Shipping company's staffers in Mumbai awaiting salaries since a year

Sep 26, 2017, 13:57 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Even as crew aboard GOL Offshore Ltd's Malvia 7 in Scotland awaits dues and homecoming, company's staffers in Mumbai head office haven't been paid for nearly a year

GOL Offshore Limited's head office on DN Road. Pic/Suresh Karkera
GOL Offshore Limited's head office on DN Road. Pic/Suresh Karkera

It's not just the seafarers (aboard Malvia 7 and other vessels) of GOL Offshore Limited who are in troubled waters. Even the company's 100-odd staffers, including senior management, based at its office near CST haven't got their salaries for over a year.

The company was once amongst the top employee-friendly organisations in the shipping industry and an investor's favourite on the Bombay Stock Exchange, with its share price hovering around Rs 850 until mid-2000. On July 18, it hit its lowest - Rs 10.10.

Staff held ransom
Most of the staffers at the firm's registered head office in Energy House have been associated with it for two to three decades. Last payment to the employees was made in early July 2017, and that was the October 2016 salary. "Dues since November 2016 have been pending and the company has no intention of clearing those," said an insider.

Another said, "Over 30 staffers, who've served their notice period, haven't been given their relieving letters and service certificates. All employees are being arm-twisted by the management to continue service without pay under the threat that they'll lose their gratuity and provident fund (held by a private trust of the firm) if they don't abide by the management's order."

"Those who've been working with the firm for decades are worried about losing their gratuity and PF, which run into lakhs," added the official.

With the office phone lines disconnected due to non-payment of bills, the employees have also lost their perks and even the basic subsidised canteen facility.

Empty bank accounts
Insiders revealed that the company, on books, was showing salaries paid to all employees regularly, and even issuing salary slips till March 2017, but no money has been put in anyone's account.

Income tax deducted at source from the wages, running into crores, too has not been deposited with the I-T department since April 2016. As a result, no employee has been able to file his/her returns for the financial year 2016-17. They have been getting repeated reminders from the I-T department.

"How can I filed my returns when no money is coming into my account?" questioned the insider, adding how all of them were struggling to run their households and make ends meet in this situation.

Beginning of the end
The company was incepted as the offshore division of The Great Eastern Shipping Company Limited by the Sheth family in 1983. In 2005, due to differences, the offshore division parted ways from the parent company and became independent as Great Offshore Limited, headed by Vijay K Sheth, said an industry expert.

The expert added, "Due to financial crisis, Sheth lost his stake and control over the company to P C Kapoor and Vijay Kumar of Bharati Shipyard Limited; it then became GOL Offshore Limited. Bharati Shipyard slowly sunk into debt and is now bankrupt."

To explain the bankruptcy, an insider alleged, Bharati Shipyard forced GOL Offshore to place orders for construction of 22 offshore support vessels and one jack-up oil rig, taking payments from the latter in millions of USD. GOL Offshore was made to draw huge loans from various Indian and overseas financial institutions.

The insider alleged, "Even after receiving advance payment, Bharati Shipyard didn't deliver a single vessel to GOL Offshore, neither did it refund the money."

The oil rig and a few offshore support vessels were, in fact, sold as new deliveries to third parties by Bharati Shipyard, with the money made from the sale never reaching GOL Offshore, he added.

Attempts to reach both GOL Offshore and Bharati Shipyard did not yield any result.

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Erstwhile perks
>> Annual salary package of mid and senior management staff ranging between Rs 75 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore
>> Unlimited hospitalisation cover for employee and entire family
>> Life coverage (incase of death on duty) three times the CTC
>> Complimentary meals for mid and senior management thrice a day
>> Company car scheme ranging between Rs 4 lakh and Rs 30 lakh (with lock-in period of four years), depending on position
>> Free four-night stay in any of the tie-up resorts and hotels
>> Subsided canteen food

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