'No foreign languages in the loo', Cochlear workers told

News

'No foreign languages in the loo', Cochlear workers told

A claim that foreign-born workers at the Cochlear hearing implant factory in Sydney can't even speak their own language in the toilet has today been referred to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

A claim that foreign-born workers at the Cochlear hearing implant factory in Sydney can't even speak their own language in the toilet has today been referred to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.

AMWU State Secretary, Paul Bastian said workers had been told that if they were caught speaking any language other than English they would lose their performance bonus.

Lodging anti-discrimination claim

He said Cochlear workers and the AMWU would lodge a claim with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board today (Wednesday). More than half of the company's 260-strong workforce come from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Bastian said even employees heard speaking languages other than English in bathrooms and change-rooms would be failed in performance reviews.

Going too far

'There is a balance between ensuring the workplace is safe and imposing unreasonable constraints on workers in their own time,' he said. 'But to enforce an English-only edict in the loo is taking things too far.'

The allegations are expected to exacerbate an ongoing wage dispute between management and the 260 Cochlear employees, who want the union to represent them. Bastian said the workers had twice voted against a non-union agreement but have been given until 5 November to accept individual contracts from management or 'not turn up to work'.

Cochlear Chief Executive, Chris Roberts told ABC radio he was unaware of any threat to pay increases if workers spoke a foreign language on the job.

English-only policy

He also said the company had had an English-only policy for years - at the request of migrant workers.

'Because these people are working in teams (and) building things that are going to be implanted in people's heads, the workers themselves requested English be spoken,' Roberts said. 'And some years back, we instituted language classes at our cost and on our time, run by local TAFE courses, that more than two-thirds of our workers would have taken advantage of.'

Blame it on WorkChoices

However, Bastian blamed the situation on the Federal Government's industrial relations laws, which he said had given employers an unfounded sense of latitude when imposing workplace rules.

'The Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation has created a culture where employers think they can do what they want, and in this case Cochlear workers have been caught in the cross wires,' Bastian said.

Related

Cochlear turns deaf ear to workers' demands

Cochlear workers to grab shareholders by the ear on pay deal
 

 

Post details