October 31, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald
Cochlear orders multicultural staff to speak only English at work
THE Australian company famous for supplying hearing implants to the world has ordered its multicultural workforce to speak only English or sacrifice a pay rise.ABC News
More than half the manufacturing workers at Cochlear's Lane Cove plant came from non-English speaking countries but are under instructions to speak only English at work.
A complaint to be lodged today with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board says Cochlear management had threatened to deny pay rises to staff who spoke foreign languages in the workplace.
One worker from Cambodia, Huy Kha, alleges that in June his manager ordered him to "speak English at all times".
At another meeting earlier this month, Mr Huy said, the manager told him it was company policy to speak English, even though none of his colleagues have any interaction with the public.
"The team leader said that if we are found speaking a foreign language we will fail our assessment to get a higher classification," he wrote in his complaint to the board. "We [were] told that if you don't speak English you'll get a warning."
Cochlear's chief executive, Chris Roberts, said he was unaware of Mr Huy's complaint but the company had "a policy of mutual respect in the workplace". Dr Roberts said: "So if there is a bunch of people in a group, they should not speak a language that cuts others out." ...
CHRIS ROBERTS: The workers at Cochlear have requested now for several years that English be the language of choice in the workplace. We have over 30 nationalities in the production force and indeed many more dialects spoken.
In terms of promoting team work, they themselves have requested that English be used at all times on the production work floor. This does not prevent people speaking in their native language in the lunch room or toilets or wherever but when they are on the production floor, working in production because safety is an issue, the products that they are making are going to be implanted in people's heads for the rest of their lives, it is very, very important that we can maximise teamwork and indeed communication.