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'All Sikhs are terrorists': Indian tow truck drivers take boss to Human Rights Commission

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Serious matter, although I admit I found parts of it funny.... @dalsingh101....




'All Sikhs are terrorists': Indian tow truck drivers take boss to Human Rights Commission

Steve Kilgallon05:00, Mar 02 2023
Two Sikh tow truck drivers say they were racially abused, and it was ignored.
Two Sikh tow truck drivers say they were racially abused, and it was ignored.

Two Sikh tow truck drivers are taking their former boss to the Human Rights Commission, saying she took no action about racial abuse by their manager.

Raminder Singh and Sumit Nandpuri say they received no apology from Southern Districts Towing after they quit - and instead were questioned about whether they had celebrated the death of the Queen.

Singh resigned after he says his new manager told him “all Sikhs are terrorists”, while Nandpuri says the same man overheard a discussion with a colleague and chimed in to say “Is that why your Punjab is f....d? Is that why you guys are going backwards?”

Nandpuri, who had worked for the company for over five years, says it was the fifth incident of racism he had experienced there.

The company’s owner and managing director, Pam Watson, said she thought it was inappropriate to discuss the case before it reaches mediation, but there was “a bigger picture”.

Both men quit after they felt their complaints weren’t treated seriously. Nandpuri says he raised it with Watson who said she would “have a look” if he complained in writing. He says when he said he intended to take legal advice, she shouted: “Do you want to ruin my business?”

Singh says when he asked how he could keep working under the manager in question, Watson said he shouldn’t “dictate her business”.

After filing written complaints, both men were then invited to meetings with Watson and her deputy. Singh says at his meeting he was asked if he had discussed the Queen’s death and whether it would mean an extra day’s leave.

Ten days after those meetings, in September 2022, Watson sent letters to the men. To Singh, she wrote that she had conducted a “thorough investigation and review of this matter” and had “taken appropriate action to prevent this matter from occurring again”.

She said she could not disclose what action had been taken due to privacy requirements and told him that the incident remained confidential. It did not include any apology. Nandpuri received a similar letter.

The manager in question continued to work at the company and give both drivers instructions. In November, both drivers quit, feeling they could no longer work for the company.

They decided not to file complaints with the Employment Relations Authority, but instead with the Human Rights Commission, who will hold a mediation hearing in March. If the HRC can’t reach a conclusion, the complaint can then be referred on to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The Supreme Sikh Society’s Daljit Singh is representing the pair at the Commission. He said the case was a “very disturbing” one.

“It was a shock to us that anyone would say, in New Zealand, that Sikhs are terrorists,” he said. “It is completely unbelievable, and they are very offended.”

Daljit Singh said he had communicated with the company but had received varying answers about what action they were taking.

He said the workers had “concrete evidence” and Southern Districts did not appear to dispute the abuse.

Singh’s abuse was witnessed by a co-worker, retired police officer Lui Ritchie, who says he overheard the conversation between Singh and the manager. This chat was about Punjabi history, before the manager said ‘All Sikhs are terrorists anyway”, leading Ritchie to interrupt and say: “That’s a little harsh”.

Ritchie said: “I could see Raminder was upset, he clammed up and was visibly upset... he just sat there like a stunned mullet.”

Ritchie gave a written statement. He said a joke Raminder made about a possible public holiday after the death of the Queen had been misinterpreted by Watson, and “I think she has used that against him”.

He said the pair were right to pursue their complaint because the company “needed to wake up”.

Nandpuri, who is now working as a cab driver, described his incident as “shocking”.

“The worst thing is I have been working there for a long time and I have faced so many incidents in the company I've never said anything about, but this situation was so serious we had to speak up.”

Raminder Singh, who had worked for the company for two and a half years, said both men were New Zealand citizens with clean records but had been made to feel like criminals. “This outcome is like a slap in the face,” he said. “The company has not apologised to me and nor has [the manager]. It has hurt me mentally and emotionally.”

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