Goldman caterer is accused of 'discrimination'

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The Independent Online

Unite has called on Goldman Sachs to intervene in a furious row with its caterers over allegations of racism.

The union had planned to picket the investment bank's Fleet Street headquarters and leaflet its highly paid staff this morning over the row, involving the sacking of a long-time worker for Aramark, which handles catering at the bank's plush art deco offices.

The protest was postponed yesterday afternoon after Aramark agreed to send a director to discuss the matter with the union. But a Unite spokeswoman said that this did not mean that it had been called off. Goldman declined to comment while the discussions were taking place.

However, Unite officer Dave Turnbull said prior to the talks: "Unite is calling on Goldman Sachs to investigate what we believe to be an act of victimisation in retaliation for our member speaking out about potential ongoing discrimination against black and ethnic minority workers since Aramark took over the Goldman Sachs Contract in September 2008.

"Goldman Sachs must intervene as their contractor has failed to apply the standards it sets for its own employees in terms of equality and diversity. Goldman Sachs must conduct its own investigation into this potential act of unlawful victimisation on its premises, as well as into the overall running of the catering contract."

The spectre of Goldman being dragged into such a dispute will come as an embarrassment to a global organisation that has made great play about its diversity programmes.

Unite yesterday released the results of racial discrimination questionnaires submitted by several Unite members at the bank which it claimed raised "serious concerns" about potential discrimination by Aramark. Issues highlighted included: a number of black workers having been made redundant since Aramark took over the contract and subsequently told that no alternative positions were available to them when the total number of workers employed in the unit increased by from 194 to 219. Unite said that during the same period the total number of ethnic minority workers decreased from 94 to 88 while the number of white workers has increased from 100 to 131.

The union added that since taking over the contract Aramark "have engaged 52 new starters from ethnic minority backgrounds and 138 white workers. To maintain the balance of diversity prevalent when they took over the contract, the proportion of new starters should have been 91 ethnic minority workers to 99 white workers. And of 32 managerial positions in the unit, 29 are held by white employees and only 3 by ethnic minority staff."

Aramark said in a statement that it had agreed to "further discussions" with Unite "in order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible".

Star fired over rule breach

Goldman Sachs has fired one of its top London traders for breaching internal rules. Alexandre Harfouche, head of European block trading, was a rising star at the bank having been promoted to managing director last year. He is currently registered as inactive with the Financial Services Authority, meaning he has not taken a job with another firm.

Mr Harfouche headed a formidable unit which has worked on 23 deals this year, including the sale of $4.2bn (£2.6bn) in Volvo shares on behalf of Renault last month. His firing surprised the CityP: internal breaches would usually be dealt with by a written warning. But the bank is being ultra-careful after recent problems with regulators.