February 5, 2013—Even as the Maldivian government further shuts the door on worker rights, union leaders and members of the Maldives Port Workers Union (MPWU) who were fired or suspended from their jobs in 2012 remain strong in their struggle. In recent days, Maldives President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Mani signed a bill into law that restricts freedom of assembly throughout the island nation. This move follows the firing and suspension of MPWU leaders and members by the state-owned Maldives Port Limited early last year.
|Freedom of association is under attack in the Maldives, where MPWU members have been fired or suspended. Photo: ITF
The MPWU, an independent union that was officially registered in May 2011, says port management violated the country’s labor laws and International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions when it fired the union president, general secretary and four other union members, suspended 49 trade union members and transferred others to different locations. MPWU members have faced harassment by port management, which the union says has used intimidation tactics to prevent members from participating in union activities. The MPWU has filed a labor complaint with the ILO.
Further, the MPWU says MPL established another workplace union in an attempt to dismantle the newly formed union. “It’s our responsibility to speak out to protect our rights,” said MPWU President Ibrahim Khaleel. “We should take action … for a better work environment, for better pay.”
The MPWU is a member of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which has written twice to Manik calling for him to intervene. The ITF has received no response. The ILO also has written to the Maldives government asking it to rectify the injustice against WPWU members. (You can take action to support the MPWU members here.)
The MPWU is allied with the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) which joined in solidarity with the union’s struggle to protect labor rights. TEAM, a Solidarity Center partner, is working to get 22 of its members reinstated after they were terminated. The workers were among 350 who held a peaceful work stoppage in 2011 on a key pay issue. Management refused to comply with the court order to reinstate workers and compensate them with back pay and is appealing the decision.
TEAM is a member of the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), which has an online action to support the workers.