GMB to hold demo outside Swindon store after shop steward is sacked

Marks and SpencerGMB members working at Marks and Spencer’s distribution centre in Swindon are to ballot for strike action after two of them claim to have been told: “I’m going to teach you Indian bastards a lesson”.

The workers, one of whom is a shop steward, say they were approached by a white manager working for sub-contractor Wincanton, who accused them of talking instead of working. They say they were marched into a room and sacked before being escorted off the premises.

The union is holding a demonstration outside the Marks and Spencer store in Swindon on Friday between 11am and 12noon, at which they will hold banners saying “Marks and Spencer, we will not tolerate racism, we are not slaves” and “We Demand Respect at Work”.

GMB regional officer Carole Vallelly said: “More than 80% of the staff, permanent and agency, on site are non-white, but of more than 40 Wincanton managers all but about 4 of them are white. Our members describe a management culture reminiscent of a Mississippi plantation.

“Since May 2014 GMB has repeatedly advised the employers that members had been reporting racist and bullying behaviours by racist managers to the union. The union asked both Tempay Ltd and Wincanton what steps they could put in place to reassure members that they would not suffer detriment if they gave evidence. Neither employer responded to the union. However due to their precarious agency worker status, our members had felt too intimidated to raise formal grievances, as they feared they would lose work.

“Mr Dias, one of the two sacked GMB members, did raise a grievance against discriminatory language and attitudes in September. The manager he specifically complained about is the one who abused him and sent him home.

“I have never seen GMB members so angry. Many of them boycotted the Christmas lunch provided this week by Wincanton as a protest, and they are determined to fight these exclusions. GMB will not walk away from this fight. We demand that the exclusions are rescinded and that Wincanton and Marks and Spencer deals with its racist manager.”

Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB National Officer for Equality, said “GMB call on Marks and Spencer management to take racial abuse seriously and to discipline the supervisor responsible. I will be with GMB members on Friday protesting outside the Marks and Spencer store in Swindon over this racist abuse.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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