In the Maldives, a legal battle between French investors and former employees who claim not to have been paid

Hell in paradise … On the island of Rihiveli, in the Maldives, around twenty employees of a hotel complex have just seized local justice, learned France Télévisions. They believe they have been “exploited” and “wronged” by the company that managed the concession until 2021. A company called “Save the Dream”, half owned by French investors and the other half by local shareholders. The employees, Maldivians, Bangladeshis or French, have not been paid for “fourteen months”assures one of them to France Télévisions.

To understand what is at stake, you have to go back to the love at first sight of a few dozen French people for this island, preserved from mass tourism. In 2018, they joined forces with a company under Maldivian law to found Save the Dream and obtain the operating license.

The waking dream of these nature and diving lovers then turns into a nightmare, as told in April by the newspaper 20 heures de France 2. Relations between associates deteriorate quickly. The French lodge a complaint in the local courts against their local associates. Finances plunge into the red. The financial situation worsened a few weeks later with the closure of the island to tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The staff found themselves on their own”

The legal dispute, still in progress, has had serious consequences for the former employees. During the long months of closure of the island, about twenty people, handlers, gardeners or account managers, had indeed decided at all costs to stay to maintain the site, alongside a Frenchwoman. But for lack of financial income, their salary was not paid from the summer of 2020. It is the delay in payment of this sum, estimated in total at several hundred thousand dollars, that they are claiming today. today.

“We had promises. But the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years. We still haven’t received anything and the staff found themselves on their own after the French left”explains to France Télévisions one of the employees, Séverine Clou. “It’s also a question of recognitioninsists this ex-responsible for managing reservations, based in the Maldives. The French are completely uninterested in our difficulties.”

French investors defend themselves

What commitment did the French party make ? Who is now legally responsible for paying wages ? This will be one of the central points of the case pleaded at the moment before the equivalent of the Maldivian industrial tribunals. “We had sent a document to the employees to explain to them as clearly as possible the situation.defends Christian Kalb, president of Save the Dream France. We are committed to doing our best to pay salaries as soon as the situation clears up. But it was the company Save the dream, and not Save the Dream France, which paid the employees.”

The legal battle around the parent company is still unresolved. In this dispute, the decision of the Maldivian Supreme Court is not expected before spring. The ex-employees are hoping for an agreement between the two parties, which would finally allow their situation to be unblocked and a way out of the non-payment of their salaries.

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