The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has submitted a bill to parliament regulating industrial action conducted by employees in the Maldives.
If passed, the bill requires employees to give 48 hours notice to employers before protesting, and restricts the timing of strikes to between 8:00am and 4:00pm.
“The employees can only boycott their work for a specified duration. For instance, for 24 or 48 hours,” DQP Deputy Leader and MP Riyaz Rasheed explained to newspaper Miadhu.
The bill comes a week after strike action at Kurumba Maldives led to the evacuation of guests and the arrest of 19 staff by police for intimidation and vandalism.
A statement by the resort’s parent company, Universal Enterprises, deplored the action and alleged strike organisers “sent employees armed with makeshift weapons to blockade the main kitchen and physically threaten staff serving meals to guests”.
The Kurumba strike was the most recent of several resort strikes this year. In April staff at the Shangri-La Villingili Resort went on strike after four workers were dismissed for allegedly playing on a PlayStation in a vacant villa, while in February staff at the Centara Grand Island Resort in North Ari Atoll held a strike complaining they were not receiving the service charges agreed to them by management.
Shangri-La Villingili eventually dismissed the 10 strike leaders and invited the remaining staff to return to work, while Centara Grand increased the service charge allocated to staff after a representative from Ministry of Human Resources visited the island.
As most resorts operate on privately-owned islands, the nature of the sector makes the legality of industrial action contentious – while the Constitution provides the right to strike, workers cannot simply picket outside the factory gates and invariably protest on resort property, running into further conflict with management conscious of image in a highly service-oriented industry.
“MATI believes employees should not strike on resort [property] – this is the shop floor,” said Mohamed Ibrahim ‘Sim’ from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI). “It has to be somewhere else. People do not understand that resort islands are standalone communities that must produce their own water and other amenities. A hotel in the city of Male’ does not face such disruption to essential services.”
Sim questioned the practicality of restricting the hours of strike action, but acknowledged the bill’s objective of requiring notice for any stop-work action “and only after following established grievance procedures.”
Maldives Resort Workers (MRW), an active community of resort workers campaigning for fair treatment in the tourism industry, condemned the DQP bill as “effectively relegating protesting and demonstrations against working conditions in resorts to the era [of the former government].”
The introduction of a notice period would give employers “ample time to serve warning letters, suspensions, dismissals or anything to prevent a strike,” MRW claimed.