Workers at the posh department store Harrods in London celebrated another victory this week.
On Monday a manager resigned after a successful campaign to get restaurant workers the full amount of the service charge from diners’ bills.
One Harrods worker told Socialist Worker that the background is “everything that has gone on over the last month or so,” referencing the successful service charge campaign and the ongoing unionisation campaign.
The push for union recognition at Harrods goes from strength to strength—more people have joined the United Voices of the World union as a result of the campaign.
At the same time as workers celebrated their victory, more evidence of the bullying and racism which lies underneath the surface at Harrods has come to light.
A black woman applying for a job at Harrods was told she had to chemically straighten her hair because it was “unprofessional.”
Nicole Thorpe initiated a parliamentary petition calling for it to be made illegal for “a company to require women to wear high heelsat work”.
She described how a black woman in the same group interview as her was treated.
The interviewer for employment agency Portico, acting on behalf of Harrods, said, “You can’t work for me unless you have your hair chemically relaxed, because your hair, as it is, is not professional enough.”
This was just one of the shocking examples of racism and sexism unearthed by a new report carried out by the Westminster parliament’s Petitions committee and the Women and Equality committee.
A report, “High heels and workplace dress codes”, was commissioned after some 140,000 people signed the petition. It called for parliament to make it illegal for firms to demand women wear heels at work.
When the issue was last raised in parliament in 2011 Theresa May—then minister for Women and Equalities—said, “Traditional gender-based workplace dress codes… encourage a sense of professionalism in the workplace.”