The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eight steps towards Royal reopening

The employee-management stand-off at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) is still on, but the first sign of a compromise was spotted on Friday, when eight employees availed of the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) offered by the management this week.

This is just the start for the age-old golf club trying to get back on track, while reeling under the combined effects of labour trouble and dwindling revenues. But it is the end of the fairways for at least a section of its employees, some of whom have taken the last bow with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Take Samir Basu, loyal employee for the past 40 years. In charge of the club’s liquor department, Basu was due to retire in a few months, but was given an extension for another six. “I have got a lot of respect, love and help from everyone at the club. But money is the one thing they weren’t very helpful about at all,” rues the man, soon to turn 60. With a very low salary, he depended on overtime wages. “But three months before the trouble began, they stopped overtime payments,” recalls the union man. For him, VRS at this point is profitable, but also bittersweet.

Talks are still on to settle the impasse peacefully and quickly. The south Calcutta club has been shut since April 30, after union displeasure took a violent turn. Though the members have been accommodated across other city clubs, the 174-year-old RCGC is bleeding.

“We want to reopen as soon as possible,” says RCGC captain Asit Luthra. The VRS pay-outs will amount to around a crore, if the targeted figure of 60-70 staffers take the bait. After that, efforts will be on to bring in more revenue through alternative sources. So far, RCGC has been positioned as a sporting destination alone, with golf as its main attraction. “But now, we have to bring in wives and families to survive,” admits Luthra, looking ahead.

Amongst suggestions from members to bring in more funds is a reallocation of vacant land on the greens for social activities, creating space for shops and opening up a night-club.

The management feels the Royal is overstaffed, with, till Friday, 178 on its rolls. After the one-month VRS offer, the club hopes to upgrade infrastructure with a smaller workforce.

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