ILO Core Conventions Ratified:
Tourism is a major source of income for the Maldives, but workers in the hotel industry remain unable to exercise their trade union rights free from employer repression.
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW
Progress has been made to secure trade union rights and ensure conformity with international labour standards, however the labour legislation is still rudimentary. The 2008 Constitution guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike, but does not contain an explicit right to collective bargaining. Still, article 30 of the Constitution protects the right to participate in trade union activities. The main labour law, the Employment Act of 2008, does not regulate workers' collective rights and merely refers to trade unions in the context of protection against dismissal.
A draft Ministerial regulation on strikes was presented in August 2010. While the regulation appears to be drafted ultra vires, i.e. beyond the authority granted by law, if enacted it effectively risks nullifying the right to strike.
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010
Background: Mohamed Nasheed, a former political prisoner, has been in power since the first multi-party presidential elections in 2008. The Parliament blocked a judicial reform package which caused the government to resign on 29 June and several days of arrests of some opposition members of parliament ensued. President Nasheed re-appointed the former government in July.
The right to strike is generally ignored: The right to strike, guaranteed by the Constitution is generally ignored in the hotel sector, the life's blood of the country's economy: workers who strike are threatened, arrested and sometimes thrown in prison by order of the employers.
Failure to recognise the TEAM trade union and suspicions of a black list: Employers systematically refuse to recognise the union TEAM (Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives) or to negotiate with its members. The employers are strongly suspected of compiling a black list of active members of trade unions in order to prevent them from finding a job.
The Shangri-La fires 14 trade union members: On 16 April, 14 employees of the luxury Shangri-La Villingili Hotel Resort were fired for protesting against the arbitrary firing of four colleagues. These 14 workers were all active members of TEAM (The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives).
19 workers at the hotel Kurumba were thrown in prison following a strike: On 21 August, more than 150 workers at the luxury Kurumba Resort, not far from Male, went on strike to denounce a series of recurrent problems in the sector: low salaries, poor accommodation, management's refusal to negotiate, excessive workload etc. The strike was halted on 24 August following intervention by the police and the army. Even though this was a peaceful protest and there was no damage caused to the hotel during the strike, 19 workers were arrested and detained for 24 hours in Dhoonidhoo. A tribunal recognised that this arrest was illegal.
An employee told the local media that during the occupation of the site by the army and the police, the employees were forced to sign a document committing not to undertake any further strike action even though this right is recognised by the Constitution.
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