| In the waiting business
Calcutta, Nov. 1: Great Eastern Hotel has deferred salaries for an indefinite period. At the same time, it has extended by three weeks the October 26 deadline for submission of bids by companies keen on buying the hotel.
In a letter written to employees on October 31, the member-secretary of the hotel said: “ The payment of salaries to Great Eastern Hotel staff for October 2002 will be deferred by a few days under unavoidable circumstances.”
There is no word on when payments will be made, sending ripples of fear and uncertainty among those who work there. The hotel has 440 permanent employees, and around 45 on contract.
“Even retired employees have become panicky over whether they will get their gratuity and other statutory dues,” sources said.
The company spends Rs 35 lakh per month to pay its employees, who receive their salaries on the first or second of a month.
The payment delay — not the first instance in its history — comes at a time when revenues at the cash-strapped hotel have plunged dramatically over the past few months. Of its 200 rooms, 50 are under renovation.
“The occupancy rate has dwindled to 10-15 per cent and there is hardly any effort to boost it,” sources said.
The hotel’s bakery also stopped working today after hospitals that purchased items from it said they would not do so. Suppliers to the state government-owned hotel have gone unpaid for the past four to five months, and their dues are reported to have piled up to Rs 55 lakh.
“This time, the employees are worried because the financial position of the state government is precarious and it is no position to bail it out. The management’s request for a grant-in-aid was turned down by authorities at Writers’ Buildings,” sources said.
It is not clear if the hotel will manage to draw private investors, though a global tender for its sale has been floated.
“We have not received bids from any reputed hotel chain so far. Some showed interest initially but backed out at the last moment. After that, the management decided to extend the deadline for bidders.”