Population: 306,000
Capital: Male
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: Not a member state

The adoption of a new constitution and the organisation of multi-party elections placed the Maldives on the path to democracy. The first legislation on employment was also adopted. Some workers are forming organisations to defend their rights.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association and right to strike recognised in new Constitution: The new constitution ratified in August 2008 includes a charter of fundamental rights and contains provisions on the separation of legislative and judicial powers. This new constitution guarantees, amongst other things, freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to strike.

New Employment Act: For the first time in the country's history, an Employment Act was also adopted. It guarantees workers a series of rights including a minimum wage, maximum working hours and protection against unfair dismissal. When adopted in May, it initially excluded the tourism industry, which is one of the driving forces of the national economy. Following a strike threat by the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM), the Parliament adopted an amendment in early October to include tourism under the scope of the Act. Police and armed forces members remain excluded, however.

Plan to join the ILO: The Maldives are intending to join the ILO. The government has already acceded 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 governments to recognise the rights to form a trade union and to strike.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: A former political prisoner, Mohamed 'Anni' Nasheed, was elected in the first multi-party presidential elections in October 2008. The election ousted the autocratic government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which had been in power for 30 years. Following the election the new President promised a smooth transition to democracy and more freedom.

Associations and some strikes, but still no unions: Some workers' organisations have been established, particularly in the tourism and education sectors, though these are associations rather than real unions. Some strikes also took place in the tourism industry and education. The teachers' strike held on 1 July by the "Association of Teacher's Link" was the first strike to have been recognised by the government.

Confrontation between the police and striking workers: On 28 November, the employees of a luxury hotel, the "Reethi Rah", went on strike to demand better working conditions, the application of the new Employment Act and the transfer of a member of the management. The following day, 13 workers were sacked. On 30 November, around 200 workers took part in a protest, during which the police briefly arrested a number of workers, some of whom told Reuters that they had been beaten. The Human Rights Commission confirmed, after an investigation, that the police had used truncheons and spray.

These events sparked off protests in some other luxury hotels in the Maldives. The dispute was ended after the intervention of the President's Office. The new government promised to establish an industrial tribunal and an industrial relations authority for enforcing the new Employment Act.

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