Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cushioning the Impact of Employment Law

When the Employment Act came into force on 10 July this year – 45 days after ratification – it created havoc in workplaces across the country. Government budgets ran out of money and supervisors were overwhelmed with sick leave notices. This lead some people to believe the Act is unsuited for the Maldives, especially when applied to tourist resorts, industrial sites and shift duty stations. Others however pointed out that the 48-hour work week stipulated in the Act is the norm in the European Union, and if that norm can be implemented in hotels and factories in EU, there should be no reason it cannot be applied in the Maldives.

At first tourist resorts were not included in the Act, but were later included following agitation by resort employees spearheaded by TEAM. Now resort managements are coming under increasing pressure to implement the provisions of the Act fully. But many people –not just resort owners –believe there are serious controversies in the Act, particularly when implemented overnight without sufficient preparation in resorts and industrial sites.

Some people believe the employment law was basically drafted with the working conditions of civil servants (government office staff) in mind. Apart from the budget shortage (which could have been avoided if implementation was delayed till January) the law can be applied to civil servants with no major problems, they believe. The question is, were the working arrangements in tourist resorts and shift duty stations studied sufficiently before the law was implemented?

Are you shocked to learn that you will need to employ 7 people to keep just one person on duty in a 3 shift duty system, if each employee avails all the rights stipulated in the Law –maximum working hours, rest days, sick leave and holidays? If one is shocked by this statistic one needs to study the law carefully. Employees of course deserve all these rights and more. However, one must also realize that tourist resorts have been operating under various systems of employment for decades. Thus, there is an existing baseline. Shifting from this baseline to the level required by the law would need careful planning.

Tourism, together with fish processing plants, forms the back bone of the economy. We need to make sure sufficient and efficient labor is available for these growing sectors of our economy. A competitive labor market is absolutely essential to ensure that we attract foreign investment for the tourist industry. While the human rights record of China is far from ideal, there may be a few things we can learn from their experience in managing their labor force and succeeding in producing committed workers.

[This article is based on ideas submitted by Mohamed Shiham, an employee of a 5 star resort in the Maldives.]


Anonymous said...

Resorts also must follow the law imediately

Anonymous said...

Are we ready to follow EU standards?

Ahmed Afaal said...

I think that the Employment Act can be applied though it has some shortcomings. In July I got my staff to work really busy to get contracts of over 400 employees renewed according to the Act. In the institution I work, 95% of the employees work on shift basis with three shifts per 24 hours. However, we did not have to increase the number of employees since the working hours that we had already implemented was in line with the Act.

There are other issues that are difficult to address. For example, in the medical hierarchy, at present the senior most post in the country is Senior Consultant. So someone who has been working as a senior consultant for the last 10 years shall for example get the same pay as the one who is promoted to the post one month back. The we have to create grades for each post and its not a good strategy either because there wont be an end to it.

As mentioned in the article, I also feel that not enough research had been done on resorts, private sector and other shift based workplaces before this Act was put in place.

Funny thing is for example over time. For the civil service employees they do not have to work the maximum working hours provision in the Act but gets over time for all hours the offices are closed. And many employees take advantage of this. Some senior people I know in government even now claim more than twice of their salary as overtime. Perhaps if the civil service changes the working hours according to the Act, the government will gain with huge savings that could be used to better the salaries of its employees.

The one thing that the Act has failed badly is ensuring that all employees get medical insurance. If this was provisioned in the Act, which actually was vaguely mentioned in the previous labor regulation which is now obsolete, employees would be much satisfied.

Anonymous said...

Many government employees take double their basic salary as over time and weekend work allowance. this is ridiculous. They don't do any work in their normal official hours even. This is public money they are wasting. How can we tolerate this during an economic crisis?

Anonymous said...

This is a fatal mistake we have made. Tourism is a billion dollar industry and it is very unfortunate that the authorities did not make necessary studies or research on the industry, while they made the law. Basically the law was not based on Private sector or industries and after the strike they just said, OK now tourism staff also is included. Irresponsible and a big mistake.
Everyone can see whats happening now..what our Tourism Minister has to say about this. and HR minister Latheef?

Anonymous said...

how can Deen implement the law very successfully..and why others are not? m shocked to c a post like dis in ur blog

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous November 30, 2008 2:03 AM

Not only Deen has implemented, but few other resorts have implemented. BUt its not working in the implemented resorts. thats what DR waheed has outlined dear! there should be an employment act to protect the interests of labours, but the law passed is not suitable.

Anonymous said...

On EU standards.

Could someone find out what happened to the 70 Million dollars given by EU to Tsunami victims?

EU sent the money to Bank of Maldives, to be disbursed to the tsunami victims, but no one know what happened? Was is given as a loan to a rich businessman to buy a new resort?

Did the EU monitor what happened?

Anonymous said...

Maldives as one of the emerging nations in the world. Problem is with a population of 300,000 and attitudes of indian movie characters, lazy as hell, greedy and con artists; can we follow any EU standards. We live in a slum and we pretend ourselves as intelligent and well mannered peaceful beings. Our former president has left us with one legacy of his 30 years , we are made to believe in all bad is good in order for us to survive.

Anonymous said...

Our resorts can fully and very well abide by the Employment Act, if there is a will to do so.

Anonymous said...

Ano:November 30, 2008 6:35 AM

Spoton there! this is the root cause of the problem we have. I really could not agree with you more!

Anonymous said...

EU, if they give 70 million euros to any project, they will spend equal or more money monitoring what happens to that money. You can count on the EU beauracrats!That's how EU officials find ways to get free holidays to destinations like maldives.
Deen has fired Bandos GM recently. I wonder whether he was given all his rights under empl Act?And recently the Government fired a number of people in political posts. Firing is ok, but were they given benifits under this Act?

Anonymous said...

Anni did not fire political employees appointed by President gayoom. He is simply asking these employees to resign on their own. Anni is informing these people that their patron lost election and is out. So, follow your leader and leave Government.And if they don't resign, then they will be sacked after giving them all their entitlements under the employment act. These include money in lieu of notice and money in lieu of unused annual leave etc.
President Anni knows the law and he is fair. Not like Maumoon firing MIFC Managing Director In the dead of the night with no notice and no compensation.