room...maybe u shud work in a resort as a junior staff once..before talkin about the employer rights in the tourism industry.. Service change is controlled never more than Mrf2000..Salary was less than $300 to $700 till middle mngt.u talk about employer rights..just talk the walk before getting defensive next time..come with facts..


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