Resort giant rejects dismissed local workers’ allegations of foreigner bias

Hospitality giant Conrad Hotels and Resorts has rejected accusations concerning its treatment of a group of Maldivian workers made redundant earlier this month at its Rangali Island Resort, claiming the site adheres to both company and Maldivian labour laws when dealing with staff.

Responding to accusations made by a group of 29 staff that resort management recently decided to make redundant over concerns about profitability during the low season, Conrad claimed all its staff were treated “fairly” regardless of their ethnicity.

The group of staff dismissed this month by the company have alleged that whilst working at the Conrad Rangali Island Resort, they witnessed multiple examples of Maldivian workers being discriminated against in favour of expatriate workers of other nationalities. The group claimed that some staff were additionally made to flout expiry dates and other quality standards by management figures.

Some of the allegations reflect wider concerns about the treatment of Maldivian staff across the country’s resort industry, says the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM), which it claims varies significantly in comparison to other countries.  The group claimed that these discrepancies may, in some cases, verge on being “racial abuse”.

Not singling out a particular resort for the practices, TEAM told Minivan News that it believed there were widespread discrepancies in the treatment of Maldivian resort staff in areas such as payment compared to resort workers of other nationalities.

“There are bigger concerns regarding some of these issues – particularly we see there is some salary discrepancy between Maldivian staff and other employees,” claimed TEAM President Ahmed Shihaam. “Right now however, we are focusing on more prominent concerns such as the possible introduction of a national minimum wage.”

The group of workers dismissed from Conrad this month claimed that they believed they had been removed from their positions for demanding action on issues involving site management and staff.  The workers were dismissed with redundancy packages, according to Conrad.

According to the group, management figures had threatened to fire members of staff for their role in trying to raise the issues, which they claimed were linked to strikes taking place at the resort over several days in March of this year.

“There is a lot of discrimination going on in the island, foreigners are more favoured than Maldivians, they earn more, have luxurious rooms to sleep and everything is so perfect for them. We sleep 10-15 men in a room, while foreigners sleep maximum three in a room,” a dismissed former worker at the Conrad resort told Minivan News. ‘’It is very regrettable that we are being mistreated and enslaved in our own country.”

The spokesperson for the group claimed that none of the staff who were given redundancy by the company had deserved to be removed from their posts; having tried to ensure that the “high standards” expected of the resort were being met.

One member of the dismissed group who worked in the resort’s house keeping department alleged that human resources officials at the site turned a blind eye when some staff failed to properly wash towels beyond soaking them in water, drying them off and throwing them onto an office floor.

‘’One day when I was at the house keeping office I was told to wipe out the expiry date of all the mouth wash bottles that has expired,’’ the person claimed. ‘’I told the house keeper that he can’t do that, but I was forced to do it if I wanted to work there.’’

Amongst a list of accusations, the dismissed staff claimed that some senior management figures had  abused their roles by arranging to have the resort’s high-profile underwater restaurant dismiss confirmed bookings so as to accommodate a private dinner for a senior resort employee.

The spokesperson for the group claimed that the company was aware of the restaurant closure, as well as a number of policies it claimed breached rules on safety and employment regulation.

‘’[Local staff] have to test wine, which it violates the Tourism Act. It is also not allowed to have a Maldivian as a barmen, but currently there is a Maldivian barmen at the island,’’ he alleged.

The group’s spokesperson alleged that he and his colleagues had also been asked to open a number of expired yoghurt containers in the main restaurant’s kitchen and to pour them all in to a big bowel to serve for breakfast that morning.

‘’We did it, it was not something related to us or something that would harm us, but we complained to  the management and there was no action taken against it,’’ he said.

Resort response

Addressing the accusations made by its former staff, Conrad Hotels said it preferred not to enter into a “public discussion” concerning the claims. Conrad said it offered several official channels within its organisation that allowed staff to address particular concerns over adherence to company rules and policy during their employment.

The company added that as an international hotel chain, it worked to ensure its employment policies were in line both with Maldivian labour laws and global company standards in order to protect staff at Rangali Island. The resort employed almost three Maldivian workers to each expatriate member of staff, the resort noted.

