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Island Expert begins issuing pay to foreign workers

Shahudha Mohamed
09 July 2020, MVT 17:31
Expatriates employed by Island Expert Pvt Ltd protesting on the streets of Hulhumale' over delays in salary payments. PHOTO: SOCIAL MEDIA
Shahudha Mohamed
09 July 2020, MVT 17:31

Island Expert Pvt Ltd, on Wednesday, started disseminating salaries to expatriate staff employed by the company, after the migrant workers staged demonstrations in Hulhumale', over being forced to work without pay.

The Thai company recruited the expats for the construction of flats in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale' for Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel.

Managing Director of Island Expert Anon Songpanya told local media Mihaaru that the problems which arose due to the delay in payments have now been solved.

He added that salaries were handed over to some of the staff on Wednesday, and the company would pay more workers on Thursday as well.

"Everything is going well now. They [the expats] will not stage demonstrations on the road anymore", Songpanya assured.

According to the MD, the company was sharing the progress on the situation with Labour Relations Authority, including the details of the workers that have been paid.

However, he did not disclose the exact number of expatriates that had received salaries so far.

Expatriate workers employed by Island Expert last rioted on Monday, but they protested prior to this as well, on June 25, and back in April 2018, over the same issue of not receiving their wages.

Video footage of the most recent protest shows some workers causing damage to the building as well as to the equipment on site. Clashes were also observed between the expats and police officers while security forces attempted to control the situation.

Acknowledging that the company was at fault, the MD added that no employees were paid after the lockdown was implemented.

"I believe it is wrong. I am trying to arrange that [the employee's salaries] now. So I have put the equipment on-site up for sale now", Songpanya said.

Following media reports of this statement, Maldives National Defence Force Company (SIFCO) and Maldives Police Service Company (POLCO), on Wednesday, ordered Island Expert to refrain from selling any capital that belongs to the two companies.

Songpanya clarified that he meant selling the assets belonging to Island Expert, noting that nothing was done to POLCO and SIFCO property.

He further added that the company will sell some of its shares to overcome the damage caused by the delay in completing the project.

Construction work for the flats allocated for MPS and MNDF staff commenced in 2012, during former President Mohamed Waheed's administration, but the project is yet to conclude.

Advance payments for the flats have already been collected from the police and military personnel who are set to receive the flats upon completion.

Recently, expat-led demonstrations have taken place amidst renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives.

Violations reported include that of including human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations. Further, the aforementioned low quality of life has cemented the disproportionate effect had by Maldives' ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on its vast migrant population.

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