The Government has established a cross-ministry committee to deal with employment issues in the booming Maldivian tourism industry.
Its mandate includes the contentious issue of discrimination against Maldivian employees. The committee held its first meeting yesterday and is investigating complaints of discrimination against Maldivians by two unnamed resorts.
The measures the committee can take against resorts that treat employees badly have not yet been defined.
The Government requires a 50% ceiling on employment of foreign workers in any one resort. But Maldivian staff say not all resorts comply.
The Malé manager of Gasfinolhu resort in Kaafu Atoll, today told Minivan News the percentage of overseas employees there exceeds this. Mohamed Shahid estimates just 15 to 16 of the resort’s 40 employees are citizens of the Maldives, and an anonymous source connected with Gasfinolhu alleges that in fact it employs only one Maldivian.
Shahid acknowledges meeting the quota is “a big problem”. Maldivian staff “come today and leave tomorrow,” he finds, whereas foreigners are prepared to commit long term.
He also holds the government responsible for failing to enforce its own quota.
But Tourism Minister Dr Mahmood Shaugee says that as well as investigating complaints, his ministry and the Ministry of Employment already perform spot checks.
Dr Shaugee finds that once a resort’s employment policies have been investigated management tend to respond “co-operatively” and take steps to meet the quota. But if this does not occur the resort can be fined for non-compliance with legislation.
poor deal for Maldivians?
Maldivian resort employees have long complained that expatriate workers receive better employment packages than locals, though statistics on comparative salaries and benefits are not currently available.
An estimated 50,000 expatriate workers live in the Maldives, equivalent to a sixth of the entire Maldivian population.
Dr Shaugee confirms complaints are frequently made on the issue, but says they have not been borne out by his monitoring of resorts.
And Hussein Siraj of the Employment Ministry points out there is no current legislation covering salary parity or a minimum wage in the Maldives. Employees have no legal grounds to complain as long as a company honours the contract under which they are employed.
But the Employment Bill currently at committee stage in the People’s Majlis will contain a clause guaranteeing equal pay for equal work. It also creates a minimum wage committee to advise ministers on appropriate policies for different industries.
Dr Shaugee believes problems are often caused by “people of different cultures working together” leading to a perception of discrimination.
In 2006 about 40 per cent of the population were thought to live on less than Rf15 per day but anecdotal evidence suggests resort salaries may be higher than those in other industries.
Dr Shaugee admits there is “no fixed procedure” for employees to complain of poor treatment or discrimination.
The first port of call for an unhappy employee should be their managers. But if the employee is dissatisfied with the management’s response, Dr Shaugee says his ministry and the Ministry of Employment “welcome” complaints and queries from the public.
The Ministry of Employment initiated the new standing committee, which comprises two of its members and three from the Ministry of Tourism.
As well as investigating complaints, the committee will look at issues relating to human resources including training and working conditions.
Its mandate is “wide”, according to Dr Shaugee, who was not yet able to specify what new action might be forthcoming against misconduct.