In what could be a turning point in the 79-day impasse at Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), the management has decided to offer a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to its agitating staff. Operations were suspended from the midnight of April 29-30 for the first time in the history of the oldest golf club in the world outside the British Isles, following labour trouble.
“We have opened a VRS offer from Friday, and hope the impasse will be resolved soon,” RCGC captain Asit Luthra told Metro. The 178-strong workforce is being offered “35 days’ salary for every year of service rendered” and “25 days’ pay for each year of service left, plus regular dues” as the VRS package.
The gates of the golf club had slammed shut after CEO M.M. Singh and course manager Lt-Col Saini (retd) were allegedly assaulted by irate staff on the premises. The workers were demanding a 150 per cent pay hike and resisting a new duty roster, among other issues.
“The club lost Rs 99-lakh worth of revenue last year, and there is no way we can afford such a steep hike in wages. We hope to get a good response to the VRS offer, which can pave the way for a quick reopening,” Luthra said.
Even if the club does reopen in a hurry, it should take “around two weeks” for the 18-hole, 7,200-yard course to be made playable, say officials, provided there has been no major act of vandalism on the greens since the court debarred entry. But it should take “30 to 40 days” for all club facilities to return to normal, they added.
The RCGC management, which hopes 60-70 workers will accept the VRS, has already had three rounds of tripartite talks with the staff union and the labour commissioner. “Things are looking up and we are at least working together now. Everybody realises that Royal should reopen as soon as possible for the best interests of all and we hope the stalemate will be broken soon,” the captain added.
Across Deshapran Sashmal Road, Tollygunge Club had offered a similar VRS package to its agitating staff in mid-May and the management is “happy with the response”.
Tolly is where some of the 1,300-odd Royal members (minus the outstation count) are now being forced to take their tee. Others have had to settle for the nine-hole Fort William Golf Club. “It’s just not the same thing,” is the common complaint among RCGC members. “We hope things are resolved and we can return to our greens,” is the collective plaint.
For non-golfing club facilities, the Royal members have spread out all over town — Tollygunge Club and CC&FC, Bengal Club and Calcutta Club, Saturday Club and Punjab Club.
But for the Royal family, for whom the club has almost been a second home, the rest can be no more than second best.