Parliament rejects Strike Act

The parliament has voted to reject the Strike Act presented by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed, which significantly narrowed the right to strike.

The bill – heavily weighted in favour of employers – was recently sent to the National Security Committee which recommended it be rejected and presented again after major amendments.

Out of 72 MPs present 67 voted in favor of rejecting the bill, while three MPs voted in support of the controversial bill. One MP did not vote on either side.

Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan voted in favour of the Strike Act – as surprisingly, did Ahmed Easa, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and former President of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM), which was at the forefront of campaigning against it.

Easa was not responding to calls at time of press, however Vice President of TEAM Mauroof Zakir suggested that “maybe [Easa] knew it would be rejected. Maybe it was a political thing, or a deal with Gasim.”

The Strike Act as proposed by the DQP bans employees from conducting a strike without obtaining a written document from the employer permitting the strike if it is to be conducted on the work site.

The Act permits employers to discontinue providing food and accommodation to any employee that continues a strike for more than 12 hours – most resorts provide food and accommodation to workers – and gives employers the authority to order strikers off the property (or the island) if the strike continues for more than 24 hours.

Strikes would furthermore be conducted during a time between 6:00am and 8:00pm, according to the act, employers had the right to be notified about any planned strikes 48 hours prior to commencement.

The bill also gives employers the right to cut salaries and allowances for the duration of time the employees have not worked, and the right to dismiss the staff for striking. It also gives employers the right to obtain a court warrant to stop an unlawful strike.

Speaking on the bill during the parliament sitting, MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa said he was grateful for the recommendation made by the committee to reject the bill.

He added that it was a constitutional right to strike and that there were more sophisticated policies used in other countries to manage strikes and to solve such disputes. He called on MPs to research these policies before presenting such bills.

Despite voting in favour of the Strike Act, Nihan told the chamber it was a constitutional right to strike and express opinions, and that people should be able to exercise this right whenever they wanted to.

Gasim argued that he saw no reason why parliament should reject the bill, which he claimed would benefit the society and and the economy.