I am writing to you after reading the article you published in your newspaper about a company in New Zealand and its policy about workers speaking foreign languages in the workplace. I wish to take this opportunity to express my personal opinion.
First of all, I would like to say that I totally agree with the stamen that the employer has adopted a Speak-English-Only policy at work because he has a justifiable business reason for it. As I see it, the manufacture company has a non-discriminatory business reason for this rule, such as health and safety concerns, to ensure a high level of control with an effective communication during the manufacture of medical laboratory supplies.
On the other hand, the rule doesn’t require speaking English in the workplace at all times because the company has offered a separate lunchroom for those who want to speak another language during lunch breaks.
And I think there is a good idea that the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it by a written memory.
Secondly, I would like to mention that the request of the company to speak English during breaks and lunch time is not justified by reasons such as staff doesn’t want to hear gobbledygook because an English-only rule should be limited to situations in which it is needed to work safely or efficiently.
What is more, I think it is a not positive attitude of the employer towards ethnic and linguistic diversity, reducing the employment outcomes of migrants in New Zealand.
Finally, I also would like to add some ideas to the comment of the consul for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. I think it is true that the most positive approach to the issue is to be a tolerant, cohesive and welcoming company that motivates their migrant employees more explaining the policy issue than threating to sack.
I fully expect to see a change in this important aspect because high levels of discrimination towards ethnic diversities reduce their chances of integration that benefices New Zealand economy.
To sum up, a rule requiring employees to speak English at all times would be allowed when it is needed for safety and health reasons. But letting staff speak a foreign language when English is not necessary such as breaks, avoid the discrimination in workplaces and helps to maintain the cultural identity of migrants.
I look forward to hearing other reader’s views of the subject.
This is the article published in the newspaper:
No place for ‘gobbledygook’ in lunchroom
A New Zealand business has offered a separate lunchroom for staff to speak a language other than English during their breaks.
However, if they insisted on communicating in a language other than English during work hours they would be sacked, company director Brian Shapcott said today. “It is non-negotiable. It is a health and safety issue.”
Mr Shapcott said staff needed to communicate at the factory in South Auckland to ensure a very high level of quality control in the manufacture of medical laboratory supplies, and that required everyone to speak English. All his staff could speak English perfectly, he said.
He had given several verbal warnings, but earlier this month he sent a memo to staff telling them they would be sacked if they spoke another language during the manufacture of medical laboratory supplies.
Mr Shapcott also wants staff to speak English during lunch breaks, but if they insist, he will be happy to provide a separate room for those who want to speak another language.
Half his staff were New Zealand–born, a quarter were Indian and the rest were of other ethnic origins. The lunchroom was a place for staff to relax during their break, and when a foreign language, particularly “Indian”, was spoken, it could create a “trying” and not a relaxing atmosphere, he said.
“Staff don’t want to be hearing gobbledygook. It is like machine-gun fire. It is a staccato-type speech. I don’t want to be critical, but it is not a smooth, quiet undertone. They get quite excited and some of the staff get upset,” Mr Shapcott said. “It is very rude. It’s like whispering behind somebody’s back.”
He said his staff were happy with his ruling and there had not been a problem since he issued the written memo. “It looks like it’s me versus the staff. It is not. It is the very antithesis of that. The staff all see it as perfectly reasonable,” he said.
It was a happy workplace and Mr Shapcott says he gets on well with his staff, most of whom had been with him for many years.
Ataur Rahman, the honorary consul for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Auckland, says it’s unreasonable to threaten to sack people over the issue. North Shore employers need to set clear policies about workers speaking foreign languages in the workplace, Mr Rahman says. “These are things we can all work through,” he says. “It’s going really over the top to threaten to sack somebody.”
Mr Rahman says the “common sense” and “humanitarian” approach is to spell out to employees what the company policy is on the issue. Because of the growing migrant population, the country needs to come to grips with this issue now, Mr Rahman says.
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