Asked to converse in English with workmates; foreign workforce alleges bias
15th September 2011: Dubbing as ridiculous a ruling asking the foreign workers to converse in English with their workmates, the foreign workforce primarily from Poland and Latvia has drawn up a petition alleging bias and breaches of human rights.
This follows allegations by foreign workers at a book warehouse. They have blamed their bosses for human rights abuse on the ground of making them converse in English with their workmates.
The packers at the Waterstone’s distribution centre have alleged that they were asked not to conserve in their native tongues during working hours. The reason give out was health and safety. They were also told the use of native tongue could marginalise and isolate their colleagues.
Tory MP David Davies, whose wife Aliz is Hungarian, on the other hand, said it was right to expect the foreign workers to speak English if that was what their managers have decided. It’s a British workplace and English is what should be spoken, he has added
The staffing matters at Waterstone’s are taken care of by logistics firm Unipart. The firm in fact manages the site in Burton, Staffordshire.
A Unipart spokesman said it was important for good clear communication among employees that stringent health and safety standards are maintained and that all employees speak a common language.
Unipart requires all employees to communicate in English during working hours in the workplace. It does not apply during meal and rest breaks. This creates a better team environment and makes sure employees do not feel isolated or marginalised from other employee groups.
A spokesman for the Unite union, Rick Coyle, said it was ridiculous to employ lots of people from other countries whilst insisting they must speak among themselves only in English. Unipart has a lot to learn about human nature and respect.
He insisted about 50 per cent of the 250-strong workforce were east European. The union encouraged people to learn English, but the attitude of managers at the warehouse was over-bearing.