Staff at the Windamere Hotel, one of Darjeeling city’s oldest hotels, threatened to go on hunger strike after the property issued a “lockout” notice from next month, citing losses from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Located at Observatory Hill, Windamere is a heritage property and belongs to the colonial era of the 1840s, the hotel being established there around 1939. A member of the hotel staff, Harish Bharati, who has worked there for 13 years, has declared:
âWe have been informed by management that we will not be receiving our salary for the month of June, after which we approached the ALC (Deputy Commissioner of Labor), who called a tripartite meeting today. A message was sent to the ALC indicating that management could not attend today’s meeting and requested a delay of a few days. However, what was even more surprising was that they also sent a notice that the hotel would be locked from July 5th. “
According to Mr. Bharati, there are 45 staff members in the hotel and some of them have been working for 40 years now. He also said that from November of last year to March of this year, they were paid 30 to 40 percent of the salary.
It wasn’t until March and April that they got their full pay, while in May they got 50 percent, he said.
Staff members are also addressing the issue through the CITU union.
“Where will we go from July 5?” We will wait until Thursday when a tripartite meeting is called again by the LAC. If we don’t get a favorable decision, we have no choice but to organize a hunger strike with our family members, âBharati said, adding that the ALC had them too. ensured legal action against management if no decision was made.
Mr Bharati argued that they came up with two options, one being a change of management with the rest of the shareholders coming here to make a decision.
According to them, only one of the hotel’s shareholders lives here. The other option they have come up with is for management to grant them all the rights to which they are entitled.
Hotel management could not be contacted for comment. The lockdown notice, however, read: “Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disease … our hotel has suffered immense hardship and monetary losses for the past year and a half.” He further adds: “â¦ as a result of which we have suffered losses since then and at present the hotel management has entered a financial crisis leading to financial debt.” The notice also states that they have decided to enter a “lockout” mode and temporarily suspend the operation of their business. ââ¦ We plan to provide our hospitality services to our customers once everything returns to normal and tourists start arriving, especially international tourists, and we start receiving bookings,â the notice said.