Wales: Language campaigners to stage Tesco protest

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Aug 8 18:40:13 UTC 2007

Language campaigners to stage Tesco protest

Aug 7 2007

by Rhodri Clark, Western Mail

Call for own-brand packaging to be bilingual as activists claim stores
have ousted shops where Welsh was spoken WELSH-LANGUAGE campaigners
will this week demand that supermarket giant Tesco uses Welsh on the
packaging of all its own-label goods and in tannoy announcements. On
Thursday, members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg will protest outside
the Tesco store in Mold and then march to the National Eisteddfod, a
mile from the town centre, carrying what they regard as evidence of a
"token policy" for recognising Welsh.

They say supermarkets have a duty to use more Welsh because they have
displaced many local shops across Wales where people used to be able
to do their shopping in Welsh.

But Tesco says it is a strong supporter of Welsh and already has
bilingual in-store announcements at some of its supermarkets.

Tesco and many other retail chains in Wales display their permanent
signs bilingually, but Cymdeithas yr Iaith has drawn up a list of
demands which includes:

Welsh on packaging, starting with own-label goods and produce from Wales;

Welsh on temporary signs and posters;

Promotional leaflets in Welsh and English throughout;

Tannoy announcements in stores to be in Welsh as well as English; and

Offering language training for staff, to create a bilingual workforce.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith veteran Ffred Ffransis speaking at the Maes
yesterday said that Morrisons had already agreed to try bilingual
tannoy announcements at one store. If the public reaction was
favourable, the policy would be rolled out across its Welsh stores.

Morrisons had promised a response on the society's other demands by the autumn.

"In June we asked Tesco if they will match Morrisons," he said. "They
haven't replied, so we've given them the benefit of the doubt.

"Perhaps they need more evidence that there's a problem. We're
collecting evidence – leaflets and promotional banners.

"There's a special responsibility on Morrisons and Tesco because
they've displaced many local shops where the service would have been
in Welsh.

"We're not going to stop until there's complete use of Welsh. We're
saying to Morrisons, it's not enough to just have permanent signs in

He said Tesco and Morrisons had previously promised to do the "token
things" such as bilingual permanent signs.

"They're important," he said, "They're symbolic. You do them once and
they're there for ever.

"But if that's all they do, it continues this prejudice that English
is the language of real life in Wales. We've said they have to do the
important things in Welsh."

He said other supermarkets would follow if one took a lead on the issue.

A Tesco spokesman said, "Tesco is a strong supporter of the Welsh
language with bilingual signage in stores across Wales.

"We've even a bilingual store announcer in a small number of stores
and hope this will inspire others.

"Tesco has also worked with the Welsh Language Board over many years
to further develop the use of Welsh and note their endorsement of
clear guidance on language use in the workplace."

The Tesco store in Pontardawe, near Swansea, began bilingual
public-address announcements after a visitor from North Wales
complained that they were in English only.

The announcements were so popular with shoppers that the company was
given an award by the local Menter Iaith (language initiative).

Mr Ffransis, who lives in Carmarthenshire, said Morrisons had 8,000
own-brand products, which could easily be labelled in Welsh for sale
in stores in Wales.

"We also want to see Welsh on promotional leaflets that change every
week, saying what's on special offer."

He said supermarkets would have to set up bespoke distribution
operations for Wales to ensure their Welsh stores received bilingual
packaging and marketing material.

He did not believe this would damage the environment by increasing food miles.

"Morrisons have a distribution centre in Newtown, which is very
central for Wales. It needs developing."

Welsh distribution centres would create jobs in Wales, he added.

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