“The hotel follows employment policies that are consistent with the country’s labour laws and the company’s own standard practices. This includes, but is not limited to fair remuneration, respectful treatment of our team members, training and development opportunities, diversity recognition and fair treatment for all,” stated the company. “It is important to note that as of June 2011, 74 percent of the resort’s team members are Maldivian.”

Conrad also reiterated its claim that the decision to release 29 staff was made based for business reasons – with all members receiving redundancy packages to “help them through the transition.”

Without commenting specifically on the policy of an individual resort, ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, the Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said the group had not been made aware or been involved in dealing with concerns about discrepancies in the conditions of Maldivian resort workers, as compared to other nationalities.

However, Sim said he believed that the government would not allow Maldivian staff to be treated unfairly and in a disproportionate manner to other nationalities of workers under the conditions of its Employment Act.


26 thoughts on “Resort giant rejects dismissed local workers’ allegations of foreigner bias”

  1. Its true that local staff get raw deals in most resorts BUT
    It definitely will not be a Hilton policy. Being big hoteliers they know their way around these issues. The problem lies not in the policy of philosophy of the resort, but by the internal machinery at work in resorts. As any resort worker would understand, resort life is a very competitive place where people crave for recognition and award like mad. Those who are ambitious and work hard TO BE SEEN (that's an important aspect) gets recognition and promotions. Those who are slow to take up opportunities or are too polite or modest,, the future is bleak for them.

    Where locals come is this: Most locals are modest and too polite to step over the colleagues to seek the manager's approval. Promotion is not a life and death situation for most locals. However in countries like Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh etc, the status-quo is not acceptable. You have to be someone to be someone! Their competitive Culture demands you be someone! These are big generalisations but let them be..

    So for these reasons most resorts are populated by expats whree it matters; in supervisory and management levels although similarly skilled locals are abundant but they are rarely understood from their carefree slow attitude to work life. Being slaves of ambitious supervisors and managers they are frequently made to do those kinds of things alleged above. As i said above, it cannot be Hilton's policy to have bias and favour expats but such bias can and does exist in many resorts.

  2. Conrad staff get the second highest pay in the Maldives tourism industry.

    The publication by Minivan of unsubstantiated claims by disgruntled workers who have lost their jobs could seriously affect our tourism industry. I beg Minivan not to be so irresponsible.

  3. Allegations of foreign Bias?!!!!
    Oh! definitely yes. It's a simple fact you know, the government knows and the local resort owners are aware of, but tend to pretend and ignore that it doesnt exist. Lets look at specific areas:
    1) Socializing between Male & Female staff. A resort of 100rooms has about 300 employees, 260 male and 40 female. Most of the female are from Thailand, and Phillipines working in the spa, as PAs or as hostesses (Maldivian girls stand no chance)In this and most resort, sex is HARAM and only the chosen few have this special priviledge.
    * The girls can sleep around with top management staff and get all other privileges of even dinning in guest restaurants, go dancing or drinking in bars, etc.
    * If a Maldivian staff dare indulge in such a beautiful feeling of relief, or even invited to the bar by a guest(not allowed anymore) he gets his one way ticket home with a rotten leaving certificate.
    Maldivians and Bangladesh are doomed not to have sex on the resorts. Others are allowed, how weired!!!
    2) R&R - rest and recreation is normally a short break of a week for all top managers in resorts (99% foreign). Paid by resorts, they can travel out of the resort to other islands, or nearby countries. They can relax, have fun and come fresh for work. All paid by the resort.
    * Ahmed comes from Addu, maybe working in a resort as a guard, mechanic, water sports, etc in Haa Alif/Dhaal. He is married and has a six months baby, family leaving in the island. Ahmed is NOT allowed to see his family in one year except during 30 days annual leave. The resort wont buy him a ticket. Ahmed has to pay his ticket from Haa Alif to Addu which costs nearly his monthly salary. Ahmed has to suffer not seeing his family 2hrs a away and not allowed to let his family visit him (but foreign management staff get their girl or boyfriend or parents on holidays)
    3) Salary!!! it makes me extremely mad. I dont even want to say anything about it. The resort owners and the power makers are to blame for the magre salaries Maldivians get. What a shame!!!
    * A foreign GM on a 5sat resort in south alif atoll gets about US$15k per month, R&R every three months, business class tickets, Air taxi on standby lovely PAs to calm his stressy world on an island.
    * A Maldivian manager, over 20 years of experience makes the fullmoon beach party something for guests to remember. He runs around making the bornefire, even entertains guesty through his music skills. He literally runs the island. Sees his wife twice a year and gets no R&R. He earns just below MRF40k. Oh! you want to get pissed?
    An Indian FC from this same resort sits in Male and earns US$7k, his wife works and kids in school. This finacial guru has the powers to delay payments of fish suppliers, coconut supplies, and other local suppliers who cant depend on credit.

