It’s official. The management of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) has announced “suspension of operations for the first time in its 174-year-old history”. The 18, Golf Club Road premises slammed its doors shut less than 24 hours after the club’s CEO M.M. Singh and golf course manager Lt. Col Saini (retd) were assaulted by workers, even as the staff union denied having roughed up the officials.
The club’s general committee convened an emergency meeting late on Tuesday, and decided to slap the shutdown notice well after midnight. “The club has taken an extremely serious view of the incident and operations will be suspended indefinitely till a permanent solution is found to the recurring labour problem,” said an RCGC spokesperson.
Speaking to Metro from his south Calcutta hospital bed on Wednesday, CEO Singh, still “dizzy from the blows” rained on him by irate workers, lamented: “This is the first time in the history of the Royal that the management has had to declare a lockout. But there was no alternative.”
The immediate trigger for Tuesday’s trouble was the imposition of a new duty roster. “The club has been losing Rs 7 to 9 lakh every month due to indiscriminate and needless overtime, pilferage and other financial malpractices by the workers. How long can we go on absorbing this burden' The new roster, introducing shifts, was designed to bring in a semblance of discipline,” said an RCGC spokesperson.
The employees’ union, affiliated to Hind Mazdoor Sabha, however, termed the alleged assault a “management ploy to deny the workers their rights”. Satindranath Roychowdhury, president of the workers’ union representing Calcutta clubs, said on Wednesday: “We are against violence and our union members didn’t hit anyone. There was a simple protest against the new work roster. We refused to accept the new service rules without the fulfilment of a charter of demands pending since April 2000. The management has not kept any of its commitments to the workers.”
If the immediate fallout will be felt by all those who start their day on the RCGC greens, the grand 175th-year celebrations and mega expansion plans lined up for next year could also take a beating if the lockout lingers. And the long-term impact could be on the city’s image and industrial prospects, what with the fairways emerging as a perfect foil for business. “The role of image in bringing in investment has assumed tremendous importance these days. The state has often lost out because of its poor image. The RCGC incident is another blow to the city’s image,” admitted a senior government official.
With murmurs of ‘mismanagement’ at the Royal doing the rounds of the club circuit, a combined meeting of general and balloting committee members and past captains has been convened on May Day to combat the crisis.