Union raises job security fears following strike action at Kanuhura resort

The job security of almost 100 staff at the Kanuhura resort in Lhaviyani Atoll is in doubt after they participated in strike action at the property this week, the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) has alleged.

TEAM Secretary General Mauroof Zakir claimed the job security of about 90 members of staff who took part in industrial action at the resort on Monday was uncertain after they were requested to take paid leave away from the site next week.

Legal representatives for Kanuhura’s parent company, the Sun Resorts Group, told Minivan News that the company was attempting to resolve a salary dispute with its staff and had sought assistance from both the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the Labour Relations Authority (LRA) to liaise on the issue.  The company added that with salary negotiations ongoing it was also trying to maintain operations at the resort, which had been impacted by a number of employees failing to report to duty over the last two days.

Team Secretary General Maurouf claimed that staff at Kanuhura staff last month gathered at the property to demand a rise in monthly wages to US$250 per month – an amount he claimed to be in line with other nearby resorts. Minivan News understands that staff also requested an increase in service charge payments, which was currently being considered by Sun Resorts Group management.

According to TEAM, staff at Kanuhura were earning an average basic wage of between US$175 – US$200 per month.  Staff had been told by company officials they would be receiving an increase in salary by January 20.

The proposed salary increase of between US$25 to US$30 was however deemed insufficient by the majority of staff who had demanded a wage increase, Mauroof claimed.

“Most do not want to accept this increment and there was a work stoppage involving an estimated 95 staff,” he said.

Mauroof added that resort management had since requested that staff involved in this week’s strike action take paid leave of seven days – a request he claimed had been met with suspicion by employees.

“Right now [the resort] does not have accommodation to hire new staff. I do not think they will reinstate the existing workers once they leave,” he claimed.

While not organised by TEAM, Mauroof said the union backed the stance taken by staff in the pay dispute.

“Staff have done everything according to regulations. They raised their concerns last month and wrote to management about the matter,” he said.

Mauroof said there had also been an isolated incident in which a fire had occurred at two guest bungalows on the property, an incident he said was thought to have been an accident.

Replacement allegations

Hussain Rasheed, a senior butler who claims to have worked at the resort for eight and a half years, told Minivan News that some 30 to 40 staff who had taken part in strikes at the resort this week had decided against continuing their employment. He claimed these staff, who were promised a package of three months in wages and a month in service charge payments by cheque, were instead requesting cash payments before leaving the property.

Rasheed also alleged that while remaining staff had apologised for their role in the strike action and wished to stay in their positions, all staff who had taken part in the week’s protests had been requested to take paid leave for at least four days. However, he claimed that no assurances were given that staff would be able to return to their jobs at a later date.

Rasheed alleged that resort management were already in the process of bringing expatriate workers to the island over the last two days to take up roles at the resort.

“They have brought 35 expatriates to the resort from Male’, and they have told me [the imported staff] are being given a basic salary of US$200,” he said.

Rasheed claimed that after having spoken with the new workers, they had admitted to not knowing where their passports or documentation were, and questioned the legality of their employment status.

He claimed that issues had been raised with the Maldives Police Service and the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Kanuhura response

Speaking to Minivan News today, a legal representative for Sun Resorts Group – who asked not to be named – said workers have taken part in industrial action at the resort last month over calls for a review of wages and service charges.

The representative said that officials from both the Tourism Ministry and the LRA were once again being invited to oversee discussions between both parties.

“The had demanded an increase in salary and service charge payments. The company agreed by January 20 to implement a wage increase. On the matter of service charge payments, we said we would respond to staff by March [2013],” the source said.

“The company’s HR Manager who was here yesterday spoke with staff, who did not accept the proposal offered. They once again went on strike and we have asked the LRA and Tourism Ministry [for assistance].”

While negotiations with state officials and staff ongoing, the legal spokesperson said the company did not wish to discuss the numbers of staff involved in the strikes or the wage rises being offered.

The source also declined to comment on individual accusations raised by staff concerning attempts to employ expatriate staff to take their roles.

“In cases such as this there are likely to be a number of allegations raised. We do not wish to comment on them individually,” the source claimed. “Right now we are trying to manage the resort with what we have. There are about 30 to 50 staff not reporting to work.”

The legal source said that despite efforts to try and manage with reduced staff some operations had been adversely affected as a result of the strikes.

“Some guests have registered complaints with us,” the company representative added.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor nad Deputy tourist head Mohamed Maleeh Jamal  were not respong to calls from Minvan News at the time of press.

Freedom of assembly

Under the new ‘Freedom of Assembly Bill’ recently passed by parliament, demonstrations outside a number of public places including resorts and airports, have been outlawed.

The regulation also states that although demonstrators do not need to seek authorisation ahead of a gathering, police must be then notified of any pre-planned demonstrations before they commence.


16 thoughts on “Union raises job security fears following strike action at Kanuhura resort”

  1. Disgusting capitalist practices ! I'm from the west and when I hear this it even pisses me off. How much did it cost to build this resort ? What did they pay the workers 80-90/month ?? Now the place hosts some of the wealthiest people in the world and you complain about paying people 250 dollars a month, PATHETIC !! This is pure greed at it's finest. Pay them 800/month and they are still not getting what they deserve.

  2. lol what kind of penny-pinching resort is this the total increment this resort is will to increase is 28000 dollars a year for 100-200 staffs.

    HR manager must have come up with this increment by cutting down the staff food cost. Lol ….

    These sweatshop resorts should be boycotted by tourists.

