Sikh chef at National Theatre 'tormented by abuse'

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A Sikh chef who worked at the National Theatre for 12 years was forced to seek medical help after he was racially abused by his white colleagues, a tribunal heard on Tuesday.

A Sikh chef who worked at the National Theatre for 12 years was forced to seek medical help after he was racially abused by his white colleagues, a tribunal heard on Tuesday.

Bruce Singh was branded a "Paki" and "charwallah" by colleagues who taunted him with jibes about his Indian origins on a daily basis.

Mr Singh, 41, told the tribunal in Croydon, south London, that the assistant head chef at the theatre, on London's South Bank, even put on his turban and "waggled his head in an exaggerated fashion", drawing laughter from colleagues.

Such was the abuse, the devout Sikh said he wore a cap to work instead of his turban.

Mr Singh, of East Dulwich, south London, said he was subjected to jibes such as "It ain't half hot mum" and is claiming racial discrimination against the theatre after he was prescribed anti-depressants.

He said a "glass ceiling" existed for "foreigners", which meant ethnic minorities were never promoted to management, and he had not been paid bonuses that his white co-workers received.

Mr Singh, who is married with four children, added that other ethnic minorities were referred to as "coconuts".

He named the head chef, Melvin Schnable, and the assistant head chef, Donald O'Donnell, as the main perpetrators of the abuse.

Mr Singh, whose Indian first name is Narinderpal, said: "I am a religious Sikh and always used to wear a turban. The temperature in the kitchens is very hot, so one day I took off my turban. Donald later walked out of the office into the main kitchen. He was wearing my turban and waggling his head in an exaggerated fashion.

"I was very embarrassed and insulted. Over time, I started to trim my hair and tied my hair back. I found it difficult to explain to my family and fellow Sikhs why my appearance had changed. I said my job in the kitchen was very hot and sweaty. The real reason was because of the grief I got at work."

The situation reached breaking point when Mr Singh was off work because of illness in late 1999, but had to travel to India.



By January of last year, Mr Singh was on anti-depressants and contacted the Broadcasting, Entertainment and Cinematography Trade Union to lodge a formal complaint.

The theatre apologised for the treatment he had received when sick, but took no disciplinary action. Mr Singh has been off sick since February. The theatre denies the allegations.

The tribunal continues.

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