Are the authorities taking the planned tourism employees strike seriously? After all, if the strike goes ahead on October 5th, it could cripple the industry and result in losses running into millions of dollars.
According to Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) they are demanding the rights of employees guaranteed in the recently passed Employment Law. Currently Article 34 of the Law excludes them.
TEAM says they have already given 100 days notice to the government and are still willing to call off the strike if measures are taken to amend the law. Failing that TEAM says 70% of resort employees will stop work come October 5th.
The percentage of foreign employees joining the strike may be lower than that figure, TEAM says. This is because they have no job security and can be deported by employers at will. This revelation speaks volumes about the working conditions in what resort owners would like to call a world class industry.
Maldives has a total of 110,231 employees (Statistical Yearbook 2007). Out of them the largest category in formal employment comprises the roughly 40,000 government employees. The second largest category is that of tourism employees (totaling 12,090). A large percent of those in other categories are either self employed or have informal arrangements with their bosses. Realistically speaking therefore, the Law cannot be applied to them. So the very purpose of the law comes into question if tourism workers are excluded from its purview.
What do the 12,000 odd tourism employees get from the industry? Assuming an average monthly salary of Rf 4000, the total annual wage bill would be Rf 580 million. Compared to this the GDP from tourism at market prices is Rf 3.7 billion (calculated from the figure of Rf 2.789 billion given as tourism GDP at basic price –Yearbook 2007). So the employees' share of the GDP from tourism is 16%.
Exclusion from the Employment Law deprives resort workers of their basic rights guaranteed under the law: minimum wage, overtime, maximum working hours, job security, leave, etc. So why were they excluded? This may have something to do with the presence of a large number of Members in the Majlis who have direct interests in the tourist industry. The original bill presented to the Majlis did not exclude tourism workers, but at some stage in the Majlis debate the relevant clause appeared in the draft and was passed.
Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) is quite effective in protecting resort owners. Who will protect the resort employees?