New Zealand consul denies involvement in resort employment dispute

New Zealand’s Honorary Consul in the Maldives Ahmed Saleem has denied involvement in a labour dispute involving a resort his company owns, New Zealand media has reported.

A letter obtained by Minivan News on January 8 from the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) warned the New Zealand government that it risks being held in “international disrepute” over the alleged involvement of Saleem in an ongoing employment dispute with the Conrad Rangali Island Resort.

In June 2011, 29 staff members working at the Conrad Rangali Island Resort in the Maldives alleged they had been dismissed from their posts following a strike held by workers in March that year.

According to the letter sent this month by the SFWU’s National Secretary John Ryall, 22 of the workers made redundant later challenged their dismissal at a local employment tribunal and won.

The tribunal ordered the workers be reinstated and receive backpay, however the ruling is being appealed.

Ahmed Saleem, who is a director of Crown Company which owns Conrad Hilton resort on Rangali Island, told that neither he nor his company were part of the decision-making process at the Resort.

He said management of the Rangali Island Resort, as it was then known, was given to Hilton International in 1997.

“All management decisions of Conrad Maldives [are] made by the management of Conrad Maldives, independent of Crown Company,” he told New Zealand media.

A spokesperson for Conrad Rangali Island Resort told Minivan News earlier this month that the case is currently under appeal at the High Court.

“Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is aware that there are petitions for the reinstatement of employees made redundant in 2011. We would like to remind the media that the resort is not required to reinstate the previous employees while the High Court considers the appeal,” the spokesperson added.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said he had received a letter about the matter from the New Zealand Service and Food Workers Union, earlier this week and had asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry for further information, reported.


TMA cabin crewman dead after colliding with seaplane propeller

A 20 year-old cabin crew member with TransMaldivian Airways (TMA) has died after colliding with the propeller of a seaplane at Conrad Rangali Island resort.

The police identified the victim as Ismail Hamdoon Mahmood of Fehifarudhaage, Maduvaree in Neemu Atoll.

Police confirmed that a team had been dispatched to the resort to investigate the incident.

Conrad Maldives issued a statement confirming that the incident occurred early Tuesday evening in the resort’s lagoon.

“It is with deep regret that we confirm the death of that crew member.  No one else was injured in this incident.  This has been a tremendous shock, and Conrad Maldives Rangali Resort extends its deepest condolences to the family. This matter is now being handled by the appropriate authorities,” the statement read.

In a statement, TMA’s Managing Director Edward Alsford said that Hamdhoon had “accidentally walked into the line the moving propeller and was subsequently struck and died.”

“TMA have infomed the family and is liaising with the relevant authorities. At the time of the incident the aircraft had no passengers aboard as the crew had moored the aircraft for overnight parking.”

Local media Sun Online reported a source from resort as saying that it was raining at the time and Mahmood had slipped and collided with the propeller while walking on the platform, and fell into the lagoon. His body was retrieved from the water by resort staff and is currently being kept at the resort clinic, Sun reported.


Sacked Conrad Rangali staff protest outside President’s Office

Staff dismissed from Conrad Rangali Island resort today gathered outside the President’s Office, demanding to meet President Mohamed Nasheed.

One of the 29 staff members protesting outside the President’s Office said he was “shocked” to have been dismissed after working for the resort for eight years.

”There were times when the situation of the resort was very poor, but I worked there because I loved working in the island,” he said. ”The management did not even consider all that when they dismissed me all of a sudden,” he added.

He said everyone dismissed had families and people to look after.

”I got the message that I was terminated from my job after playing football in the evening,” another staff member said. ”When I came back there were 15 missed calls and a text message from the management asking me to be present at the Human Resources Department.”

He said he went there and was told that he had been dismissed.

”They said they had to dismiss us due to low occupancy, but I work in a department that operates even if there were no guests at all,” he said. ”So I asked the management why they didn’t dismiss persons from the departments that have no work during the low season.”

He claimed the dismissal was due to a strike they held at the resort on March 23.

”We went on a strike over some issues regarding the service charge, but a whole force of police  arrived in full riot gear, with pepper spray and tear gas, and ended our strike,” he said .”But we strike because it is a right. We were terminated for demanding our rights, and now we have to beg on the streets.”

He called on the parliament to “pave the way” for the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

”All the MPs do is go to parliament, shout at each other, climb up their desks and go home,” he said. ”Little children in our house have seen them do that and have started behaving like them.”

He noted that the resort’s management had paid the dismissed staff all the allowances as required in their employment agreement.

Conrad Rangali meanwhile confirmed that the management had decided to make 29 positions in the island redundant.

”Conrad Maldives Rangali Island confirms that due to the partial closure of its guest rooms for renovation and lower occupancies during the traditional low season in the Maldives, it has made 29 positions redundant,” the resort said in a statement.

”The redundancies affect only a small number of staff and the resort has offered generous redundancy payments to provide affected team members with financial support while they search for alternative employment.”

The resort also said it ”will not affect service levels at the resort in any way and the ratio of staff-to-guests will remain at a minimum of two members of staff to each guest room.”