Syces strike puts Winter Derby in jeopardy

Stablehands, racing authorities fail to reach wage agreement

New Derby week, same old story. After the Kingfisher Summer Derby in July had to be postponed by a week, it is now looking increasingly likely that the Winter Derby, scheduled to be held on Republic Day, will meet with the same fate.

Syces have struck again, leading to another uncertain scenario. The stablehands rejected the wage increase offered by the Karnataka Trainers’ Association, the Karnataka Race Horse Owners’ Association and the Bangalore Turf Club in a meeting held on Tuesday evening, in the process increasing the likelihood of the Derby being postponed or even cancelled.

“We offered them Rs 6,200 per month. Which is very similar to what is given in Hyderabad,” a senior member of the KTA told Deccan Herald. “We even offered them an extra incentive of Rs 100 for every other horse they tend to. But unfortunately they are refusing to budge from their demand of Rs 9,000 per month.

“The syces generally work eight hours a day and 70 percent of the time they get the opportunity to work with a second horse, despite that they are refusing to back down from their demands,” he added.

Asked if the Derby was under threat, the source said: “As it stands, it looks extremely unlikely the Derby will go ahead on schedule.”

The syces, who were represented by the general secretary of their union HG Anandanaiah during the meeting, also refused to take out the horses for excercise. It is also undestood that the pre-Derby favourite Southern Bay, winner of the Bangalore Oaks earlier this month, has pulled out due to the uncertainty and may instead take part in the Hyderabad Derby on Sunday.

The issue had first cropped up before the Kingfisher Derby, with the syces demanding an increase in their wages. After the parties involved were unable to come to an agreement, the Derby was postponed by a week.

The Mysore season consequently also suffered with two race days cancelled after the syces, whose demands were still not met, refused to load the Bangalore-based horses to Mysore.

A compromise agreement was reached wherein it was decided that talks will be held after the Mysore season, so that races would not be put in jeopardy. Unfortunately, months after, no solution has been found and the syces, after growing increasingly frustrated, have decided to take the drastic step yet again.

“We have not been as inactive as some people might think. We are setting up a society, in the mould of the one in Mumbai, wherein all the wage demands and the provident fund issues can be sorted out,” Srinivas Gowda, Chairman of the BTC, said.

“We offered them a salary on par with Hyderabad, but unfortunately they haven’t got back to us and seem to want a lot more than is possible.”

The BTC is to host the Blue Riband of the Indian Calendar -- The Invitation Cup -- in March and unless the matter is sorted out quickly, even that event could come under a cloud.

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