    Before the birth of SPA era in Maldives, Maldivian tourism was tropical, natural and brought both financial gains and happiness to all. When some local resort owners turned a blind eye to their own people, sold them off to foreign managements and shut all doors of communication....this is what we have today.
    With the help of the previous corrupt regime, and the present unfocused, confused and immature government full of revenge and hatred...the foreign powers (business and individuals) have just sucked nearly every remaining dot of milk from an ageing breast of what is known to be Maldives.
    The boys at Conrad, the staff turnovers in so many resorts is just a wake up call for the authorities and the is not only the middle east in revolution. Look at Spain, Greece, US, Africa, Eastern Europe...why are people on the streets?
    You resort owners and our respected foreign investors, your growth tomorrow depends on the human resource you have now. Be neutral, balance the equations and business would be as usual, but continue looking down on your people and underestimate their powers....results would be very very costly.
    Rights at work place must be enforced or they would be imposed in the orthodox way.
    Sometimes, being bad helps to bring the good!!!

  4. @Real

    You have said it all. That's the reality of the situation. Our Ministers and regulators are slaves to the foreigners running these hotels and getting away with murder.

    This is part of a wider global exploitation of 3rd world countries by foreign hoteliers. They set up shop in beautiful locations such as the Maldives where there's huge earning potential. They go on to exploit the locals in every possible way. This is no secret.

  5. @Real
    dude maldivians arent fighting for booze and sex on rzts.they arent play boys.they are not in rzts for socialising..
    lets say u guys like to have churches in rzts just like mosques are there for muslims on rzts...but it simply wudnt happen here... at the end of the day what matters is how much you get paid.. and a level playing field.Thats the issue and thats what ppl r fighting to reform.btw i totally agree with u some maldivians are too soft and polite where they dnt need to be.
    Again its crap abt 30 days leave in a year ONLY for locals. Not true even Maldivians are entitled for a 10days leave after working for 3months as well
    May b u re not aware of the recent Employment Act which has really addressed a lot of injustices that was existing in private sector and more is to come like a min.wage..and surely the authorities and concerned rzts should have to check on some of your claims...

  6. @Real - you have given a good flavor of the problem.

    Maldives tourism is an up-market product that uses mass market inputs like cheap/slave labour. This could of-course work without democracy like in the past. But with with democratization, the tourism model has to adjust. Maldivains can now demand better pay - that means the best jobs in resorts.. Low wage jobs should now be given to South Asians. Thus there have to be a plan to move Maldives to more professional positions.

    Now, unless Maldivians are not put in charge of middle management and professional positions (with training), tourism would face problems such as strikes. This would create uncertainty for investors and they would leave.

  7. Its also not govt policy to discriminate against locals but its happening and happening big time in almost every resort.
    The solution lies in allotting quotas for professions (vs count of heads) and limiting the number of foreign labour which can be imported to the country. Also revising the 50% ratio to 80%locals and 20% expats. This way only the highly talented most skilled expats will still be in resorts and local artisans and craftsmen can be employed in resorts. It really makes no sense employing foreign labour in positions where locals can be employed.

    Talking and philosophizing on these issues will also not work, but rather action will.

    Every country tries to protect its own interests and its own people in areas of economic activity. So we shall also do the same.

