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Racism cards on the table

A company that makes playing cards offered a factory worker a 15 pence pay rise after she complained of racial abuse.

Yesterday it was reported that Petra Worboyes rejected the paltry offer and took her employers, Cartamundi, to a tribunal.

Worboyes has now won £36,000 compensation after the panel found that she had been demoted after making a complaint over the behaviour of her boss, quality controller Freda George.

Cartamundi have now lost an appeal against the ruling, meaning that Worboyes has finally received justice.

The Telegraph reports:

The tribunal heard George told Worboyes: “You are only a n****r, what do you know? I’m not putting up with people like you walking around like you own the place.” George was then accused of continuing to make critical remarks about Worboyes, refusing to share jobs with her and ostracizing her.”

Worboyes was earning £6.15 per hour at the factory in Canvey Island, on the Thames estuary – 35 pence above the national minimum wage – but after Worboyes complained as was demoted this fell to £5.90.

However as the accusations of racist and bullying behaviour against George mounted, Cartamundi offered to reinstate the 15p rate. Worboyes rejected this and took out an employment tribunal.

According to the tribunal papers she made a series of complaints about George, including an incident in 2005 when:

Freda George opened a drawer and struck the Claimant [Worboyes] on the leg. When the Claimant complained Ms George took a tape gun out of the drawer and held it over the Claimant’s head in a threatening way, glaring at her before walking away.”

It is a sad fact that all too often Black workers at the bottom end of the employment ladder in small towns suffer unfair treatment in silence. While we hear about the odd case like Cartamundi/ Worboyes, in many ways this is illustrative of a wider problem in the workplace.

But, as this tribunal showed, such behaviour does matter, regardless of whether a worker is a high-flying banker or a shop-floor factory worker. Human rights, and employment rights, should cover us all equally.

By Lester Holloway

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