The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister in U-turn on Great Eastern staff status
- Tenders floated for takeover

Faced with stiff opposition from 500-odd employees, the government changed its stand almost overnight and said on Tuesday that any of the seven companies shortlisted for a possible takeover of the Great Eastern Hotel will have to “protect the interest of all its employees”. “Those interested in taking over the management of the century-old hotel on a 30-year lease will have to shoulder the responsibility of its employees, without retrenching any of them,” West Bengal minister for tourism Dinesh Dakua announced during the day. “If they (those selected) take over the hotel establishment, including its chairs and tables and other furniture, then why not its employees'” he asked.

Only last week, Dakua had told newspersons at Writers’ Buildings that after the hotel was taken on lease, “the new management would be free to decide on the fate of the employees”. He even went on record saying that the workers might be retrenched or offered a voluntary retirement package. “It is the new management’s problem,” he maintained.

Taken aback by the minister’s statements, Citu, the CPM’s labour arm, which, too, has its union in the hotel, was learnt to have taken up the matter with the highest leadership. The Intuc-controlled workers’ union and the executives’ association in the hotel also opposed the idea and made representations to hotel member-secretary Jagannath Bag.

“The worried employees, who are yet to get last month’s salaries, wanted to know if they face retrenchment after the new management took over the hotel,” Bag said on Tuesday.

The government officially floated the tender papers during the day, which will remain open for two months, till March 28. Those interested can buy the papers after submitting a non-refundable sum of Rs 2 lakh. “We shall finally choose the highest bidder on April 1, after examining the papers submitted by shortlisted companies,” said a senior tourism department official. The Oberoi Grand and a Singapore-based hotel are in the fray.

Those who submit the non-refundable amount will be allowed to inspect the hotel and go through its accounts and balance sheet. Later, the hotel will be handed over to the highest bidder.

However, the employees and executives of the hotel are still uncertain about their future. Against this backdrop, “the workers lack motivation. We have no knowledge about what is going to happen in the months to come,” said Atiar Rahman, secretary of the Intuc-affiliated union.

He said the matter was discussed with mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who is also Intuc president. “We shall launch a movement if attempts are made to retrench a single permanent employee of the hotel,” he warned.

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