  8. Before accusing all resorts and foreign-owned establishments in blankets, the context needs to be considered. From experience, and based on natural justice, there are two sides to a story. Often, people who are too fast to complain in public or to seek public sympathy are sour grapes. Those who feel that they have credible and genuine complaints normally handle those using existing legal channels. I will not exonerate the said resort of any blame, but this looks like a sensationalized situation because the said establishment is known for its balanced staff treatment policy. Getting some facts on this story would help all understand things better. It is said that close to 30 Maldivian staff were declared redundant. Granted, most resorts, all over the world, reduce staff during the low season. How many Maldivian staff still remain in the payroll? What roles did those declared redundant play? What did their contracts stipulate?

    I am asking these questions because the Maldives Employment Act is one of the most favourable law I have ever seen when it comes to protecting its people. In fact I wish that my own country had a law that favoured that much. When the law came into effect in 2008, I happened to be working in Maldives, and was managing several staff. The establishment I worked for changed its staff regulations to comply with the new law. Sessions were organized for management and staff to sensitize them to the provisions of the new law. I would like to believe that there is no serious establishment that would break the law and risk tarnishing its relations with authorities, not to mention its reputation among clients. A positive image is very necessary for trust and profit.

    Article 29 of your Employment Act provides clearly for legal redress in case a staff member feels like they have been dismissed without due process or warranted cause. Question should be, have those with complaints pursued the assistance of the relevant tribunal? If they did complain to the tribunal, why are they not demanding for it to address their plight?

    While @Real has been praised for raising valid points, in my view some of those points are far-fetched and based on heresy. On R&R, it is common practice world over. In fact, for a place like Maldives, any foreign staff would need R&R. It makes up for some liberties that foreigners have to give up to work in your country. To mention two, those who need some spiritual nourishment by going to church or temple, would have an occasional chance to do so without breaking any law. Those who abide to no particular faith and want to do some things which are not allowed under your laws but are accepted where they come from would do so without breaking any laws. I am not complaining since I came to Maldives willingly.

    As for pay, foreigners will, in most cases, be paid higher than locals in many countries, depending on the nature of their contracts. The terms of their contracts might be better than that of locals. In any case, that’s the reason they are recruited – they offer something that the establishments that hire them feels is worth paying that much. It is business, that’s how it works. One reason is that foreign workers often stay away from their families for long and unlike locals, they cannot just hop onto a plane to head home, perhaps for the weekend or something. They have flight tickets to consider. They are double taxed, in your country and theirs, and are not protected by your Employment Act. The difference is in fine print. Rather than complain, why not strive to do your best and go to another country as an expert yourself?

    Let me give an example of the benefits a Maldivian worker has in terms of leave days, compared to a foreigner. I will use an example of a female employee. In accordance with your Employment Act, a female employee can get up to 135 days of paid leave in a year. And I am not even including public holidays. There is the 30 day paid annual leave for each year worked, 30 days sick leave for each year worked, and if she gets pregnant, she gets 60 days paid maternity leave. There is 10 days paid leave in a year for family responsibilities, and if the kid is male, there is a 5-day paid circumcision leave. With all these provisions, how can anyone claim that the law does not adequately provide for your rights? My goodness, every other day I had more than one staff saying they would not come to work because they have ‘loose motion’. Of course, that would affect our operations, but my hands were tied by law.

    And by the way, @Real, I do agree with some of your points. On a light note, the line “Look at Spain, Greece, US, Africa, Eastern Europe” makes you sound like some ignorant Americans do. Africa and Eastern Europe are not countries!

  9. to the person above....the employment act maybe one of the most beneficial to the employee....are u aware that until very recently the whole toursim sector was exempt from it? thats how powerful the tourism sector lobbyists are.some one i know was working without the benefit of and security of an actual contract in a foreign owned resort until very recency, they were afraid to raiase the issue too often due to fear of losing their job.....minivan is just a tool of european makes me sick

  10. When a country relies on high value professional jobs in tourism on foreigners (even after 35 years), you know that the country is dead. No need for any other indicators.

