Tourists at luxury resort One and Only Reethi Rah on Sunday found themselves in the middle of a confrontation between employees on strike and riot police when protestors fled into their eating area, it has emerged.
Demonstrators said tourists, who pay over US$1,000 a night to stay at the five star resort, were shocked when a large group entered the guest area after police went to arriest thirteen employees who had been fired.
One of the butlers on the resort, who had joined the strike, said around 50 guests had been eating breakfast when more than 150 of the protesters went to the restaurant.
“We explained the situation to them and stayed for more than one hour. The guests were very upset,” he said. “They said, what is this paradise? We didn’t expect this,” he added.
Foreign employees are currently looking after the 200 or so guests on the island, some of who are paying up to US$5300 per night for a water villa.
Guests have also been informed about recent incidents, according to both protestors and management.
Unofficial reports suggest four guests have left the island, but public relations manager Zannie Leong says she cannot confirm this.
But she admitted the level of services had been difficult to maintain because of a lack of staff.
“I’ve been cleaning rooms. Everybody’s doing their bit to try and keep the service levels smooth,” she told Minivan News on Monday.
Protesting staff said they fled to the resturant after police allegedly used batons and some kind of irritant spray against the group, with the organiser of the protester Ahmed Easa alleging he was beaten while he was arrested.
Police have denied the use of weapons but the human rights commission has said officers did use batons and spray, following a visit to the resort after the clash on Sunday.
Protesting workers meanwhile remain on the island in staff quarters and say they are on hunger strike until their demands are met.
The strike started on Friday morning when around 250 members of staff demanded the transfer of a training manager to another resort.
They have also requested better working conditions and implementation of the recent employment act.
Zannie would not comment on the reasons why the thirteen emplyees were fired, but a statement released mid-strike said that it was temporarily reducing staff due to the labour law.
“Our interests are in support of all employees,” it added.
She says the police were sent out for the safety of the guests at the resort.
In 2007, the resort was voted number one in the world by Conde Nast Traveller magazine’s UK readers.