  3. We have not done anything wrong there. What we demand is that proposed salary increase of between US$25 to US$30 is not a fair amount based upon maldivian economic crises and the cost of our goods. on january 2013 gst rate in cresed from 6% to 8%.and the inflation rate is high.We Can't Efford this. So Our DEMAND is to Increse up to 50$.and we told them that when icresed to 50$ we will smoothly will go for the Duties.

  4. @Barbarian - boycotting is an excellent idea. As an annual visitor to the Maldives for 4 years (except for this year when I cancelled due to disgust if the Muslim parliament), I would GLADLY boycott those places that mistreat their employees.

    The problem is I don't know which resorts those are. I make it a habit to chat with employees at the resort I stay in to try and find out, but it would be immensely helpful for there to be a website where verifiable information could be found. Lets use the power of the Internet.

  5. @barbarian, yeah boycott all the resorts! but guess what moron, those staff who are already underpaid will end up getting no money at all.. The idea of publicizing
    every internal problem in this manner with some political agenda hurts all of us, our country has problems, yes

    And we should deal with it OURSELVES

  6. @Damm - normally I would agree with your comment, but what you propose only works in countries with a rule of law, which clearly is not the case in the Maldives. If we could widely publicize those resorts which treat employees unfairly and persuade tourists to avoid them, then that is the only way to effect change. Trusts me, you need outside pressure as a country which relies on outside revenue to make anything happen. There are plenty of places competing for the tourist dollar and they cannot afford to have this kind of publicity.

  7. Very one sided article which blames the resort for everything and misses some other facts on purpose.
    Monthly basic wage is average USD 200 but how much is the average service charge?
    These staff are paid in USD, just ask them how much they sell the foreign currency on the black market?
    Strike on a resort is illegal and dangerous...how does a resort function if staff do not work?How do they increase salaries if the reputation of the resort is at stake and customers are not well taken care of?

  8. @Shaneez, you gotta be joking, ask them how much they sell currency on the black market, maybe 16.5, big deal.
    How does a resort build a reputation ? Kanuhura has been operating for a long time and had plenty of time to train, groom, improve the reputation of the resort.
    It is not just this one resort it's the whole business in the Maldives period.

  9. @Shaneez, couldn't agree more, well said.

    @John Payman: $800/month minimum wage? Plus service charge? Right. You obviously have no idea about running a resort business. Why not nationalize all resorts and turn them into not-for-profit charity organizations then? Might as well.

  10. I Agee with Donald. The problem is the govt regulations on tourism industry employment. The guidelines are being misused by a lot of management at Maldives. Some resorts like anantara can pay up to USD 1200 as service charge.. and I wonder y some properties over long term operation also cannot come up to this level. This means there are corruptions in the business itself because normally these resorts are well invested in. I been to Kanuhura and its a beautiful place. the common interpretation here is that when staff are not happy about their wages, the service does not come from their heart but rather as a must to do.. each and every1 has families to support. Savings to do. Maldives being a country without any sort of family planing until late 2000,our parents have little to give as financial back ground. the balance is upto us to earn and save. making a website will impact the properties who do not keep their staff content, thereby granting benefit if they want business. but the govt will not allow this. and the owners of such properties will file court cases against any1 making the website. this is a sad case with no milestone in sight.

  11. @Deecay; lol, go to any major city in the west where they charge much less for rooms pay a fortune in labor cost to build a hotel plus maintenance plus taxes plus minimum wage in the real world and they still turning a profit. As one person above wrote, "sweat shops" could not agree more. None profit haha, yeah that's why these resort owners run around in there expensive boats, build tall buildings in Male etc etc.... Apparently it is you who doesn't have a clue about running a resort ! If you did it would not be hard to turn a profit in the Maldives, especially in Kanuhura !

  12. @John payman: Comparing apples and oranges doesn't help get your point across. The average hotel in the west will have a employee:room ratio of 1-1.5:1 and can hire temp staff for peak season, whereby at a resort like Kanuhura that is likely 3-4:1, some resorts go up to 7-8:1, all year round. Ask a waitress in London how much money she has left at the end of the month after paying taxes, food, rent, transport and the likes, you'll be surprised.

    Your investment argument doesn't hold any water either, because you don't take the concept of investment appreciation into account. Hotels in the west are mostly built on freehold land with long-term strategies, something not possible in the Maldives as all resort islands are on lease hold terms. As for revenues, especially city hotels rely heavily on external sources such as non-guest diners, conventions, events, etc., which is another major difference seem to have not considered.

    As for the resort owners and their boats and building in Male', just ask State Bank of India or Bank of Maldives about those. With an enforceable judiciary many wouldn't have those, the banks would have seized them long ago.

    Some resorts are major sweat shops, I don't disagree, but Kanuhura is far far away from it. The welfare and pay of employees in the resorts in Maldives has come a long way over the past 10 years or so, and nobody who's been in the industry since then can deny that, not even you.

  13. facts ;-local staff r paid in local currency. -service charge in kanuhura is amongst the lowest and hardly matches the local staff monthly salary.

  14. kanuhura is a resort do not care for staff and guest aswell.now its been more than two month kanuhura staff did not get proper electricity for their rooms.some rooms power cut in the morning 9:00,,and they get power back @18:oo.and they get AC power @21:00 but this is five star resort.
    some staff room they cut AC @10:00 and will be back @17:00;non of the staff room have hot water...
    kanuhura resort have 6 generator.for the movement 2generator is working.4 generators boken...they did not do maintainance properly,
    on 16th decenber kanuhura have 1 generator in runing condion.so some guest room,,water villa,sunrise side all the room did not any power till evening 21:00. so some restorant were closed,
    that evening AC was off from all the guest rooms till 1:30am ,,,,,,,this is so funny,five star resort....even they have terminated more than 85 maldivian staff till now.still around 20 staff are on list.


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