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Employees accuse Pret a Manger of racism


TWO BLACK employees have accused fresh food retail chain Pret A Manger of racism, claiming they were treated as “slaves” at one of the company’s outlets.

Deborah Ainon and Leyo Mbolo, who are now participating in a grievance process within the company told The Voice they wrote to company CEO, Clive Schlee, to raise concerns over ‘the real examples of modern day slavery’ they have faced over the last few months at a Pret outlet in east London.


Ainon and Mbolo, both originally from France, told how they had written several letters to Schlee after being subjected to humiliation, ‘discrimination and racism’ and ‘bullying and harassment’ at the King William, east London branch of the food retailer.

Ainon said her experience of prejudice included being singled out and put in situations where she felt ‘humiliated’. She said for example, on one occasion, she was forcibly stopped and searched in front of customers at the store’s entrance, the only employee to be stopped on that day without any warning or reason.

She said a fellow employee was told that he was to stop her and search for ‘company property’, to see whether she had taken food from the store, which was against company policy. She said this incident happened in front of customers.

In a second incident, Mbolo was given file notes and had a discussion about improving her performance in front of customers. She said one customer, who allegedly witnessed the discussion, said to Mbolo later that he “suspected it to be either a warning or some form of blame”. Mbolo said she felt ‘humiliated and embarrassed’ after this statement.

Both Ainon and Mbolo alleged they were given a huge work load and told to meet unrealistic targets and often worked ‘42 hours a week’ when in fact they were only contracted to work ‘30 hours’, without getting paid for overtime.

They claimed they were denied sick leave and had to be signed off by doctors because of stress.

Both also claimed that black co-workers at Pret, who had been working at the establishment around 12 years, were only ‘earning £7 per hour’. They also claimed one manager would ‘block the promotion of people whose colour does not please you.’

In a statement on June 26, a Pret A Manger spokesperson told The Voice: “Leyo Mbolo and Deborah Ainon are both currently employed by Pret. We can confirm that a personnel process is underway with every effort being made to investigate and resolve their issues. As such, it is not possible for us to comment any further.”

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