McDonalds bans community languages

October 29, 2010

McDonalds bans community languages

Sue Bolton, Melbourne

Global burger chain store McDonalds has banned its employees in Australia from speaking languages other than English while on duty.

Employees in Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs were told of the order by senior management figures at special regional paid training sessions.

Management is claiming that the ban is needed to protect the “equal rights” of customers who, they claim, are feeling “left out” when employees speak languages other than English at work. Any worker caught speaking a language other than English at McDonalds restaurants can have their employment terminated.

Some teenage employees of McDonalds have called the ban racist.

These teenagers are concerned that McDonalds employees from different ethnic backgrounds will be unable to help non-English speaking customers in their restaurants in case they get the sack.

Even talking about this ban could cause these workers to lose their jobs under rules that ban workers speaking out against McDonalds’ well-known socially and environmentally questionable practices. Distributing written material at work could also result in workers being sacked.

Another recent example of McDonalds’ attitude to diversity was the suspension of a teenage worker for dying her hair red. The worker was sent home without pay and was told not to resume work until her hair returned to its former unnatural shade of blonde.

A fortnight later, when her semi-permanent hair colour had faded down to pink, McDonalds threatened to sack the worker if she didn’t immediately re-dye her hair in a shade more acceptable to management and return to work.

A trade unionist friend of the worker rang the restaurant manager and mentioned unfair dismissal legislation. The threat was subsequently withdrawn, but the worker is still not allowed to return to work with pink hair.

McDonalds pressures high school students to take on the heaviest workloads to reduce its wages bill.

While publicly maintaining that McDonalds has a responsible student policy and respects extra-curricular activities, the everyday experience of teenage workers at McDonalds is that they are heavied by management to increase their shift availability.

This pressure causes some students to reduce their involvement in family and social activities, household chores and homework in an effort to please management and keep their jobs.

McDonalds is a major employer of secondary students at some suburban government schools.

Teachers at schools where many students work for chain stores sometimes remark that academic standards are slipping because their students face economic pressures to work longer hours.

Students often find other forms of part-time work hard to come by. Teenagers are also under pressure to build up a resume of work experience to help them into jobs when they leave school and enter the full-time work-force.

Employers will often preference young job seekers who have spent time working for McDonalds because of its sales culture.

Anti-discrimination and unfair dismissal legislation should be invoked to stop McDonalds’ attacks on diversity through its threats to sack workers who dye their hair or speak languages other than English.

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