RIX ordered to pay pending salaries of Bodufinolhu migrant workers

Police officers are pictured with expatriate workers on B. Bodufinolhu on July 23, 2020. Around 15 locals were taken hostage by a group of 200 migrants over unpaid wages. (Photo/PSM)

Employment Tribunal has ordered RIX Private Limited to pay the pending salaries of migrant workers that were employed by the company for the development of a tourist resort at B. Bodufinolhu.

Amongst 199 migrant workers and two local staff who worked at the island – only the salaries of 46 migrant workers have not been settled as of present.

In a statement released by their legal representative, Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) on Thursday, they detailed that Employment Tribunal had ruled on Wednesday to award a total of MVR 41,000 per worker – including pending 5 months’ salary of MVR 35,000 (MVR 7,000 each month) and MVR 6,000 as food allowances.

The Tribunal had ordered RIX Private Limited to settle the payment within 45 days.

RIX employed some 200 migrant workers in Bodufinolhu, some of whom staged a violent strike over months of unpaid wages in July 2020; in which property was damaged, local workers were held hostage, and several police officers who went to intervene were injured. 19 workers were arrested in connection to the case. The suspects were later released into the custody of Maldives Immigration.

In the wake of the violence in Bodufinolhu, police launched an investigation into RIX on suspicion of “exploitation and forced labor of migrant workers, facilitating human trafficking, failure to pay fees and payments entitled to the State on behalf of the migrant workers and violation of the rights of migrant workers”.

The workers said they had not been paid their wages in months, and resorted to violence after they were threatened with deportation and injury in the hands of criminal gangs if they raised the issue of their unpaid wages.

The company’s managing director, Milandhoo MP Ali Riza, admitted to failing to pay workers four months of wages, which he said was due to financial constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIX, meanwhile, said the company was unable to pay the wages because it was owed payments by the resort’s developer Seal Maldives – a claim which Seal Maldives denies.