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99p store worker 'treated like a slave because he is English'

By Braintree Chronicle  |  Posted: November 30, 2013

By Chris Dyer christopher.dyer@essexchronicle.co.uk

  • UNHAPPY EMPLOYEE: Ben Chaney works at 99p stores in Witham

  • CMLJ20131119D-012_C.JPG Ben Chaney works at the 99p Store in Witham and says he is being victimised and bullied by the shop manager because he is English.

  • FLASHBACK: Chronicle story about the Witham 99p Stores two weeks ago

Comments (9)

AN EMPLOYEE at 99p Stores claims he has been victimised because of his nationality and treated like a "slave".

Ben Chaney, 20, of Humber Road, Witham, claims that since he started working at the shop five-and-a-half months ago, he has been called "lazy" and "sleepy" and given the worst jobs to do because he is English.

His claims come two weeks after the Chronicle revealed how a job applicant was allegedly told by the same store that it didn't employ English people because they're unreliable.

Of all the employees at the Newlands Street shop in Witham, Ben says he is one of three English-born workers out of a roster of eight, one of whom has only started in the last week.

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He said: "I get treated like a slave. It's an awful place to work. The manager is very rude, not just to staff but to customers as well –he's always shouting on the shop floor.

"He keeps saying English people are lazy. If he's got a problem with me, he doesn't tell me off in English, he does it in his own language so I can't understand him.

"The non-English staff are allowed to do what they want. They chat on the tills and take breaks when they want, but I get shouted at if I do the slightest thing wrong," he added.

Ben's claims come after 21-year-old Toni Sargeant said she was told by the store manager that he does not employ English people because they are unreliable and can't understand foreign accents.

Ben said he has received no official training in tills, stock or health and safety procedures for the first five months of his employment and that he has never been given a contract to sign.

He added: "I don't have set hours so they tell me at short notice when I'm working and if I say I can't do weekends they say I'm lazy or that I'm sleepy and I get threatened with the sack.

"When I was off with a back injury my boss tried to say it was an unauthorised absence. When I do complain or do something wrong I get shouted at and my hours are cut back.

"But it wasn't until I complained that I was showed the health and safety procedure and how to lift boxes.

"There's other problems as well – some boxes fell on me because they weren't stacked properly."

In grievance proceedings only hours before Toni made her job application, Ben detailed his problems and there was a reconciliation meeting.

But he says nothing has changed and he continues to feel ostracised.

A spokesman for the 99p Store said: "We 100 per cent refute these allegations. We have investigated the matter relating to Toni Sargeant and are 100 per cent that this is not what was said.

"We believe this is due to a disgruntled employee who is spreading malicious and slanderous rumours about our store management team.

"We have an equal opportunity employment policy and an investigation is still continuing. Therefore we cannot comment any further."

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9 comments

  • ELTeacher  |  December 12 2013, 9:18AM

    To be honest, his hand placement in the photo is the least of his worries so let's just agree to disagree about whether or not having one's hands in one's pockets gives any impression of laziness. On a more serious note, I was more concerned that his employer never presented him with a contract of employment.

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  • Zealon  |  December 11 2013, 3:54PM

    Then why would it matter where his hands were located whilst having a photograph taken? Hand gestures can't really be expressed that well through still images. And on the term of being an employer - I could care less where my employees had their hands whenever they're not using them. As I would be content with knowing whether or not they're up to doing their job effectively. Not whether or not they can gesture to me with hand motions and walk around worrying about where their hands should be.

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  • ELTeacher  |  December 11 2013, 2:18PM

    Zealon, I never once stated that he was lazy. What I said was that having your hands in your pockets gives the impression that you have nothing better to do. If you were an employer, would you feel content seeing your staff standing around with their hands in their pockets? Furthermore, non-verbal communication such as hand gestures count for a lot in sales, so an employee who can effectively use non-verbal communication is a valued employee in my opinion.

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  • Zealon  |  December 10 2013, 3:11PM

    I don't usually reply to comments made by other people, but I just cannot resist... That's some seriously flawed logic you have there, ELTeacher. I don't believe I would ever base my judgement on another person purely because of the way they look in a photograph. Perhaps the young man just felt more comfortable with them put away? Or maybe - just maybe - he wasn't afraid of someone judging him by the way he looks, especially in this day and age. It does not give off the impression of laziness at all. There are a lot of people who put their hands away or in their pockets at work, it doesn't mean they're lazy. Think about it - what's the difference of having your arms just dangling around freely doing nothing at all and having your hands in your pockets? That's right! Nothing. Just saying, is all.

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  • valerie444  |  December 05 2013, 8:00AM

    If they only SERVED foreign people they would all be out of a job, I thought racism was against the law here in England or doesn't it apply to racism against the English people,,I rest my case..

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  • ELTeacher  |  December 03 2013, 3:43PM

    Furthermore, he should have requested a contract. If he had, he could have taken his grievances up with his line manager instead of going to the press about it.

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  • ELTeacher  |  December 03 2013, 3:38PM

    It's cold, true, but the photo would not have taken more than a minute or so to take. Were you never taught to keep your hands out of your pockets while at work since it gives the impression of laziness? Whilst I do understand that he wasn't at work when the photo was taken, the photo of him with his hands in his pockets doesn't do much to strengthen his side of the story.

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  • radishot  |  December 02 2013, 9:41PM

    maybe it was cold when the picture was taken . being in a job that you are so unhappy would make you act in that way. very judgemental of you

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  • ELTeacher  |  December 01 2013, 2:09PM

    With his hands in his pockets in one photo, he is giving the impression that he is lazy.

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