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Citu heads wash hands of hotel war

Calcutta, April 13: The state Citu leadership today made it clear that it would not support its affiliated union at Great Eastern Hotel in its fight against the state government's move to privatise the 165-year-old establishment.

The Citu leadership has so far been silent on the issue.

'We will not offer any assistance to them and neither will we support their agitation. They will have to fight their own battle. We can only request them to accept the ERS (early retirement scheme) offered by the government,' said state Citu president Shyamal Chakraborty.

He admitted that the union has every right to oppose the government's move. 'But I am talking to you on behalf of the state Citu leadership and I am advising the hotel unit to accept the government's ERS package. If they don't accept the package, we will not take any responsibility,' said Chakraborty, who is also member of the CPM's central committee.

Citu leader and member of the CPM's Calcutta district secretariat, Rajdeo Goala, who is spearheading the campaign at the hotel, refused to comment on Chakraborty's statement. 'I will have to talk to Shyamal Chakraborty first before making any comment,' Goala said.

The state government had initiated the move to privatise the hotel in 1996 when Jyoti Basu was chief minister. The government had at that time tried to hand it over to hotel chain Accor Asia Pacific. Since then, the Citu-affiliated union has been up in arms.

But with those at the Citu helm openly backing the government's move and distancing themselves from its affiliate, the government will find it easier to go ahead with its plan.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's has apparently sought the Citu leadership's help in privatising the hotel. He reportedly told the leaders that they should not oppose the move as the government is offering a sound financial package to each employee.

The matter was discussed at the CPM state conference at Kamarhati in February and Bhattacharjee got the thumbs up from the party's central leadership during the recent party congress in Delhi.

The retirement scheme also made headway today when two more employees picked up ERS forms on member-secretary Jagannath Bag ' the first time they have done so from the hotel premises. 'The employees came to him separately, were in a great hurry to somehow pick up the forms, hide them and leave,' a senior government official said.

All other forms ' 10 have been taken so far 'were picked up from the counter at 2 Brabourne Road, the tourism directorate office. Six forms have been submitted.

The last date for applying for the ERS scheme is April 18. Tourism secretary T.K. Barman said forms will be available at the hotel for the next three days, although they are public holidays. The Brabourne Road counter will be closed.

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