Dunedin Subway manager sacks New Zealand worker for sharing drink, lays theft charges

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Subway in Munich at Rindermarkt.
Image: Maksym Mozul..

A worker at a Dunedin, New Zealand Subway has been sacked from her full-time job for "serious misconduct". Her manager sacked her when she shared some of her free Diet Coke with a friend in distress. After being sacked, she was also charged with the theft of two NZ$4.00 drinks by the New Zealand Police.

Jackie Lang, the employee, was entitled to a free drink while she was working at the George Street franchise of Subway. "They are allowed endless amounts of soft drink if they work there. Her friend came in all upset and distressed, so Jackie took a break, poured a drink and sat down with her," Bill Clark, from the Autonomous Workers Union, said.

Mr. Clark said it was the most vicious action that a company has done in relation to the offence that he has had to deal with, a view shared with Ms Lang. Ms Lang said, "I shared my drink with my friend. I was only trying to comfort her. Isn't it what most people would do? I mean, I wasn't trying to do anything wrong. I did what I thought any person would do in the situation."

Ms. Lang was suspended for two weeks following the incident after management was shown video footage on March 19. After being suspended she filed a personal grievance case, at which point the franchise owners went to the police. She was subsequently arrested and put in jail for two hours 20 days after being suspended. The video shows that Ms. Lang took a break following her friend coming into the workplace. She then shares her drink, gets a free refill and leaves it with her friend while she continued her work.

At 12.00 p.m. (NZST) the Otago University Young Labour branch organised a protest, starting at the university and finishing at the George Street Subway. President of the university's Young Labour branch, Ashley Murchison said, "I’m disappointed that any employer would treat their workers like this, especially over a matter this trivial, which could have easily been resolved internally."

Before the incident, Jackie Lang had a clean employment history and no criminal record, which is why she is surprised the case wasn't handled internally. "It's a human thing to do to offer a drink as comfort. If Subway doesn't like it, they have internal procedures to deal with that," she said.

Prior to the protest, Young Labour announced a nationwide boycott of Subway, though promoting a focus on Dunedin.

The franchise co-owner, Rob Nicol, has refused to comment on the matter stating it is a matter between herself, her business partner, the police and the employee.

Ms. Lang will appear in Dunedin District Court later this month.