Employment Minister Promises Labour Tribunal after strike at One and Only Reethi Rah

Monday, 1 December 2008 08:02

As reported on Minivan News
Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef has promised to establish a labour tribunal and create a fully functioning labour relations authority to handle employment disputes after 150 workers held demonstrations on Sunday.

The resort workers had demonstrated outside Male's Employment Ministry building, recently renamed Labour Relations Authority, "in solidarity" with staff striking over labour rights on One and Only Reethi Rah resort.

It is the latest in a series of protests and strikes in resorts across the country with staff calling for enforcement of labor rights included in the Employment Act.

However, Mohamed Mihad, vice-president of tourism employees association, said he is "not entirely satisfied" with the Minister's reply and has called for action on the Reethi Rah dispute.

Tribunal

The peaceful demonstration in the capital, Male, followed a police confrontation with strikers on Reethi Rah early Sunday morning with staff alleging they were handcuffed and beaten.

Hassan arrived on the scene shortly and pledged to establish a labour tribunal and labor relations authority by February 2009 after meeting five representatives of the Tourism Employees Association (TEAM).

The Authority will monitor adherence to the Employment Act while the tribunal will act as a court on employment disputes.

Hassan says the main reason for the disputes is due to short one day time period between ratification and enforcement of the Act.

"There was no time for the government or the employers to do the necessary work under the law. The employers did not have time to find out what their responsibilities were under the law," he says.

Asked about the Reethi Rah dispute, Hassan said a team of three lawyers from the Human Resources Ministry, Tourism Ministry and President's office were holding discussions with the management and employees.

"It is more important to solve a problem through discussions rather than taking action," he said when asked whether any action would be taken against the resort management.

But he added: "It is an option to take these cases to court."

"Unacceptable"

However, he has said some of the excuses put forward by resort managements on delay in implementation of rights are "unacceptable."

"Some resorts have said they need an English translation to implement the law. This is unacceptable. Maldivian laws will be in Dhivehi," he says.

"Once a law has been passed by the Majlis, it is the duty of all parties to act on it from the day it has been passed," he added.

Only a few resorts have awarded rights to their staff since the sector was included in the Employment Act in Ocober.

However, Hassan says there has been no negligence on the part of his ministry, as the problem had been inherited from the previous administration.

While the labour relations authority had been established under ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, it does not have adequate staff and no work had been done on forming a labour tribunal, he says.

Not Satisfied

Mihad, Vice-president of TEAM, says they have not received a satisfactory answer on Reethi Rah dispute and is not satisfied with the minister's reply.

He called on protestors to leave the area due to the minister's assurances that matters will be solved with the establishment of Labour Tribunal and Labour Relations Authority.

Ali Warish, a resort worker, said he was disappointed, saying: "I wanted this matter to be decided on right now."

Protestors had blocked the road in Male's busy local market area, calling for the resignation of Tourism Minister Dr. Sawad Ali and Home Minister Gasim Ibrahim for alleged police abuse on Reethi Rah.

One placard read: "We condemn the attack on Reethi Rah. We want our rights! Government change! Change Gasim!"

Meanwhile a member of staff from Ananatara resort holding a placard calling for Sawad's resignation said, "Sawad is not capable because he had to send police to Reethi Rah. He could have solved this through discussions."

Ismail Abdulla, a resort room boy, said he wanted a "long-term solution".

"The government has been negligent... The resort managements must follow the law."

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators have told local media such clashes between employers and employees could harm the tourism industry.

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