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Employer removes poster: its racial discrimination

Union claims racial discrimination after employer removes poster

The Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) is claiming that union members at Vincentian Home and Hospital in Berhampore, Wellington, have been victims of racial discrimination and racial harassment after their employer removed a Health and Safety poster, written in Samoan, from the staff room wall.

The poster, which has been produced by the Labour Department, says "People Matter - it's about health and safety" and provides information on how to find out more about health and safety at work.

Vincentian Home and Hospital management removed the poster twice from the staff room because "it was not in a language that could be understood by all staff at Vincentian and was potentially culturally offensive," and because the manager "could not understand what the poster was saying or [what it] meant."

"To say it was removed because it could cause cultural offence is ridiculous. The manager never stopped to consider the offence we would take at the poster being removed." Said SFWU Delegate Rita Narendra. "All union members supported the poster, not just Samoan workers."

"Samoan workers here understand the poster fine, and the message gets across better when people are reading it in their first language. Our boss had no right to take that poster down." Said SFWU Delegate Taavili Kalolo.

"The language is important, it means that more of the workers here will understand the message. Does our management want us to be ignorant of these issues? By taking down the poster they are not helping us to work safely and not injure ourselves." Says SFWU Delegate Rita Narendra.

Management also removed a Maori language health and disability rights poster, leaving only the English version. This caused further distress to Maori union members.

The SFWU hope to meet with rest home management in mediation to resolve, amongst other things, the distress caused to the workers. However, if that is not possible, the Union will be pursuing legal action in the Employment Relations Authority.

"It's about our fundamental right to be ourselves and express ourselves in our language" says Rita, "its about respect for who we are".

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