An ongoing strike at Kurumba Maldives resort near Male’ has prompted management to move the island’s guests to other resorts run by the Universal Group, while other visitors have chosen to leave the country.
More than 150 Maldivian and expatriate staff are on strike after complaining of poor staff facilities, low wages, unfair distribution of service charges and discrimination between local and foreign staff.
Assistant Human Resources Manager Ibrahim Hassan told Minivan News that no staff were currently working at the resort, as “almost all” were now involved in the strike action. Nearly 250 guests had been relocated to other resorts or had cut short their holidays and left the country, he said.
“At the moment [the strikers] are very calm. They are standing in front of the Human Resources [office] and not coming out of the staff area,” Ibrahim said.
“Yesterday it became serious when they came out of the staff area and threatened senior management. Some senior managers have [subsequently] left the island.”
A third meeting between staff and management yesterday failed to resolve the deadlock, he noted. No staff member had yet been dismissed, he added.
Police have meanwhile arrived on the island to monitor the situation. Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said a police team was sent after police received reports that management were being threatened.
A staff member on strike told Minivan News that the workers decided to continue the strike after management “did not give us an adequate answer” by the workers’ deadline of 4:00pm yesterday.
“Nobody is on duty and guests have complained about the poor services, so the management decided to transfer all the guests to other resorts,” he said.
During the last meeting resort management had given the staff a written reply to their demands, promising the construction of a new staff accommodation block in September and the formation of a staff committee representing various departments.
“We have four main concerns: wages, service charge [payments], food and accommodation,” he said. “For food and accommodation they gave a pleasant answer. But regarding wages and the service charge, they could not give an adequate answer – they said they were revising the salaries but did not know when they could increase them.”
When staff said the response was inadequate, management replied they were unable to alter the decision, he said.
“That response caused outrage among staff and some of the senior management officials were forced to leave the island,’’ he added. “Police came to the island to control the situation.’’
The staff claimed they would strike until management fulfilled their demands, he said.
Sim Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) described the industrial action at Kurumba as “a clear reflection of what little protection is provided to investors and businesses under the present laws pertaining to the conduct of business in the country.”
“The reality of the situation is that an investment of millions of dollars can be crippled andheld at ransom within a few hours by its own employees, whose grievances may or may not be real,” Sim said, adding that this situation had recently occurred in several resorts.
“The situation in Kurumba is a case in point. On Sunday August 22 the resort occupancy [percentage] was in the 80’s. Towards evening that day occupancy had fallen to less than 20% percent,” Sim said. “Tourists, tour operators and senior management have been too terrified to remain in the resort, and today the resort is empty.”
“There should be no ground for any party to reduce visitors and businesses in this country to a state of fear and terror, whoever may be at fault. The government must provide tourists and investors with adequate protection,” Sim said.
The Universal-run resort near Male’ is one of the oldest private resort islands in the Maldives, reopening as a five-star luxury resort in 2004 following renovation.