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Taj’s crorepati union boss
The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

Mumbai, July 25: Labour union leaders around the country can eat their hearts out in envy.

Pervez Pestonji Saher (60), a senior laundry operator at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower at Apollo Bunder in Mumbai, is arguably the country’s highest paid union leader.

Saher’s pay packet? A whopping Rs 1.53 crore a year, which is remarkable at a time management contracts have whittled away the power and the influence of workers’ representatives.

Saher has been earning over Rs 1 crore a year since 2006-07, according to data trawled from the annual reports of The Indian Hotels Company Ltd.

Put that in a little more perspective: Saher’s take-home pay (net of taxes) in 2008-09 was Rs 1 crore while Karambir Singh Kang — the general manager of the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers and the man who hit the headlines for valiantly defending the iconic property during the 26/11 terror attacks — gets a pay check of Rs 28.37 lakh a year.

Celebrity chef Hemant Oberoi, the pride of the Taj Mumbai, who joined Indian Hotels in 1974, the same year that Saher got on to the rolls of the company, has a net remuneration of Rs 60.53 lakh per annum.

That’s not all.

Saher earns nearly thrice the amount that Indian Hotels pays Abhijit Mukherjee, executive director of hotel operations and one of the best-known faces of the Taj management. Mukherjee gets a pay check of Rs 55.96 lakh.

Sources say Saher is an old loyalist within the Taj group and has even faced death threats at different points of time in his career.

The Taj management has rewarded the senior operator for standing by the group during some difficult times in his 35-year career with the leading hotel chain. Others say he is powerful because he is the general secretary of the Indian Hotels Company Employees’ Union.

Saher is reticent about his big pay packet. Asked why an SSC-pass laundry operator draws such an astronomical salary, he responds: “Why don’t you talk to the management?”

The Indian Hotels management is also not prepared to explain why a non-management-cadre worker who is placed in the company’s Grade VI — where the salary amounts to a couple of thousand rupees — is paid over Rs 12 lakh a month.

In a terse response, an Indian Hotels spokesperson said: “The figures reported in the annual report reflects the status as on April 1, 2008. The salary details of any employee is internal to the company and we cannot share such details in the public domain.”

Saher is not complaining. It’s not every day that a blue-collar worker is paid far more than a lot of corporate chieftains in the country.

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