Halfords has apologized after admitting managers at one of its stores called Travelers “p*keys” and shared a racist meme of South Asian people in a WhatsApp group.
Worker Alan Wainwright, 60, raised the alarm after he said he heard two senior colleagues at one of the company's branches in the north of England make the offensive comments about members of the Traveler community over a radio headset on several occasions in September.
In a separate incident, he claims a colleague posted a video appearing to show a Pakistani man drowning in a WhatsApp message group, following the deaths of Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman. Titanic submarine wreck off Canadian coast.
Mr Wainwright said the video was captioned: “Here's the sound of the hit they got from the submarine.” A man can then be heard saying: “I'm under water, please help me.”
When it approaches The independent Regarding Mr Wainwright's allegations, a Halfords spokesman said: “We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and have taken immediate action.”
“We have robust policies in place and the colleagues involved have been asked to repeat our equality and diversity training module.” The retailer declined to confirm whether Mr Wainwright's specific claims were true, although a spokesman stressed that “action is being taken”.
Mr Wainwright said it was not the first time he had heard colleagues make racist comments and claimed he had witnessed “a range of racist and other vile behaviour” from colleagues during his time at the store.
In a letter sent to Halfords Group CEO Graham Stapleton, who saw The independentMr Wainwright wrote to express his concerns.
It read: “A simple Google search reveals that the company recently lost an employment tribunal over racism and that another racism claim by Mr Adjei-Dawkins, another former Halfords employee, is due to be heard in November after three preliminary hearings.
“I have contacted Mr Adjei-Dawkins and informed him of the racism I encountered at Halfords. I therefore hope that you will urgently conduct a full and proper investigation into these matters.” Mr Wainwright claims he received no response.
The trade unionist, who worked part-time at the store for three months, claims he was fired after raising his concerns, while the workers he complained about remain in place.
Mr Wainwright claims his complaints and previous trade union activity, where he exposed the secret blacklisting of more than 3,000 workers from 40 of the UK's biggest construction firms, led to his dismissal.
Halfords confirmed that the employees who were subject to these complaints were still working for the company, but denied that Mr Wainwright was unfairly dismissed.
A Halfords spokesman said: “Alan Wainwright was dismissed during his probationary period for failing to follow the correct procedure regarding absences on two separate occasions.”
The independent has previously raised concerns about racism at Halfords in recent months.
In July, former Halfords sales consultant Christopher Best speak exclusively to The independent about his employment tribunal victory after being racially abused by a manager at Halfords, his anxiety over the ordeal – and his anger that the senior employee still works for the company.
Last month, Mr Adjei-Dawkins, a former assistant manager at Halfords, said The independent he was bullied by managers and paid less than white colleagues in lower positions. His case will be heard in an employment tribunal later this month.
Mr Wainwright has been staging a one-man anti-racism protest outside his old workplace for the past four weekends.
He said The independent : “I don't need any motivation to support people who have been discriminated against – my track record shows that. I have been doing this for almost 20 years at huge cost.
“Given my personal experiences at Halfords and the issues The independent has been previously reported, it is now clear to me that Halfords management have absolutely no intention of acknowledging racism in their business, let alone taking any real action to prevent it from happening again.'