Racism: Racism – let’s take this bull by its horns!

Thirty percent of companies which I have visited over the past few months have complained of racist incidents. Most of these are committed by management. Some employees are racially abused and may not be aware of it, whilst others might be scared to report it.On August 13, a white worker, Applegren at Cape Town company, Domline, confronted a black worker, Tshikini. According to Applegren, Tshikini messed up a job. Applegren started swearing at him, saying “Jou ma se p….?” Applegren went further by saying to another worker, “let’s leave these kaffirs”. According to Tshikini he was also called a “Na…” . The shopstewards lodged a grievance against Appelgren.The company heard the grievance on August 26. Applegren was issued with a written warning. He was also asked by management to apologise. The shop steward then asked my advice because Tshikini wasn’t happy with the findings.After reading the minutes of the grievance hearing, I sent a letter requesting a fair and proper hearing and demanded that the sanction should be the dismissal of Applegren.The company responded reluctantly, refusing to meet our request. After a long telephonic discussion and a letter threatening protest action in terms of Cosatu’s anti-racism campaign, they agreed to hold a hearing presided over by an outside person on October 19.Tshikini is a father and a colleague of fellow employees. He said that he was terribly insulted and would never insult somebody in that way. Other workers might lose respect for him because of the things Applegren had uttered in front of them. He said that the recommendation of the presiding officer that Applegren be dismissed, was more appropriate and would contribute to a work environment where workers would treat each other with mutual respect, no matter what race, gender or culture.Meanwhile, management confirmed that they would carry out the presiding officer’s recommendation and dismiss Applegren.

What the presiding officer said:Penalty:Whilst accepting that these events took place in a robust work environment, the language used was totally unacceptable. The use of the “K” word is not only inflammatory but also highly insulting and inappropriate in the work environment.It is recommended that Applegren be dismissed.