In the Maldives, the traditional method of conflict resolution has typically involved taking to the streets to voice concerns. While this approach has extended to online platforms in recent times, the country has lacked a structured communication channel between employers and employees. Consequently, the voices and grievances of workers often remain unheard, compelling them to resort to expressing their concerns through media platforms and public demonstrations.
With this, it was becoming more and more evident, especially as of late that a proper form of conflict resolution, such as a trade union has been increasingly necessary in the Maldives. Introducing trade unions in the Maldives could transform this dynamic by providing a formalized avenue for dialogue. Acting as collective bargaining agents, unions would facilitate open communication, ensuring that the concerns of employees are effectively conveyed to employers, fostering a more constructive and harmonious resolution of conflicts in the workplace.
Taking a major step towards making the work environments in the Maldives safer, while also empowering the workforce and fostering harmonious industrial relations, President Mohamed Muizzu has ratified the Industrial Relations Bill. This ratification in the legislation marks a significant step forward, providing a legal framework for the formation of trade unions and safeguarding the fundamental right of workers to engage or abstain from their activities. The ratification comes after the Parliament's decisive action during its 37th sitting of the third session on December 18, 2023, addressing long-standing concerns about the absence of a specialized law governing workers' associations.
The newly ratified bill aligns with the constitutional guarantee of the right to form trade unions and the freedom to participate in or refrain from their activities. While workers' associations have historically existed, the absence of a dedicated legal framework has left them without adequate legal authority. This legislation seeks to rectify this gap, ensuring that the exercise of constitutional rights is supported by clear legal parameters.
The Industrial Relations Bill goes beyond merely recognizing the rights of workers and trade unions. It outlines comprehensive measures to promote these rights, detailing the procedures for establishing employee and employer trade unions. Additionally, the bill provides a structured framework for resolving disputes between employers and employees, addressing a crucial aspect of industrial relations. The legislation delves into various trade union-related details, bringing clarity to an area that was previously lacking specific legal guidance.
Under the act, President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu is mandated to appoint a registrar of unions within 30 days of the bill's ratification. The registrar holds a pivotal role in managing and maintaining the registration of employee and employer trade unions. Beyond administrative responsibilities, the registrar can enforce legal and regulatory measures against unions that breach laws and regulations. This appointment aims to ensure the proper functioning and oversight of trade unions, contributing to a fair and transparent labour landscape.
In order to ensure that existing unions can seamlessly align with the requirements of the new amended legislation, the bill further stipulates that employee and employer trade unions registered under previous laws or regulations must submit an application to the newly appointed Registrar of Unions within three months of the bill's ratification.
The Industrial Relations Bill introduces institutional enhancements, including the formation of an eight-member Tripartite Advisory Board. This board will play a crucial role in advising on matters related to industrial relations, bringing together representatives from the government, employers, and workers. Additionally, the Employment Tribunal is tasked with establishing a dedicated Industrial Dispute Resolution Division, further streamlining the resolution process for industrial disputes.
The ratification of the Industrial Relations Bill marks a transformative moment for labour relations in the country. As the provisions of the bill come into effect, there is anticipation of a more equitable and transparent environment, fostering cooperation between employers and employees for the collective benefit of the workforce and the nation.