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.
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.