Settlement Made After Four Day Reethi Rah Strike

Tuesday, 2 December 2008 22:27

As reported on Minivan News

A settlement between striking workers and employers has on Tuesday been made after late night meetings following a four-day mass protest by local staff at One and Only Reethi Rah resort.

“We have been able to come up to an agreement and a settlement. I think this is an excellent breakthrough in industry relations and in building democracy,” President Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) told Minivan News.

“Through the window of opportunity that we got last night after negotiations we can now map the future of the labour relations here,” he added.

The President’s Office has set up an interim committee which is to represent employers, members of the Tourism Employees Association Maldives and members of the government to deal with the dispute.

The committee will draw up deadlines for provisions sought by TEAM which will then be implemented by the management, according to Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office.

The details are currently being finalised in a cabinet meeting being held at the time of going to press, according to Zuhair.

Around 250 employees went on strike at the five star resort, clashing with riot police on Sunday morning. Around 200 held a “solidarity” protest in the capital, Male, after allegations emerged suggesting police used weapons on demonstrators.

The incident sparked protests across the country, with 100 employees striking at Meedhupparu Resort on Monday and Kihaadhuffaru Resort staff threatening to strike on 4 December.

“We are success. The whole strike is over and we started work at 1am,” says a butler who was participating in the protest.

“We are very happy for everything for what our government did for us,” he added.

Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef on Sunday promised to establish a labour tribunal and labour relations authority to implement the new Employment Act, which was amended to include the tourism sector in October.

President Nasheed has said the problems were due to a lack of time to implement the Act, which came into power “only days” before the presidential elections.

“No government had any time to implement any of the issues addressed in the law and so there are lots of difficulties in trying to come up with a proper form,” he said.

Nasheed also said that while workers had rights in the constitution, employers and the industry had many rights.

“The constitution has a whole host of articles on property rights and other rights for the entrepreneur," he said on Tuesday.

Employees now had new rights, he says, “but they have to learn to exercise these rights according to international norms".

“For instance striking on shop floor, on industrial sites, that is not acceptable anywhere," he said.

And Tourism Minister Ali Sawad said he believed the settlement was “good of all parties concerned”.

“It seems a lot of things have not been addressed for several years. It is endemic not to tourism industry but to all sectors…rights have not been given the appropriate platform,” he said.

“From now on we will see the rights of the employees as well as employers be respected,” he said.

He denied that recent incidents would cause significant damage to the industry, saying the moves would restore confidence that there would be no more “hitches”.

“I don’t see any reason why tourists, investors or employers would voice their apprehension,” he said, adding that any issues had been at a “localised level”.

Bills will have to pass in parliament for a labour tribunal and labour relations authority.

The Employment Act brings a host of first-time rights to workers, including minimum wage and maximum working hours.

It was first ratified in May, but excluded the tourism sector, which Information Minister at the time saying it was a “mistake”.

After threats to strike over the country’s first multiparty elections, the parliament passed an amendment in early October which finally included the industry, excluding police and the armed forces instead.

The first round of elections was held on 8 October and second round was held on 28 October. Nasheed was sworn in on 11 November as fourth President of Maldives.


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