Recent research into the working conditions of Sri Lankan migrants working at resorts in the Maldives has concluded that “[many] of the issues faced by Sri Lankan workers in Sri Lankan resorts are similar to those faced by Sri Lankans in foreign owned and managed resorts. However, these issues are of a less severe nature [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

SL-owned Maldivian resorts treat Sri Lankan workers better : Study


Recent research into the working conditions of Sri Lankan migrants working at resorts in the Maldives has concluded that “[many] of the issues faced by Sri Lankan workers in Sri Lankan resorts are similar to those faced by Sri Lankans in foreign owned and managed resorts. However, these issues are of a less severe nature than those faced by other nationalities in the same locations”. Further, Sri Lankan companies identified included “Aitken Spence Plc, John Keells Holdings and more recently the Mount Lavinia hotel groups have opened chains of luxury resorts in the Maldives.

Employees within these resorts are mostly Sri Lankans including management level staff. Most are recruited internally from within the Aitken Spence, JKH, or Mount Lavinia staff cadres in Sri Lanka”.

Conducted under the auspices of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Programme of the Labour Migration Project of the Law and Society Trust, and supported by the Solidarity Centre’s Sri Lanka office, this December 2013 study, entitled “Gilded Cage in an Ocean Paradise; Sri Lankan Labour Migration to the Maldives”, also opined; “Sri Lankan resorts appear to treat Sri Lankan workers with dignity – in fact better than they treat certain other nationalities according to reports by workers, complaints to the Labour Relations Authority (LRA), and information gathered by Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM). The standard of labour and human rights protection provided by Sri Lankan resorts to Sri Lankan workers should in fact be maintained as a minimum standard for all workers within Sri Lankan resorts and as a best practice for any other re-sorts which maybe implementing inferior standards relating to workers”.

Additionally, it was also noted; “Sri Lankan workers state they are relatively well looked after in Sri Lankan resorts. In comparison, living conditions of other nationalities are cramped, without sufficient ventilation or sanitation facilities. According to one Sri Lankan returnee even food is served separately in some of these resorts with Sri Lankans having access to the main buffets and other nationalities being served in a staff restaurant”.

Elaborating further, the report also put forward the following quote attributed to an unnamed Sri Lankan migrant worker interviewed on November 4, 2013; “Bangladeshi workers are treated like slaves or animals at a previous resort I worked in. It is a pathetic situation”. Migrant workers from Bangladesh make up the majority of migrant workers to the Maldives 51,487
However, the study also highlighted a number of concerns applicable to migrant workers from Sri Lanka, and even other countries, to be addressed by the Sri Lankan government as well as Sri Lankan employers. These included; “Lack of transparent mechanisms for distribution of Service Charges; Returnee migrant workers state that the total amount of service charge is not disclosed or distributed in a transparent manner. Lack of information; Sri Lankan hotels although prone to recruit Sri Lankans working within their own companies do not have a practice of disseminating useful information such as labour regulations or redress mechanisms.

Trade Union activity discouraged;

Although Sri Lankan workers claim to have few issues, it is noted that trade unionism is discouraged in most resorts and internal issues are encouraged to be resolved through discussions with management. This is despite the strong links between trade unions and these companies in Sri Lanka.

Lack of registration with [Sri Lankan Bureau of ForeignEmployment(SLBFE)];

The SLBFE which registers all migrant workers does not have the mandate to monitor Sri Lankan workers employed by Sri Lankan employers/companies abroad.

Lack of relevant pre-departure orientation by SLBFE;

Male migrant workers (apart from those migrating to South Korea) are given the same pre-departure training which focuses on labour migration to the Middle East only”.

Commenting on the overall state of Sri Lankan labour migration to the Maldives, the study outlined the following; “According to SLBFE statistics, there is an average of approximately 4,000 Sri Lankans migrating to the Maldives each year since 2007. In analysing data for 2011, the 4,197 Sri Lankan migrant workers to the Maldives comprises high numbers of skilled and unskilled workers amounting to 1,615 and 1,524 respectively with professional, middle level and clerical together amounting to 830 workers.

The majority of workers to the Maldives is therefore skilled or professional. Numbers of female departures remain low – only around a tenth of male migration statistics. The majority of women migrant workers appear to migrate as domestic workers to the Maldives.
A notable aspect of Sri Lankan labour migration to the Maldives is that most migration is through direct sources [not] registered with the SLBFE, finding employment through friends and family already resident or employed in the Maldives. Traditionally, the foremost occupations to be filled especially by Sri Lankan migrant workers were in education and finance and the trend continues to date”.

Meanwhile, the study also commented on the lack of a proper reintegration programme for returning migrant workers from countries such as the Maldives, stating; “Many of the reintegration programmes in existence cater to semi-skilled or skilled workers who return with remittances and do not include viable livelihood or social security options for low-skilled workers without adequate savings, indicating prioritisation of remittances over rights by state authorities. The Sri Lankan government is relatively progressive in comparison to many of its Asian origin country counterparts in the regulation of labour migration and has put in place registration, pre-departure training processes, trainings for labour attaches, a welfare fund for migrants and their families and is in the process of amending existing legislation to include the human rights of migrant workers and the regulation of sub agents. Lack of effective implementation of these valuable measures is however a major drawback for migrant workers to access their rights and benefits in a timely manner”.


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