Bandos owner Mohammed Waheed Deen's financial losses from the recent strike in the luxury resort could run into millions. But the emotional hurt he suffered from the sense of betrayal of trust and love is inestimable. A generous philanthropist, Deen is more than an exemplary employer. He has been a father figure for Bandos staff and considers them part of his extended family. Thus the episode would be a personal tragedy for Deen. But the tragedy is not his alone; it is part of a deeper national malady.
Businesses run on trust. Political systems run on respect for authority. But today in the Maldives, these core values are going down in a death spiral, threatening to take the country to the very brink of anarchy. The effect of this on the workplace, both private and government, has been particularly disastrous.
With eroding respect for authority, discipline and work ethics have suffered. Any supervisor who attempts to take remedial measures against sloppy employees becomes the target of petitions for removal. Managements are frequently forced to fire hard working employees, even if nothing wrong can be proved against them. Such employees lose their rights enshrined in the Employment Act.
Bandos Island resort workers held mass demonstrations after a petition submitted by 303 staff calling for dismissal of company lawyer Zeshan Shihab was rejected by Deputy Managing Director Shezny Deen. The protesters accused Zeshan of harming their relations with the company and its owner.
A visibly shaken Deen has said he had never imagined his employees would treat him the way they did. Despite his personal conviction that Zeshan had done nothing wrong, he had no choice but to accept her resignation.
With Zeshan's resignation the strike has ended. But the question is: What does this signal to the business sector? How does it fit in with today's buzz word, 'corporate governance'?