Sodexo is one of the largest outsourcing companies in the UK. It has a range of services based on over 100 professions, including on-site services such as school kitchens and privatised prisons, benefits and reward services like childcare vouchers, and personal and home services for better work-life balance and greater personal fulfillment. It is also now a frontrunner to win a £100m contract to run sic military bases.
Sound like a catch? Well unfortunately it faces copious allegations of racism throughout its employment hierarchy. In 2005, Sodexo was forced to pay $80m to compensate thousands of black employees who claimed they were excluded from promotions, and also segregated within the company by fellow co-workers. Years later, further claims of racist behaviour have come out the wood-work.
One employee said she was told that certain corridors and rooms were for white people only. When taking the issue to executives, they merely dismissed this as harmless “banter.” Another two none-white employees are currently taking the company to court over racist and sexist conduct.
The most shocking incident to surface, which has seen an African-Caribbean female manager win compensation, was when she was punched in the face by her director, who explained that it was “punch-a-black-week.” She stated that before this, she had been forced to endure a year of bullying. The manager has now left after the issue was taken to court.
Black staff have expressed feelings of stigmatisation, and Sodexo is accused of “creating and inciting a hostile climate of distrust against difference,” where colleagues reportedly make comments like: “There is another black one, they are taking over.” This racist attitude forms the groundwork of the company, as it’s personnel department is formed of “ethnically cleansed” non-white staff, who are employed to police employee behaviour.
Labour have stated that the government need to launch an investigation before making a decision who will win the public contract. Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, stated there needs to be a thorough investigation and consideration to determine the facts. He right said, that if these allegations had been made against the civil service or governmental departments, an investigation would have been launched immediately. Therefore, he continued, it should apply to private companies who may be in receipt of a public contract.
There is a provision under the private sector contract law stating disqualification can occur if a company has committed a grave offence of misconduct during business. Trickett continued that if the allegations Sodexo face are true, this behaviour should not be allowed to continue in the workforce, particularly not a taxpayer-funded one.
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