Several employees at the Holiday Island Resort have not been paid three months worth of service charges, Ramadan bonuses, and last year’s travel allowance.
“We did receive salaries after August for a while, but it has stopped again now,” an employee told The Maldives Independent on the condition of anonymity.
The Employment Act mandates resorts to distribute income from service charge to employees after deducting no more than one percent for administrative fees. Employees are also entitled to one-third of their monthly salary as a Ramadan bonus before the beginning of the fasting month.
The resort’s management as well as senior officials at Villa Hotels were unavailable for comment.
The luxury resort is operated by Villa Hotels and Resorts, owned by the Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim.
After the central bank froze the bank accounts of Gasim’s Villa Shipping and Trading and subsidiary companies in May over US$90.4 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines, Villa advised its 4,500 employees “who find it hard to work with us to rebuild the company again” to resign and promised to pay outstanding salaries at a later date.
The freeze was removed in July on the back of JP’s backing for government proposals in parliament and an agreement on a two-year payment plan.
In August, eight room boys at the Holiday Island Resort went on strike over unpaid wages. The Tourism Employees Association of Maldives revealed at the time that nearly 300 staff at resorts owned by three local companies – including Villa – had quit their jobs over non-payment of wages.
Delays and non-payment of salaries and allowances is commonplace in the tourism sector, according to TEAM.
Mauroof Zakir, TEAM’s secretary general, told The Maldives Independent that the NGO is aware of the unpaid allowances, but were unable to offer assistance due to the unwillingness of the resort’s staff.
“Resort staff in Villa Hotels, AAA Resorts and J Hotels and Resorts have been facing these problems for over eight months now. But with the staff so reluctant on taking any action in fear of losing their jobs, there is very little we can do,” he said.
“The current administration holds no regard for worker’s rights. It is up to the workers to fight for it. Resort workers leave their wives and children to go work. If they don’t get paid for five or six months, if they have to take loans to support their family, what good is the job that they so fear losing?” Mauroof asked.
“We have submitted the issue to Labor Relations Authority as well. It’s been four months since they said they will investigate it. LRA is understaffed and lacks an adequate budget.”
According to the 2014 census, some 11,426 Maldivians are employed in the multi-billion dollar industry. In May, TEAM held a rally in Malé calling on the government to set a US$600 minimum wage and to pass a trade union law to allow collective bargaining.
Mauroof suggested that empowerment of resort workers is key to resolving the longstanding issue of unpaid wages.
“Workers need to get empowered and fight for their basic rights. They should overcome this fear and rise up from this state of being enslaved,” he said.