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Minimum wage of US$600 demanded for Maldivian resort workers

The average monthly salary for local resort workers is US$200-US$250.

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Maldivian resort workers should be given a monthly minimum wage of US$600, an NGO said Sunday, as it demanded better rights for locals working in the high-end resorts the Maldives is famous for.

There are 27,837 Maldivians working in resorts, representing around 14 percent of the total workforce, according to the last census. Some resorts charge upwards of thousands of dollars a night and tourism accounts for one-third of economic output, making them huge money-spinners for the country.

The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives wants a trade union law to be passed, a bigger share of resort jobs to be allocated to Maldivians, resort shares to be given to resort workers and the introduction of a flat service charge.

TEAM previously petitioned the President’s Office and parliament with its demands but had yet to receive a response. It asked to meet the attorney general, but was later told the NGO might be dissolved.

TEAM wants a set minimum wage of US$600 for resort and safari workers.

“We want an industry-based minimum wage,” TEAM general secretary Mauroof Zakir told the Maldives Independent. “We looked at multiple factors, including living standards, and we believe it should be US$600, but we’ll also settle for US$500.”

The current average salary for local resort workers is between US$200 and US$250, he added. Average monthly earnings for Maldivians are around US$682, according to the International Labour Organization.

“The Employment Act says the [economic] minister should assign a minimum wage, but that hasn’t happened. Our biggest demand is that the trade union law should be passed immediately,” he said.

The Trade Union Law was proposed in 2013 but has not been passed. It was compiled by the ILO with the input of employees and employers between 2011 and 2013, according to TEAM.

“The government also put it on their legislative agenda, but it hasn’t gone forward. We believe this is the influence of Maldives Association for Tourism Industry (MATI),” said Zakir, referring to the heavyweight lobby group consisting of resort owners.

He cast doubt on the official figure for Maldivian resort workers, saying it was far greater than the one in the census, and argued that there should be better perks for Maldivians.

TEAM wants 80 percent of tourism industry jobs set aside for Maldivians and for there to be a flat service charge. Some resorts charged five percent, explained Zakir, while others charged 10 percent.

“We want it set at 12 percent, and for it to be distributed fairly. Current processes are not fair, it should be regulated monthly.”

TEAM also wanted President Abdulla Yameen to make good on his pledge to give resort shares to resort workers.

“We’re asking to be given what was promised us,” he said.

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