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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Acas called in after foreign language ban at Waterstones’ distribution depot


Unions at Waterstone’s distribution centre in Burton-on-Trent have contacted Acas after foreign staff were banned from speaking in their native languages during working hours.

According to the Burton Mail, Unipart, which operates the warehouse for the book retailer, introduced its ‘English language only’ rule for “health and safety reasons”. It claimed that the move created a better workforce environment and ensured that the wider workforce did not feel isolated or marginalised by other employee groups.
Workers employed at the depot are mainly Polish and Latvian. They have started up a petition to hand to Unipart bosses, claiming discrimination and breaches of their human rights.
Rick Coyle, a spokesman for the Unite union, blasted the new policy as “ridiculous”, claiming that Unipart had “a lot to learn about human nature and respect”.
He is due to meet the firm for discussions next week, after a Tuesday meeting had to be rescheduled. “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," Coyle said.
The second issue relates to an ongoing battle between staff and management over new agency worker contracts that could see temps’ pay being cut by up to £1.50 an hour.
A Unipart spokesman said that the new conditions, which had been agreed with the company’s employee forum before introduction, meant that, after a six-month probationary period, personnel would be given a salary increment that took their pay above the National Minimum wage.
But Coyle said: “The new Government regulations were designed to ensure agency workers get fair treatment, not pay cuts. Cuts of around £1.50 an hour are sickening and run the risk of bringing the good name of Waterstone’s into disrepute.”
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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