COVID-19: Chennai hotels fear losses as new restrictions kick in, migrant workers begin to leave
CHENNAI: The new round of restrictions and the rise in the number of cases due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing migrant workers to rethink on whether to continue working or return to their home states.
Tamil Nadu Hotels Association President M Venkadasubbu told The New Indian Express that it is difficult to retain migrant workers with the new phase of restrictions announced by the state government to combat the lockdown. As the government has asked that only 50 per cent of workers should continue, many migrant workers are now preferring to return.
He said already a sizable workforce was lost during the first lockdown and these workers did not return as the travel, tourism and hospitality sector is yet to recover from the COVID-19 impact.
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It is learnt that nearly 25 percent of railway restaurants and 10 percent of city restaurants have been shut following the impact of the first lockdown and Venkadasubbu predicts that the second phase of restrictions if continued would impact another 50 per cent of hotels which are struggling to survive.
"We are having only 50 per cent of sales as people are still afraid to venture out. If the lockdown continues, our sales could be reduced to only 35 per cent," he says.
He also rues that the government is not taking any initiative in waiving water tax or property tax for the hotel industry which is struggling to survive. "They are also charging a GST of 18 per cent on the rents," he says.
He said that all hotel workers have been vaccinated and they are adhering to the COVID-19 norms by wearing masks and spraying disinfectants. He says the new restrictions could impact the movement of hotel workers as there is no clarity on the announcement. He said hotel workers must be treated on par with health workers so that their movement doesn't get affected during Sundays when the total lockdown comes into being.
Meanwhile, construction sites are not impacted due to the new wave of restrictions. Builders Association of India state secretary S Rama Prabhu told The New Indian Express that as of now there is no fear among migrant workers. "We may see the impact of new restrictions by the end of this week," says Prabhu.
However, some migrant workers working for a construction firm say that salaries are not being paid in time. A section of workers had approached the police station complaining against a contractor hired by a reputed developer for not paying wages for a month or two. Pradeep, a construction worker, says that the workers have been working for three months and have been paid only one month's salary. "All the money we get is spent over here and we are unable to send it to our dependents," he says.
S Sridharan, chairman, Urban Development/ Affordable Housing Committee, Credai National, told The New Indian Express that the lockdown on Sundays could impact the realty sector as client visits to the site would get affected. He said there is no large exodus from migrant workers from the construction sector.
“We are taking care of the migrant workers and have urged them not to fear. “We are also trying to vaccinate workers above 45 at the sites,” he said.