The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt reads hotel riot act

Calcutta, March 15: The government has served an ultimatum to union leaders of the state-run Great Eastern Hotel to accept the Early Retirement Scheme (ERS), whose deadline expires on March 26.

'There is no option before the employees other than accepting the ERS because we won't be able to continue paying their salaries. As a result, the hotel will die a natural death in a matter of three or four months. So it is in the best interest of the workers that we are asking them to accept the scheme. If they don't, they will have much more to lose in future,' state tourism minister Dinesh Dakua said today.

The minister, who held a meeting with representatives from the hotel's two key unions, affiliated to Citu and Intuc, urged them to convince members to accept the ERS and help the hotel authorities expedite the scheme before the deadline. 'The sooner the employees send in applications accepting the offer, the better for us,' Dakua said.

The funds required for the scheme for the hotel's 380 regular and 55 contract employees ' amounting to around Rs 15 crore ' has been offered by the British government's department for international development (DFID) as grant.

'The government doesn't have the money to run the hotel now. Those who have shown interest in the hotel have all said that it must be handed over to them sans the employees,' the minister said.

'We have to draw the DFID funds by March and there won't be any option to even postpone the date. If we delay the process, then we won't get a single rupee. It is now or never,' he added.

The regular employees will get between Rs 2-5 lakh under the scheme.

'Today's meeting was convened with union representatives since none of the hotel employees have so far applied for the scheme. Instead, they are regularly putting up demonstrations demanding its withdrawal. I have informed the government about the prevailing impasse,' said Jagannath Bag, the hotel's member secretary and chief executive.

Union representatives told Dakua that the government must place a condition before the new owners that the present employees be absorbed.

'But this is not possible. The government might suggest that appropriate candidates be appointed. However, we cannot include it as a condition,' the minister said.

The state, which will have a 10 per cent share in the new set-up, will offer training to those deemed fit for re-employment.

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