Resorts told to reinstate laid off workers ahead of border reopening

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed at a press conference at National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) on June 24, 2020. (Photo/Tourism Ministry)

The Tourism Ministry has appealed to resort operators to reinstate workers who were made redundant or were suspended due to financial constraints amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Maldives readies to lift international travel restrictions and reopen its borders to tourists next month.

 Maldives ceased the issuance of on-arrival visas and closed its borders on March 27 – starving the country’s main economic driver – the tourist industry, leading to closure of resorts and mass layoffs.

The country has announced it will lift the ban on international travel on July 15, allowing international airports and tourist resorts to reopen.

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed appeared for a press conference at the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) on Wednesday night.

In response to a question by a reporter at Sun, Ali Waheed said that the Tourism Ministry, when it released the tourism reopening guidelines on Tuesday, issued an appeal for resort operators to reinstate laid off workers.

“Along with this guideline, the ministry issued a directive to prioritize the reinstatement of workers laid off due to the COVID crisis. What I mean is, the government has issued an appeal asking that former workers be rehired to resorts when they reopen. We are monitoring this situation,” he said.

Ali Waheed said the Tourism Ministry will continue to review the records collected through JobCenter, a virtual platform established to collect information on workers whose employment have been affected amid the coronavirus crisis, and will identify the resorts that rehire laid off workers, and resorts that do not.

“Resort operators sometimes come to the Tourism Ministry seeking assistance over inability to pay rent, or setbacks in paying rent. We will take into account how they acted [regarding reinstatement of laid off workers] in considering such matters,” he said. “We are the people’s government, elected by the people.  Therefore, the people’s government will treat them [resort operators] how they treat the people.”

Ali Waheed said the solution to the crisis can only be found through collaborative efforts between employees, employers, and the government.

Noting that the coronavirus crisis has resulted in millions of job losses worldwide, Ali Waheed said the economic repercussions of the pandemic are being faced not just by workers in Maldives, but workers worldwide.

“I don’t believe resorts that mistreated their workers will ever achieve success. Tourists themselves will look at resorts workers were treated,” he said.

Ali Waheed said the Tourism Ministry will do everything within their mandate to take action against resorts that refuse to reinstate workers and reverse pay cuts once the economic situation improves.

“Layoffs and pay cuts due to the economic situation is a miserable situation we must accept. But once the situation changes, I, along with the workers, will be bound to [demand] a change. I believe the resorts of this industry will act in this manner. But if they fail to change the situation, we will not hesitate to everything in our mandate to take legal action,” he said.