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President pledges US$6m scheme for Maldives resort workers

The resort workers association questioned the workability of the proposed scheme.



President Abdulla Yameen pledged Wednesday night to launch an employment benefit scheme for resorts workers, drawing criticism over a failed pledge to provide shares of privately-owned resorts to their employees. 

Yameen said the government will invest MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) and invite resort workers to contribute a small portion of their monthly pay, which would be matched by their employers.

“It will be beneficial to have seed money to buy flats in the Malé region or to have a budget to build homes in their own island,” he said, explaining that those enrolled in the voluntary scheme could draw down their funds.

A quota of social housing flats would be reserved for resort workers if there was support for the plan, he added.

The government’s target is to increase the number of youth employed in the tourism industry to 36,000 and grow the fund to MVR500 million “if there is support from resorts”, he said at a ceremony held to inaugurate 50 futsal stadiums built across the country.

Yameen said the number of resorts along with tourist arrivals and job opportunities would grow exponentially with the expansion of the international airport.

The Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, which has repeatedly urged the president to fulfil the 2013 resort share pledge, questioned his intent in announcing the scheme close to the September 23 election.

“We have no confidence because of how things happened in the past. On the other hand, this was not discussed with the workers,” TEAM Secretary General Mauroof Zakir told the Maldives Independent.

“This is not what we want. The things we want have already been petitioned to the government,” he added, referring to demands for a US$600 minimum wage and collective bargaining rights.

“We do not believe that resort management will cooperate in this scheme. They might if the government threatens to set a minimum wage. And there is already the pension scheme used by teachers and other professionals as seed money for flats or businesses.

“Ninety-nine percent of resorts contribute to the pension fund, so why not allow resort workers also to use this as seed money? What is the point of establishing a separate scheme for this purpose?”