Tourism Association To Sue Four Seasons Over Strike Threat

Saturday, 27 September 2008 23:15

The tourism employees’ association says it will take legal action against international hospitality firm Four Seasons, which runs two Maldivian resorts, for threatening action against those who promote an industry strike scheduled for 5 October.

“The laws give the authority to strike. If you try to stop the people by giving a warning then that is against the law,” said Ahmed Easa, president of the Tourism Employees’ Association Maldives (TEAM).

TEAM representatives are due to meet MPs on Monday after saying they will strike three days before presidential elections unless they receive new legal rights. But the speaker of parliament says changes to the law can only be tabled a day after the scheduled protest.

About 25,000 are employed at resorts in the Maldives, with the lucrative tourism sector accounting for a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


Easa says TEAM will file a case against Four Seasons after a memo, sent out within its five-star resorts on 25 September, warned of disciplinary action for participation in the strike or distribution of petitions during work hours.

With specific mention to the planned strike, the memo, leaked to Minivan News after being sent to staff by general manager Royal Rowe, says employees may participate in the protest only “in their own personal time”.

Stating that “Four Seasons feels very strongly that work time is for work,” it adds staff are required to “report punctually to duty” and are forbidden from conducting “non-company business,” or will face repercussions.

TEAM president Easa says the documents contravene the constitutional right to strike, and TEAM has approached lawyers.

“The Four Seasons is giving a warning to staff saying if anyone joins the strike then they will be fired or they will face disciplinary action…But the Maldivian law is very clear about the strike. No-one can stop this,” Easa said.

Four Seasons runs the Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa resorts.


“We have approached lawyers and they have said they will prepare a case,” Easa said, though he adds it is at an early stage.

The strike, announced after the government failed to amend a flagship law which excluded the sector from new basic rights, could be cancelled depending on the outcome of a meeting with parliamentarians on Monday, says Easa.

The Employment Act, ratified by the president in June, provided for a minimum wage and maximum working hours for the first time – but excluded the tourism sector.

Speaker of parliament Mohamed Shihab says amendments cannot be brought to the parliament’s floor before the strike, due to a parliamentary recess.

“We can’t [table the legislation this week]. Parliament has rules and procedures it has to follow…We have very well explained this to these tourism employees,” Shihab said.

A new parliamentary session begins on 1 October, but work can start only on either the first Monday or Friday of the month. Due to the Islamic festival of Eid, October dates will be pushed back, meaning the session’s work can only begin on 6 October.

The committee considering changes to the Act only finished its work on Wednesday, says Shihab. He has now circulated their report to members, to give them time to submit amendments.

But there is no guarantee parliament can amend the Employment Act even on 6 October, as it may need to complete work on the Anti-Corruption Commission, which must be created before 7 October in line with the constitution.

“No More Waiting”

Easa however says TEAM’s decision will not be reneged unless their rights are incorporated into law in the next week. The group will “not take the chance” to wait any longer for negotiation, he said.
“Four months ago, when we started, the first thing we said is that it should be solved before elections. But now the possibility of solving the problem before elections is almost gone,” he said.

An announcement by TEAM last week said the group had failed to obtain changes to the law, despite lobbying.

“Now the question is, do we try our ultimate strategy in these last 15 days, or do we wait for another five long years? If we want a solution now, we must go for a peaceful protest,” said the statement.

Employees at Diva Island Resort began a strike in April after three employees were dismissed after petitioning for better conditions.

The new constitution, ratified in August, accords Maldivians the fundamental right to strike for the first time.

Royal Rowe of Four Seasons was unavailable, whilst other staff said they could not comment.


Related News
Resorts warning staff of disciplinary action should they participate in the 5th October strike
Travel advisory alert - strike in Maldives
Tourism employees strike: Is it necessary?
Tourism Employees Threaten Strike On 5 October


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