The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Subway subtract worker's rights

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When a Dunedin Subway manager fired Jackie Lang for sharing a staff drink with a friend and then laid charges with the police for theft I'm not sure he quite realised what a dick he would look. I hope the Subway chain realises how silly it's making them look, and thinking about how they might make it all go away in a manner that leaves Lang feeling happy...

One of the key principles of natural justice is that the punishment fit the crime. This applies in employment law, as it does in any other legal arena. It seems that in this case not only were there major issues around the disciplinary procedure for this Subway worker, there was also a massive over-reaction from the manager concerned.

What worries me is that a manager who would do this may also be acting unreasonably towards other employees at that Subway. If the culture in this workplace is to unfairly dismiss someone for something so minor, and lay charges with the police when they try to enforce their legal rights, then there should be a big red light flashing in people's minds: Workplace Bully Alert.

Big ups to Jeremy for firing Young Labour and nz pol bloggers into action! Perhaps John Key, Helen Clark, Sue Bradford and Peter Dunne have set us all a good example ;-) In the 'sphere, Maia also has a good post looking at the willingness of the police to prosecute this over other situations that are far far worse.

And good on the Autonomous Workers' Union for getting stuck in - they've also launched a "Paper Cup" fundraising effort to help cover the legal costs for their member and you can pick up the bank account number from this EPMU article on the case. There will be a picket in Christchurch on Saturday 12th May outside the High St Subway from 1pm - 2pm too.

Finally, all power to Jackie Lang, for standing up for her rights. It's not always easy, even when you know you have a strong case and you have the support of a union.


Cristian said...

I think the manager definitely exaggerated a bit here especially laying charges with the police.

Gerrit said...

Perhaps it might be better to wait till the court case. I think there is much more going on in a lead up to this dimiss and lay charges stage then the press is letting out.

Be interesting to hear the employers side of the story and the full history of her employment.

Agree that the decision by the Police to prosecute is heavy handed, which again suggest that there might be a few more unreported facts to be published.

Span said...

Gerrit, the issue has actually been simmering away for several weeks now. I suspect if the manager had a creditable defence he might have put it out there for public consumption by now. I note that the Subway (chain) statement says that the franchisee is willing to seek mediation, which is good.

Tane Wilton said...

Also, Radio NZ reports that her employment record is completely clean and there has been no record of warnings or anything similar.

Sofiya said...

What an absurd waste of police time.

Unfortunately, I can't boycott Subway because I've actually never been to one. That smell that comes out of the restaurants always reminds me of oregano-tinged vomit.

Span said...

I'd have to say, even if there were prior warnings, unless they were the same thing then it shouldn't matter. You'd have to think if there were previous problems in the work record which indicated a sacking might be in order it would still take something more than sharing a staff drink with a mate to break the camel's back?

Gerrit said...

Totally agree Span, What I cant get my head around is that the owner of the Subway franchise has forked out a huge sum of money to get the franchise rights and acts like a dick. Must be more to it and if not, he deserves total condemnation.

Interesting how different stories are bing reported. One says she shared her drink that she had already poured for herself, another one said she poured a drink and gave it to her friend, claiming afterwards it was for heself as well. One is being caring about friends the other technically theft.

However if I was the manager (owner?) I would simply have pulled a big gold coin out of my pocket and paid for the drink. Keeping good staff is looking after them. A simple and friendly conversation afterwards about the owners expectations regarding that particular situation happening again would have been all what was required.

Bad management all round I would say.

Craig Ranapia said...


Tnanks for the link to the bank a/c, and I'm going to donate the payment for the PA Radio piece I recorded yesterday ($90, less RWT) to Lang's defence.

I won't sign up to this boycott, because I agree with the e-mail Russell Brown printed yesterday, from a member of the AUW:

We have never asked anyone to boycott subway. We have members in other subways, and they deserve to keep their jobs.

We have asked people to boycott George St. subway, until the dispute is resolved.

The dispute is with the manager, who is new, at that store.

Indeed - for all I know, Subway franchisees are paragons among employers, who settle disciplinary
matters and disputes in a rational and lawful manner. (Though I've never known a food service worker who complained about being grossly over-paid, but that's another kete of kai moana.) I think an important element of justice is not to punish a whole class of people for the (apparent) wrong-doing of an individual.

I'd rather contribute to see Jackie Lang not only get her fair day in court (including a proper defence of a theft charge that seems to me to be trivial and vexatious) - but help this nit-wit franchisee receive a well-deserve spanking from the Employment Court.

And like Sofiya, I don't eat at Subway so it would be rather empty gesture to boycott their stores wouldn't it?

weka said...

Charges have been dropped against Lang. Well done everyone involved in making that happen (which is not Subway nor probably the police).


As an aside, Span I finally figured out how to get comments to RSS. You just write the URL like this:


Seems to work with everyone I've tried so far. Strange that doesn't have a button for that though.

Span said...

Craig, I recall during the Progressive Enterprises dispute last year the NDU did not call for a boycott of Foodtown etc either, and for the same reasons.

But one of the things about organising unionism (which I'm going to write a bit about soon) is that stuff happens that you can't control, and shouldn't control. People do things to support your cause and because you give the power to those people you can't always tell them to stop. I don't think that's a bad thing most of the time.

Realistically any boycott of Subway will have a short-term impact, because hopefully the pressure will have a sharp impact on the chain and they will start pressuring the store manager concerned to resolve the matter asap. It's hard to sustain a boycott long term, and it would only be in the medium term that a boycott could actually affect jobs, imho. I'd hope that it would all be resolved by then, and it would be interesting to hear from the AWU in say a fortnight if they have had negative feedback about the boycott from their other Subway members (if it is still going in earnest).

Span said...

Thanks for the news (and the comment feed!) weka.

There may be a way to put a feed button in but it wouldn't be an actual button, it would be a text based link, I think I'll have a look at that if I get a chance. Thanks for the idea :-)