Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) released a statement on Sunday, urging all diving professionals registered as members of the organization to report issues of mistreatment by their employers, adding that legal assistance would be facilitated for those requiring it.
According to DAM’s statement, professional divers across the tourism industry are facing reduced wages, deducted or abolished allowances as well as being sent on mandatory unpaid leaves by their employers, in the wake of economic repercussions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, DAM has signed an agreement with Wisham and Co LLC, to provide legal aid for all members of the organization that may require it, at this time.
Following the travel restrictions imposed over the COVID-19 outbreak, Maldives' tourism industry, both locally in guesthouses as well as in resorts, liveaboards and safaris, have together taken the biggest hit with multiple reports of employment losses and debts racking up across the industry.
Diving is a major sector within the tourism industry, particularly with regards to the market value of liveaboards and safaris. Earning an average revenue of USD 600 per trip, with the country recording at least 77,000 dive visits per year, Maldives' diving industry is valued at over USD 45 million.
However, experts estimate that many diving professionals are among those set to find themselves disproportionately affected in terms of work and pay, particularly given that the majority of their income is seasonal and reliant on when the underwater environment is best suited for diving.
DAM is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2006 that works to promote and develop the sport of scuba diving as well as to protect the rights of Maldivian scuba diving professionals and strengthen the safety regulations of scuba diving in the Maldives.
Labour Relations Authority (LRA) has also confirmed that a number of employers have acted and are acting in violation of the employment law as fears over the economic downfall brought forth by the pandemic continue to rise.
Requesting employees to report any violation of their employment terms to the authority, LRA stated that a completed sheet (obtained from https://lra.gov.mv/downloads labelled Employment Status Change Information Sheet), must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org along with any additional details pertaining to the issue. According to the employment watchdog, complaints about changes made after March 1 must be sent through before April 15.
On March 21, Economic Ministry urged individuals to call out employers terminating or deducting salaries amid the COVID-19 pandemic and report their situation using the reporting module on their online platform www.jobcenter.mv.
On March 19, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer revealed that the government will introduce financial packages worth MVR 2.5 billion to combat the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Finance Minister, these measures were intended to prevent the closing down of local businesses and prevent loss of jobs. For companies, one of the set conditions of eligibility to acquire financial aid is having opted to not deduct any amount from salaries and allowances of their employees
The tourism industry, accounting for over 70 percent of the GDP, ground to a complete halt after the government stopped issuing on-arrival visas on March 27. As a result, it is estimated that the country will face a shortfall of approximately USD 450 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in foreign currency.
Presently, Maldives records 19 confirmed and six active cases of COVID-19, with a total of 13 recoveries. While there are two confirmed cases of Maldivians, no local to local transmissions have been recorded.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected over 1,202,400 people and claimed over 64,700 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 246,600 people have recovered.