The Labour Relations Authority (LRA), on Thursday, ordered RIX Pvt Ltd to pay all outstanding salaries to the 179 expatriate workers currently stranded on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, before the end of July.
On July 2, 203 expatriate workers in Bodufinolhu protested over six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals amid the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.
According to the letter, all expatriates on the island, excluding RIX staff and employees of Bodufinolhu Hotels and Resorts, were hired illegally under the names of various other companies. LRA stated that the expatriate workers' accounts that RIX is responsible for salary payment were backed up by official documents.
Therefore, LRA instructed RIX to credit the six months of unpaid salaries and inform the authority before July 30, or face penalization.
However, RIX's legal representatives have denied receiving any letters from LRA and instead asserted that the company had addressed a letter to the authority, stating that the issue could only be resolved by the Employment Tribunal.
Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), which is providing pro bono legal assistance to the expatriate staff, filed a request at the Employment Tribunal on July 18, seeking compensation for the unpaid employees of RIX Maldives Pvt Ltd and arrangements for their repatriation.
In 2019, Seal Maldives had contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX Pvt Ltd, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.
Following the hostage situation, both companies issued conflicting statements regarding their respective contractual roles concerning the expatriate workers.
RIX has maintained its initial assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries as per agreements between the two companies, and that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers. The contractor claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by Seal Maldives' failure to make payments.
The developer countered with a statement noting that it made payments in addition to those mandated by agreements and accused RIX of neglect, stating that there was no reason preventing the contractor from paying its workers. Seal Maldives also asserted that RIX was mandated to cover insurance, healthcare and Visa application costs in addition to monthly salaries.
Although the Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court issued an order for RIX to extradite the expatriates from Bodufinolhu as per a request from Seal Maldives, RIX has refused to claim responsibility for the expatriate workers over alleged misidentification of the company.