Laid-off staff say hoteliers taking advantage of their plight

Yeshey Lhadon

Contradicting what their employer’s claim of employees not returning to work, laid off or staff on leave accuse hoteliers of mistreatment, threat and using the Royal Kidu as a bait to keep them working without salary or leave.

Kezang Choden, a reception supervisor, was dumbfounded when she learned that she was terminated without notice.  It was her first job after remaining unemployed for three months. The last chore before she was sent on unpaid leave was when she changed linens and cleaned the hotel after the first batch of quarantine guests left.

“I’d do any job but never again in the hotel industry. I have lost interest,” she said. She accused her employer of mistreating them. She said, “My employer never appreciated our hard work and staff were treated like slaves.”

Moti Lal, a cook in one of the tourist hotels in Thimphu was terminated once. He rejoined after a month when his employer needed him for catering business. “I am working without pay,” he said.  “I turned up for work fearing that I might lose the Kidu if my employer withdraws my name from the Kidu list.” Besides kitchen related works, Moti Lal also did gardening and grass cutting as instructed.

Chhimi Drukpa used to work as a food and beverage manager. She was expelled when she refused to attend birthday parties and mass gatherings organised by the hotel owner. “It was held secretly in the conference hall. It was risky to serve 30 to 40 people as the government didn’t allow mass gatherings, so I didn’t go,” she said.

Kezang Namgay, another staff member said they worked like construction labourers only to be paid half of their monthly salary even before the pandemic. He stated that his employer didn’t have a manager resulting in poor staff management.

Chencho Wangmo was saddened when her employer didn’t pay her for working in a quarantine facility for 21 days. “My employer demanded gratitude towards him for receiving the Kidu because of his hotel business,” she said. She was terminated after she took a day off.

Without salary, most returned to their village. Chencho Wangmo, a back-office staff said her employer only needed a few employees to return to work. “We left for our village because we can’t afford to live in Thimphu and wanted to join once the business picked up,” she said. “Now we are permanently laid off.” Chencho and her colleagues were asked to find jobs, as the employer could not pay the staff. “We didn’t resign voluntarily as our employer has mentioned to the Kidu office,” she said.

Some staff claimed that they were threatened with withdrawing their names from the list the employer submitted for kidu. Chencho Wangmo said, “We are the needy ones and our employer decides whether we are eligible for Kidu when his spouse has been receiving Kidu.”

Many said they are grateful to His Majesty The King for the Royal Kidu they received for three months. Employers are submitting the list of staff laid off to ensure they are ineligible for the second phase of the Kidu. “We have applied, but there is little hope,” said one.

“Kidu is a gift from His Majesty. We would serve our nation instead of working for greedy hotel owners.”

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