MDP marks May Day with rally calling for introduction of minimum wage

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) marked May Day or Labour Day on Thursday (May 1) with a rally across Male’ and the signing of a petition calling for the introduction of a minimum wage.

Addressing participants of the rally at the conclusion of the walk across the capital, former President Mohamed Nasheed observed that ensuring worker’s rights was essential for economic development.

“We are raising our voices and calling for the establishment of a minimum wage to facilitate job opportunities for Maldivian workers. The number of foreigners in the Maldives who are made to work for a small wage is increasing daily,” Nasheed said.

The international community considered the Maldives a destination for human trafficking, he added, with Bangladeshi workers paid US$100 or US$150 a month.

While migrant workers were deprived of their rights, Nasheed said the situation deprived Maldivians of employment.

The main purpose of setting a minimum wage was providing job opportunities for Maldivians, he said, calling on pro-government parties to use their parliamentary majority to legislate for a minimum wage.

Nasheed went on to accuse the government of attempting to introduce “harsh practices” to the Maldives in a bid to consolidate power.

The former president called on Maldivian workers to “stand up for your rights.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz meanwhile told the press on Thursday that the current administration would protect worker’s rights.

“Several workers lost their jobs due to political pressure during the MDP government. The present government will not discriminate based on political affiliations. We will work to make sure that every citizen, every worker is satisfied,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

He added that President Abdulla Yameen would fulfil his campaign pledge to streamline the government’s pay structure to eliminate wage gaps between state institutions.

Meanwhile, in a statement on the occasion of Maldives Civil Service Day – which is also marked on May 1 – Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Dr Mohamed Latheef urged civil servants to speedily implement the policies and projects of the government regardless of political turmoil.

Dr Latheef noted that a civil service training institute was formed in 2009 to improve competence of government employees.

During the past year, he added, 66 courses were conducted with 1,838 participants from across the country.

As of March 2013, the number of civil servants in the Maldives stands at 24,951.

The opposition MDP meanwhile decided to mark Labour Day with a rally after the party’s national council adopted a resolution submitted by Youth Wing Leader Aminath Shauna last month.

The resolution stated that the party should organise a gathering to call for the introduction of a minimum wage as well as for the Maldives to sign the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on Occupational Safety and Health.

The resolution noted that the MDP has been observing Labour Day since 2006 and that the Maldives became an ILO member state during the party’s three years in office.

Moreover, it added, Labour Day or May Day was declared a public holiday by President Nasheed while a Labour Tribunal to resolve employment disputes was established in December 2008.

Prior to the ousting of the MDP government on February 7, 2012, the resolution stated that a decision was made to introduce a minimum wage and a board was formed to monitor the policy shift.

However, “dictatorial habits” were returning with the current the administration allegedly violating the rights of workers and intimidating government employees, the party contended.