The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rumble of unrest in hotel union ranks

Calcutta, Jan. 5: The Citu leadership today stepped in to placate its belligerent ranks at Great Eastern Hotel so that the state government can push through an early retirement scheme for over 400 employees.

'We, as a union, have no problem with such a scheme if it is implemented protecting the employees' interests,' Citu president Shyamal Chakraborty said.

'The decision is not an isolated development... it comes as part of the government's efforts to revive over 20 sick units,' Chakraborty, also a former transport minister, said.

Chakraborty and other senior Citu leaders, like Rajdeo Goala, said they would first seek a clarification from the government regarding the package. 'We cannot think of a hardline (stance) at this point as we do not have substantial knowledge of the scheme' there cannot be an agitation on the basis of a discussion with certain officials,' the leaders said.

Government representatives yesterday asked three hotel unions ' Intuc, Citu and Jay Mazdoor Forum'to prepare their members to accept the package. This is the fourth time in nine years that the state has tried privatising Great Eastern.

The Citu leadership is worried about the critical response of its Great Eastern unit at yesterday's meeting.

Pijush Kanti Roychowdhury, the working president of Citu-controlled Great Eastern Hotel Employees' and Workers' Union, seemed combative. 'We shall start resisting the scheme from next week. As far as we are concerned, the package is nothing much, it offers only paltry sums to the employees. We can't allow the management to play with the lot of innocent employees,' he said.

A general body meeting of the union will be held tomorrow to discuss the future course of action.

Observers feel Roychowdhury is playing the cat's paw for the Citu's hawks and for a section in the Calcutta district committee of the CPM, which met today and discussed possible resistance to the government's move.

The Intuc-backed Great Eastern Hotel Staff and Workers' Association has also echoed the Citu. 'We are opposed to privatisation of the hotel and the package for its employees,' said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who is the state Intuc president.

He had a rider though. 'We shall think about launching an agitation only if we find that the scheme does not protect the employees' interests.'

Principal secretary in the tourism department A.K. Patnaik, who attended yesterday's meeting, however, stood by the state's plan.

'It is a government decision and employees have to abide by it,' he said.

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