The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tide turns at Great Eastern Hotel

Calcutta, Oct. 2: Deviating from its earlier stand, the Great Eastern Hotel Staff and Workers’ Association said only privatisation can revive the hotel, make it viable and secure the future of employees.

The Intuc-affiliated union, the largest in the hotel, said the process of privatisation should be transparent and employees should join talks with potential buyers.

Earlier, the union had opposed Bengal’s move to hand over the hotel to Accor Asia Pacific. The resistance was sparked by the lack of transparency in the deal and a perceived short shrift to job security.

Ramen Pandey, the working president of Indian National Food & Drinks Workers’ Federation, said at the eleventh conference of the Food and Drinks Workers’ Federation here today that the average monthly expenditure in running the hotel is around Rs 70 lakh, while the average revenue is around Rs 55 lakh. That makes the deficit Rs 15 lakh.

“In the context of the acute fund crunch being faced by the state government, there is no other alternative but to privatise the hotel,” Intuc union representatives said.

However, employees feel the state government has no intention to privatise the hotel or run it professionally. Atiar Rahman, general secretary of the union, said talks with ICICI for a Rs 8-crore loan continue even as there are plans for a global tender to privatise.

“The hotel can become commercially viable, provided there is proper planning. If that is done, there will be no shortage of private partners,” employees say. “It appears that the government is confused over steps to be taken to turn around the hotel,” he added.

The unions allege that the hotel fell on hard times because of wrong decisions, mismanagement, lack of funds and lack of marketing.

“Tourism minister Dinesh Dakua met members and expressed his desire to revitalise the hotel with the help of unions. Union members agreed to the proposal, discharging their responsibilities earnestly. The unions have refrained from putting pressure on the management for their demands in the hotel’s interests,” Rahman said.

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