The Ministry of Human Resources, Employment and Labour has opened registration for workers’ and employers’ unions under the newly ratified Industrial Relations Act. This move follows the ratification of the legislation in January and marks a crucial step in redefining industrial relations in the country.

The Industrial Relations Act establishes comprehensive guidelines for the formation and operation of workers’ associations and trade unions, underscoring the right to strike, express opinions, and form unions as constitutionally guaranteed rights. This legislative framework aims to balance the dynamics between employers and employees, ensuring that both parties engage in fair and regulated negotiations.

A pivotal aspect of the Act is the introduction of a structured mechanism for industrial actions. It mandates that any such action, including strikes, must be approved by a majority through a secret ballot among union members. Unions failing to comply with this democratic requirement are subject to fines ranging from MVR 5,000 to MVR 50,000, emphasising the law’s strict stance against unauthorised strikes.

Employers are also brought under the purview of this Act, which requires them to be notified 48 hours in advance of any planned industrial action. This provision aims to mitigate sudden disruptions and foster a preparedness that facilitates smoother negotiations between the parties involved.

The Act further strengthens the legal framework for collective bargaining, requiring negotiations to commence within 30 days from the submission of a proposal. Importantly, it prohibits unions from striking during these negotiations, ensuring that dialogue continues without the pressure of industrial action. Once negotiations conclude, the resulting agreements are deemed legally binding, reinforcing the seriousness and formality of the negotiation process.

The governance of these regulations is overseen by the Registrar of Unions, appointed by the President, who holds the responsibility for registering new unions and maintaining compliance with the law. Additionally, the Act establishes a Director General of Industrial Relations and introduces a Tripartite Advisory Board and an Industrial Dispute Resolution Division at the Employment Tribunal, enhancing the regulatory framework and ensuring disputes are resolved in accordance with established legal norms.

This legislative overhaul signifies a major development in the labour laws of the Maldives, aiming to create a more organised and equitable industrial environment. By formalising the processes around industrial actions and collective bargaining, the Act not only protects the rights of workers but also provides a stable and predictable framework for employers, ultimately contributing to a more harmonious industrial climate.