Population: 359,000
Capital: Male
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: Not a member state

There was no progress on the recognition of trade unions' rights, which are not protected in law or exercised in practice. Labour issues were not included in the Roadmap for constitutional reform.

Trade union rights in law

No labour law, no recognition of union rights: There are no trade unions in the Maldives. A specific law on labour matters has not been developed. Trade unions are not banned by law but there is also no legal recognition of the right to form or join a trade union or to strike. There is no legal protection from anti-union discrimination.

The right to bargain collectively is not recognised either. Wages in the private sector are set by a contract between employers and employees, and are usually based on the rates for similar work in the public sector.

The Labour Dispute Settlement Unit of the Ministry of Human Resources, Employment and Labour resolves wage and labour disputes, visits worksites and enforces labour regulations.

Responding to queries in the parliament in June 2005, the Labour Minister stated that the government has been drafting a labour law since 1998, and that draft was being considered by the Maldives Law Commission. No specific timetable for consideration of that draft has been made public. The government's reform Roadmap calls for a new Constitution to be developed, passed by a special session of parliament, and ratified by 30 June, 2007, but the Roadmap does not include labour issues.

While the Maldives has yet to join the ILO, on 20 September 2006 the government did accede to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 8 of the ICESR explicitly commits a government to recognise the right to form a trade union, and to strike.

Trade union rights in practice

Associations, but no unions yet: Workers have not sought to form trade unions as such, but do form associations. In May 2004, the government enacted a new law to strengthen the legal regime governing voluntary, not-for-profit associations. Small groups of similarly employed workers with mutual interests have formed associations, some of which include employers as well as employees. These associations have not acted as trade unions.

The government has, in the past, exerted pressure to discourage seamen from joining international seamen's unions.

There were no reports of efforts to form unions or take strike action during the year.

First-ever major May Day rally in national capital: Thousands of port employees and general workers, joined by opposition political activists from the Maldivian Democratic Party, held the first-ever May Day march and rally in the capital city of Male in 2006. Demands put forward included greater government recognition and respect for labour rights, better working conditions and regular days off, introduction of a minimum wage mechanism, and joining the ILO immediately.

Poor rights record: The Maldives has a poor record in terms of democratic and trade union rights.

The authorities continue to harass opposition political leaders and their groups, through surveillance and arrests, and there is a long and consistent record of major assemblies organised by opposition political parties and grass-roots groups being violently repressed by the police.

Judiciary is not independent: The judiciary is not independent, since the President retains the absolute right to appoint and dismiss judges at will, and retains the right to review and overturn High Court decisions. An independent review of the judiciary found that "the Maldivian criminal justice system systematically fails to do justice and regularly does injustice, and that the reforms needed are wide-ranging".

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