    It is only the low wage jobs that should be given to foreigners. But reverse is happening. The industry is SUPPOSEDLY Maldivian but they end up doing lowest jobs.

  11. "Our Ministers and regulators are slaves to the foreigners running these hotels and getting away with murder." - I've rarely heard a more stupid, racist and uninformed remark. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt (Lincoln).

  12. Thank you Minivan News for exposing the ugly side of tourism. We have been turning a blind eye to these things for too long. Much as the state needs tourism revenue, we should not be ignoring the social injustice that is so obviously accompanying it, subjecting the poorest populations of the nation to exploitation and dependence.

  13. Watch the BBC program 'Tourism and the Truth' - the side that tourists do not see.

  14. sad... i support your fight for justice Maldivian workers, will write more on this later, but go for it,,,

  15. @ Real On

    your answer is correct but so full of it you can fertilize the whole island Addu for a year. I will just take the first point you made:

    1) Socializing between Male & Female staff. A resort of 100rooms has about 300 employees, 260 male and 40 female. [What do you expect in a Muslim country? It is not the hotels that set these ratios. It is the fathers, brother and husbands that do not allow their wives, sisters and daughters to work INDEPENDENTLY. It is a same in other Islamic countries.]

    Most of the female are from Thailand and Philippines working in the spa, as PAs or as hostesses (Maldivian girls stand no chance) [Read my previous point. Enough said]

    In this and most resort, sex is HARAM and only the chosen few have this special privilege. [I don’t get your point? Are you saying HARAM sex is a special privilege and you are NOT happy because you are NOT getting it?]

    You arguments are so “Pro” sided. Meaning if it is “Pro Me!” it is good, if not, it is Haram.

  16. Workers, it is time to get serious and united in your struggle. Do not be conned into accepting any compensation short of true justice! Nothing given to you can truly be yours. Nothing is yours unless YOU take it through struggle and suffering. Learn to feed on the eternal truth that undeserved suffering is salvific, as the source of endurance for your struggle, and FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! You are the real power of your paradise, allways were, it is time for you to TAKE YOUR POWER BACK!! Reclaim the respect and wealth that others get for the work you do, end your alienation to your greater selves, the social product of your own labour is the greater YOU! TAKE IT BACK!

  17. @Superior Bacteria: THANK YOU so much that you have actually answered on Reals dreamingly comment to this serious article as i totally got the same expression as you do...

  18. if they terminated us due to low occupancy, why they should spend so many ,money for the volley ball team witch is staying in marble for two weeks all inclusive.Is it fair ? answers are up to u all.Who is same as me , who have sick childrens, and who have pregnant wife who is admitted in hospital.Public should be aware of this and this can make an impact to another resorts.So many families are suffering right now and it can be one of yours family too.We need full support of all the maldivians ,so that this kind of thing will never happen again in our land.

  19. @Deecay

    "I’ve rarely heard a more stupid, racist and uninformed remark. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt (Lincoln)."

    I'd rather be a fool than stand by and be fooled by people like you. If that's how you perceived my comments, then so be it! I will always voice my concern over the exploitation that has been going on in the tourist industry for the past 30 odd years. After 3 decades, how much progress have we really made?

    Not much! Most of us earn less than $1 a day. Most of us do not have access to clean water or enough sustenance. What we have seen are a very few select people get super rich by exploiting our country and its peoples. If this comes to you as stupid, racist and uninformed, then you're more a fool than I.

  20. Lies and truth.

    @ Rinzy- conrad is the 9th highest pay resort but the property claims its 3rd. beating the statistics with the twist.

    @ real-
    1.The sex is something private...the one who does it has to decide if its correct or not.
    2. R&R at Conrad was USD 300 for every 6 months or so...which you have to spend on either one or accom or transport. When limit crosses; it becomes a pocket expenditure from salary. But yes, this implies difrent to senior staff hu gets an unreasonable amount of RR which never has a limit.
    3. agreed...salaries differ vastly.
    4. Human resources or departments are useless...even the community and TEAM does more for staff rights.

