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Over 300 employees working at the World Duty Free (WDF) at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayaka have been told to ‘close shop and go home until further notice,’ the Nation reliably learnt.

WDF had vacated the premises on Tuesday (14) after failing to secure the space they were operating from at the first round of bidding. According to reports, this is the first time that bids had been called for by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation to choose the operator. Five operators had submitted bids. Flemingo had made the best offer to pay a 40% concession fee.

The employees are however hopeful that at least WDF (Dufry Company) will be able to secure Departure Restricted Area Concession space 2 (3,060 sq.ft) and Arrival Restricted Area Concession space 2 (2,665 sq.ft) at the second round of bidding. This space however is smaller in area than what was secured by Flemingo.

“We were told to go home until further notice,” said an employee at WDF on the grounds of anonymity. “We will be paid the salary until the matter is resolved, but what we’re hoping for is a solution to the matter so we can go about business as usual,” he added.

The employee said that some members of the staff had spoken to President Maithripala Sirisena regarding the matter, but his response was not a positive one. “He said that he can’t do anything about it,” the frustrated staffer charged.

“We hear through the grapevine that the bidding process was anyway not transparent and was carried out giving Flamingo undue advantage over other bidders,” claimed another employee who identified himself as Fernando.

“Managements have changed before too but this is the first time it had put employees in a state of chaos.”

When contacted by the Nation, Saman Ediriweera, Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited (AASL) declined to comment on the matter.

World Duty Free has been present in Sri Lanka since 1996.