[lg policy] UK: Acas called in over depot's ban on foreign languages
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Fri Sep 16 13:55:43 UTC 2011
Acas called in over depot's ban on foreign languages
by KATIE BOWLER
UNION leaders are hoping to call in national mediators to settle a
dispute over the introduction of an ‘English language only’ rule at a
Burton distribution depot. Waterstones distribution hub in BurtonAs
exclusively revealed by the Mail yesterday, the Waterstone’s
Distribution Centre, in Centrum 100, has banned its foreign workers
from speaking their native languages during working hours.
The policy was introduced as another row continues over the firm
introducing new pay deals, which could affect up to 120 workers.
A grievance hearing was due to take place yesterday between Unite
union representatives and bosses at Unipart, which operates the
warehouse for the national book retailer, at a venue near the
warehouse. Rick Coyle, a spokesman for Unite union, said: “I turned up
for the meeting and was told it was supposed to be on Tuesday, and
they thought I just failed to turn up. This wasn’t the case.
“Unipart has, however, agreed to reschedule the meeting for next week
and the date is yet to be confirmed.”
In light of the policy, the foreign workforce, which mainly consists
of Poles and Latvians, have started a petition to hand to Unipart
chiefs, claiming discrimination and breaches of their human rights.
Mr Coyle, who previously blasted the policy as ‘ridiculous’ and
claimed ‘Unipart has a lot to learn about human nature and respect’,
added: “The petition is ongoing and there are still workers who want
to support it before it is handed over.
“In the meantime, I have contacted Acas and made them aware of the two
issues. Acas will be contacting Unipart to see if they will talk to
them as well as Unite.”
Unipart, however, defended its English language policy and said it was
implemented for ‘health and safety reasons’. The company claims it
also creates a better workforce environment and ensures employees do
not feel isolated or marginalised from other employee groups.
It also said the rules only apply during working hours and not while
the foreign employees are on breaks.
Meanwhile, a second battle is ongoing between staff and management
over new contracts which could see workers pay cut by up to £1.50 an
The Unipart spokesman previously said: ‘New terms and conditions for
all new full-time and short-term agency employees have been introduced
and are in line with the minimum wage.
“After a six-month probationary period, employees are given a salary
increment which takes their salary above the minimum wage.
‘These new conditions were agreed with our employee forum before introduction.
“We have also announced that we will be taking on 40 new full-time
employees at the site and have offered 26 threemonth, fixed-term
contracts on the new terms to existing agency employees, to cover the
increase in workload over the Christmas period.”
Mr Coyle said: “The new Government regulations were designed to ensure
agency workers get fair treatment, not pay cuts.
“Cuts of around £1.50 per hour are sickening, and run the risk of
bringing the good name of Waterstone’s into disrepute.”
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