A letter from the President’s Office claiming to address the alleged rights abuses made by Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) management has been labelled “interesting, but not convincing” by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The ITF previously raised concern over a lack of correspondence from the President’s Office, announcing earlier this month that it was calling on the government to intervene over “union intimidation”, or “face embarrassment wrought by widespread international solidarity action”.
The ITF sent two letters addressed to the President’s Office, the last of which was sent on October 29.
On Monday (November 19) the ITF received a letter from the President’s Office stating that the president had met with representatives from both the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) and the newly proposed Maldives Trade Union Congress, following the alleged labour rights violations.
Dated November 14, the letter further states: “The Maldives parliament has recently approved the eight conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The president is fully committed in promoting and protecting the rights of workers in the Maldives. The government will take the necessary steps to address the legitimate grievance of the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) and support the efforts of its members.”
In response to the letter, an ITF spokesperson told Minivan News: “We find it interesting, but not convincing. The MPWU informs us that the problems remain, and need to be addressed.”
President of MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel said that a meeting did take place with President Mohamed Waheed Hassan on November 7 to discuss matters relating to the allegations.
“The president said that he would address the issue, however two weeks have passed and there has been no sign of negotiation and I have had no contact with the President’s Office,” said Khaleel.
Minivan tried to contact President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad, but could not get through at time of press.
MPL have previously denied all accusations of rights abuse, claiming that staff members in question were disciplined on the basis of “disobedience” and “punctuality”.
MPL CEO Mahdi Imad told Minivan News earlier this month that the company had responded to the ITF, which it said later “apologised” having raised the issue without checking facts.
However, the ITF has rubbished the claims, maintaining that it had so far had no reply from the MPL regarding the concerns. The global trade union dismissed the state-owned company’s assumption that it had “won us over”.
Whilst ITF received no response to the letters sent by the organisation’s general secretary, David Cockroft, it has since been learned that MPL did reply to an earlier letter sent from ITF’s Asia Pacific Office in India.
According to an ITF spokesperson, the Asia Pacific office did not consider MPL’s reply honest or useful, and instead referred the matter to London for further action.
In a letter obtained by Minivan News, originally addressed to ITF, MPL state that they were “extremely surprised” by the rights abuse claims stated in the ITF’s letter.
“We did inquire with the Maldives National Port Workers Union (MNPWU) which is a legally recognised union of any such complaints and they have categorically denied of any complaints they have made to any international body,” the letter read.
The MPWU accused MPL of forming the Maldives National Port Workers Union to shove aside the alleged violation of employee rights by the corporation.
The MNPWU was formed just five days after the MPL received a letter from the Asia Pacific Regional Office of ITF.
The letter concludes with a warning to ITF, stating: “Given the present political situation in Maldives, many such unfounded, unauthoured illegal so called associations and unions could be sending you more such letters, for [the purposes of] defaming the present government internationally.”
MPL CEO Mahdi told Minivan News earlier this month that the workers behind the allegations still had the options of taking their cases to the country’s employment tribunal to resolve any grievances that the company would then have to abide by.
Mahdi claimed that workers dismissed under previous MPL management in 2009 and 2010 had under similar circumstances been reinstated under his stewardship, as well as receiving compensation.
“These people who have been disciplined, they know a tribunal would not come out in their favour,” he said.
Mahdi also denied accusations that he operated MPL in a politically motivated manner, adding that the company was run in a “very technical” way.
“I will challenge anybody who says we are politically motivated, I believe no one has a bigger right than anyone else,” he added.
Mahdi alleged that one of the dismissed workers who had gone onto make accusations about political motivation had come into his own office and shouted at him, adding that billions of companies around the world would discipline such actions by staff of a senior representative.
“This is work disruption, no one is allowed to break work regulations like this. Belittling and scolding me when I’m on the street in public is OK. But here in the work place they must show me respect,” he said.
Earlier this year, sacked MPL employee and President of the MPWU, Ibrahim Khaleel, alleged that the MPL was trying to “fabricate the truth” about the violations of worker rights.
In a letter on July 12 to MPL CEO Mahdi Imad, Chairperson of the MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel said: “Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it is now common within MPL to stop employees from expressing certain political views, and violate the Employment Act by unfairly dismissing employees and transferring employees to different departments without prior warning or explanation of any offence committed.”
Speaking to Minivan News earlier this month, Khaleel said the company mainly targeted employees who supported the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“They send people with cameras to MDP protests to check which MPL employees take part in the protests,” Khaleel said.
In addition to the four employees who have been dismissed at the time, 30 had initially been suspended and 10 have been transferred from their position at the Malé port to Thilafushi Island port, Khaleel claimed.