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Labour pangs at Great Eastern

Calcutta, Dec. 15: The Bengal government-owned Great Eastern Hotel is heading towards labour trouble due to non-payment of salaries of its 475 workmen and executives.

The Great Eastern Hotel management has already written to the state government to treat it as a government undertaking and provide the necessary financial assistance to clear the salaries. “We have written to the government for an aid of Rs 3 crore to continue the hotel’s operations. But till date we have not received any communication from the government on this issue. It is also not clear when we will get our salaries,” Great Eastern officials said.

Atiar Rahman, secretary of the Intuc-affilated Great Eastern Staff and Workers Association said, “The state government is indifferent about non-payment of salaries. We are trying to keep the workers in control, but how long will they work without a salary' If we do not get any assurance we may have to take recourse to agitation.” Intuc is the majority union at Great Eastern Hotel. The hotel management has to arrange Rs 40 lakh to pay its workers and executives.

“There are hardly any funds with the management,” officials said. A notice issued by the member secretary of the hotel on December 2 also stated, “The payment of salary of the staff of this organisation for the month of November will be delayed for want of funds.”

There is no word on when payments will be made, sending ripples of fear and uncertainty among the employees.

“The financial position of the state government is precarious and it is no position to bail out. It is not clear whether the government will turn down the grant-in-aid proposal send by the hotel management,” they say.

Efforts were made to reach Dinesh Dakua, state tourism minister on the matter. But he was not available for comment.

Business at Great Eastern Hotel has come down to a minimum. “Occupancy varies between 15–20 per cent. With such a low rate of occupancy, the survival of the hotel is questionable. The operations of the hotel cannot generate the revenues required to meet the administrative expenses and the salaries of the workers,” the officials said.

The move to privatise the hotel has also proved futile.

The government had floated tenders inviting bids to privatise the hotel. The tenders, which closed on December 7, drew an extremely poor response.

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