New Delhi: Sixty-six employees of the elite Delhi Golf Club have been laid off due to pressures on earning amid the coronavirus lockdown, the management of the club said. The club is one of India’s most exclusive ones, with a waiting list of up to 25 years.
The members include top bureaucrats such as Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and politicians such as Rajiv Pratap Rudy, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and former cricketer Kapil Dev. In the past, Congress leader Kamal Nath, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and BJP leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad and Arun Jaitley were also members of the club.
“It is a big problem for us. I am the sole bread-earner and have lost my job. I will have to turn into a beggar on the street with a bowl,” said Rafique Ahmed, 45, a waiter who has been laid off along with 65 others.
Many of the 59 kitchen staff members and seven managers who have been laid off held a protest on Sunday outside the club, demanding that they should be given their jobs back.
While Rafique made Rs 50,000 a month, kitchen supervisor Ravi Pande, 53, earned Rs 80,000 a month and had been working here for 26 years. He is worried about his three teenage daughters.
“They have thrown me out and for a year I won’t get a job anywhere in such bad economic conditions. How will I bring up my kids in such a situation? They will starve,” said Mr Pande.
When the retrenchment was being considered, former Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who is also a member of the club, had opposed the move and in a letter to the club’s president he said, “In the face of COVID-19, when the country is faced with a crisis of biblical proportions, should we move in this direction? At this time the staff will not gain any employment.”
While the employees claimed the management did not inform them well in advance about the sackings, the management said the employees had been getting extremely high wages and refused to negotiate when revenues dipped.
“Unfortunately, the food and beverages services have been losing consistently and the main reason is the extremely high wages that we have been paying out to the staff as a result of a major wage agreement that we entered into in 2015,” said Delhi Golf Club president Major RS Bedi.
“In the last five years, we have lost about Rs 5 crore. We tried to tell the employees throughout that they needed to understand financial distress, but I think that there was absolutely no understanding of our situation. We negotiated for a month, but they were not at all ready for pay cuts,” Major Bedi said.
“Now going forward, in terms of a compensation package, we have made a payment of a total Rs 11 crore to the 66 employees. The highest pay-out is about Rs 39 lakh and it averages at about Rs 15-16 lakh per person. So we actually have put that kind of money into the pockets of the staff,” the club’s president said.