TUNI PARATA: The SkyCity Casino worker has been threatened with disciplinary action for carrying a bible in her pocket at work
BY MICHAEL FOX
TUNI PARATA: The SkyCity Casino worker has been threatened with disciplinary action for carrying a bible in her pocket at work.
Tears well in Tuni Parata’s red eyes and her voice cracks as she reaches forward to pat her Bible and says she never meant to offend anyone by carrying it.
The 65-year-old devout Christian loves her job. She works as a tower host at SkyCity and wants to stay despite facing a disciplinary hearing and a possible final written warning for carrying the Bible in her pocket – a breach of the casino’s uniform policy.
She’s been employed by the company for more than 16 years and admits she has twice previously been warned about carrying it.
“I didn’t mean to offend anyone by having a Bible with me and I’m sorry if I have,” she said.
“I know the company pays me for what I do. I’m just thanking God that I’m there with them right now, working for SkyCity. I believe that God showed me SkyCity and I’m there because of it.”
Parata, who is backed by the Unite union, said she would usually leave her Bible in her bag but on this latest occasion decided to keep it with her.
She placed it on a vanity when she went to the bathroom but a cleaner saw her pick it up and put it in her pocket. Parata’s managers were informed and took disciplinary action.
SkyCity bosses have told her she could be issued with a final warning at a hearing which was due to be held on Thursday but has since been brought forward to tomorrow.
Parata said the final warning would mean she would lose her job if she transgresses one more time.
“After spending that length of time with them I really don’t want to go out like that. I was hoping that I could continue on for another few years… But it looks like someone is more in a hurry for me to leave than I want to.”
The ordeal keeps her awake and night and frequently reduces her to tears. She says management have kept a close eye on her.
She has been admonished for fanning herself while at work during the summer and for leaving her post without telling other staff.
“It makes it a little bit tense and I want to ask ‘Well what can I do?’ Everything I do it seems to have a complaint about me. It can be difficult because it’s like they’re watching your every move.”
RULE ‘DRACONIAN’ SAYS UNION
The Unite union has called the uniform rule “absurd” and wants to see it done away with.
“This rule we think is too draconian and inevitably people break that rule because it’s a stupid rule and then inevitably people get caught. We’ve had enough and we are saying that this is absurd and we will challenge it,” Unite national director Mike Treen said.
Treen said they had tried to reason with the company but had gone public in the hope of “shaming and embarrassing them into backing down”.
“They’re saying this is serious misconduct, they’re saying we can dismiss you for this and we will dismiss you next time it happens.”
Sky Tower operations manager Jennifer Philpott said in a letter to Parata last week that she understood the employee drew inspiration from her bible but the company expected front of house staff to be completely focused on their duties.
She said other staff members could gain inspiration in other ways such as from iPods or smoking and staff had to “draw a line somewhere”.
Treen said this was a “dismissive” response.
SkyCity’s general manager of group services Grainne Troute said different roles had different uniform standards “but as a general principle staff in customer service roles are in breach of SkyCity’s uniform standards if they carry items such as mobile phones, books and other items which might interfere with their full engagement with their customers”.
Troute called Treen’s comments “alarmist” and said they did not fairly reflect the situation.
“A breach of uniform policies such as this was not considered serious misconduct and would not be expected to result in the dismissal of any staff member.”