Fish firm banned Pole from speaking Polish, tribunal told

WHITELINK Seafoods in Fraserburgh has been taken to an employment tribunal by a Polish employee who said she was banned from speaking Polish.
Payroll administrator Magdalena Konieczna told the Aberdeen tribunal yesterday that before she was fired in June last year, a new rule came into force banning workers from speaking anything but English.
According to a report in Aberdeen’s Press and Journal, the boss of the firm, Andrew Sutherland, was asked to put himself in the shoes of his workers.
He said: ‘I know we put the policy in to ensure people speak English as much as possible while packing fish and for health and safety concerns.’
The tribunal heard that on one occasion Sutherland confronted Konieczna while she was speaking in Polish to a colleague in reception and told her to speak English instead.
Judge Nicol Hosie asked him how he would feel about the policy if he was a worker in a foreign country.
The fish marketing manager said: ‘I should have learned a modern language before I went out to a foreign country.’
Valerie Ritchie, who dismissed Konieczna from Whitelink, insisted the blanket ban was intended to foster a common language and improve safety.
However, when asked by the judge whether the ban could actually endanger foreign workers if they were unable to alert colleagues, the human resources manager conceded the policy would not be enforced.
She said: ‘We’ve got safety information on the wall and if there’s a safety issue on the floor they need to communicate with each other.
‘You couldn’t possibly put signs up for every language. We’re going to miss some languages and then we’re discriminating against them.
‘If somebody was about to lose their hand I would not discipline them for speaking their language.
‘But if someone was showing a disregard you would have to resort to disciplinary action.’
The firm employs about 100 workers of eight different nationalities, including Latvian, Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese and Bulgarian.
The case has been put on hold until a key witness is available to give evidence.