    @ Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb
    Did you know conrad maldives is the highest earning Conrad brand of hotel in this region of the world? See it from Hilton/Conrad websites.

    @ was there seen it
    The maldivian labour law has no effect on the tourism industry so dont tok rubbish. waste your time on something else. tourism employees are not protected, they dont have salary limits either...wonder y? bcz 95% of parliament members hold shares or own resorts. so each bill means walking on thin lines for them.

    please base yourself in the truth, what you know.

    the old dhivehi books and maldivian economy books we read were saying fishing industry was the main earning. But wake up lying politicians and books..tourism is feeding you, your family, civil servants etc. etc. Do you have a clue of how much our economy is dependant on Tourism? more than 90%. 1190 islands, 200 islands inhabited by civilization and 80 resorts (1/3rd of the inhabited islands) i think we all can add 1+1. So all these mis use of power, abuse of workers does not harm the hotel only. It harms the country's posture in the international market. With news papers posting whatever comes to their minds..It only means we are in serious need of revising our laws to be a proper guidance instead of a cross-and-jail phrase. The hoteliers need to understand dat each individual has rights to live freely whilst working.

    The tourism industry consists of leaders who study at city hotels and have the know-it-all knowledge. But heres a vast diference. When you work at city hotel, u end the day home, with wife and kids, or at a disco bar or at the mosque, where ever your culture and beleif permits. Next day morning, ur fresh and you dont have any temptations. In resort hotels, rather lets call it a 5 star dungeon, all your conflicts, problems run with you through out the day, building inner frustrations and stress which you are able to get rid of maybe once every 3 months? when you are finaly relieved to be at your home. I cant find any workshops, any study guides based on this potential and important key study. When the begining goes slanted, the entire thing collapses.

    Keep the fight up your fight and sacrifice is tomorrow your kids and the country's success.

  21. @ infidel

    Right...the volleyball team was requested not to play the tournament by many staff..because 29 staff lost jobs on "low occupancy redundancy" but the tournament went on due to high pushing of the senior most staff as he wanted to show that nothing has happened and that he will still have fun. Word was that a foreign coach was also hired. The management tactic was to play with the minds of the staff who were led down due to this un-expected redundancy. This senior staff has never shown his face in a clinic when players get injured at high end football tournaments even; but it has been reported that the volley team captain was once in clinic on injury and Mr. senior staff presented himself at the center to say the get well soon. How glorious.

    Volley team Currently on duty trip, to play in Male; with facilitations the staff has never seen; the senior staff keeps an eye on the volley team with the help of his ebony tail sent to Male once in a while to boost up the team captain.:-D.

    Estimate yourself on low season costing...29 staff fired..most with above 6 years of service (means 6 months advance salary) and the 7th or 9th highest paying resort..How much do you guess it wud b? and the volley team's reasonable duty trip of sacrifice for the conrad staff...adding up. Money is such a beautiful is...

    One more,,,,what happened to the temp staff? conrad just fired the permanent staff and not temp staff? I beleive it shud have been the temp staff..atleast wud have been nicer to give the name 'redundancy' dont u think?

  22. The truE behind Conrad staff unrest and whole scene is ONLY ONE instigator who at top menagement level who is also a relative of current government as per my firends there.

    This person want power and wants to be the GM, this person has used staff to protest and call for Regional GM's resignation in March 28th, just taken advantage of poor local maldivians who have respected this figure, thinking by walking on this persons side will give them a greener furture. But in fact it didnot

    Has this person has thought a big tycoon like Hilton would give up to demand of few staff, who was fueled by this person and allies in Rangali, which created a nasty scene and the poor boys have lost their jobs now.

    Its this individual who has to pay a price for what has happened, otherwise a big company like Hilton never do redundant people.Now this person feels really guilty of what happened and want to come up with comments in media and excuses....

    Its very common practice in resorts to give teams duty leave if representing resort.

    IN FACT CONRAD IS SO FAR THE BEST I HAVE WORKED FOR AND AS MY FRIENDS SAY STILL THE BEST IN MALDIVES, I didnt leave Conrad cox it is bad hotel n chain, but for family reasons and its still better than my current company.


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