PAM Magazine 12/2014: Customers and a father in rebellion
Photo: Pekka Sipola
Customers and the father of a young employee have taken up the defence of the staff at a sandwich restaurant, who are just starting their working lives.
Nina Nores-Syvänen and Tero Tikka are standing in front of the doors to the sandwich restaurant, as if guarding it. They are a part of a support group demanding that the inappropriate treatment of employees at the restaurants of Yenkki Sub Oy must stop. The company runs three Subway restaurants in Helsinki with a franchising contract.
In the spring, Tikka already contacted the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland, the management of the Subway chain and PAM. He could not accept the shouting and threats by the employer, which caused much anxiety in his daughter and her colleagues.
In August, an online discussion about the company started at the blog of a customer, Timo Maliniemi, who works in nursing. He wrote about the unpleasant tone of the instruction in the use of a cash register given to a young employee. The employer discussed the young employee's faults in the hearing of the customers and even questioned whether the employment would continue. People supporting the employees found each other online and established a closed Facebook group, which now has 360 members. They set up a questionnaire on the Internet.
“According to the questionnaire, at least 57 employees have experienced bad behaviour by the employer. Eight of them have told us about their traumatic experiences in detail, and seven are ready to proceed with the issue under their own names. This is not about yelling at things anonymously on the Internet,” says Tikka, who works in IT.
A blonde woman working at the restaurant, the managing director of Yenkki Sub, steps into the corridor of the shopping centre. She does not want to comment on the issue and forbids us from entering.
Kurt Möller, the Brand Manager of the Subway chain, has already said via telephone that he has read the stories of the employees delivered to Subway. He does not dispute their content.
“We absolutely do not approve of these methods,” Möller says. The chain has instructed the employer several times and visited the restaurant. He says that each franchising company manages its own employment issues, and the management of the chain cannot intervene in the issue further, because no crime has taken place.
Tikka does not accept this explanation.
“There must be a clause in the agreement between the entrepreneurs and the Subway chain that requires the entrepreneur to follow Subway's values, the collective agreement and Finnish legislation.”
The support group is surprised that the inappropriate behaviour has been allowed to continue, even though people have been aware of it.
Bad treatment and threats of firing are repeated in the stories that have also been sent to the PAM magazine. The employees have suffered from stress. Other employment problems, such as unpaid sick leave pay, are also coming to light. Nobody has asked about hygiene passports, and cameras have been used to monitor employees, which is not permitted.
Insurance official Nina Nores-Syvänen, who was also present as a customer during one occasion when an employee was being told off, joined the support group to make the young people aware of something: the employer cannot act in this way.
However, it is difficult for outsiders to address inappropriate treatment. This applies to both the occupational safety authorities and the trade union. Tarmo Järvinen, Occupational Safety and Health Inspector at the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland, says that a report from an employee with a valid employment contract is required. In connection with an inspection of the restaurant at Columbus carried out in the spring, the management of Yenkki Sub were issued a demand to correct deficiencies in induction, among other things – but the authority cannot order an entrepreneur to participate in management training.
PAM official Katja Blomberg, who has visited the Yenkki Sub restaurants, received confirmation from the Columbus employees that the discussion on the Internet was correct.
“During the autumn, two members have submitted their employment disputes and cases of bullying for handling by the union,” Blomberg says. She hopes that more people will join the union and give their authorisation to fix the issue.