A Melbourne IGA has come under fire for a sign that told staff to call for assistance if they see a customer who is African.
The sign, which was displayed behind the register at the Sunshine West store, read: "If an African customer comes to the bottle shop, presses [sic] the button for assistant immediately! Minimum two staffs in front while we serve Africans."
ABC reports the sign had been in the store for three years.
In a statement to SBS News, a spokesperson for IGA's parent company Metcash said that while it 'grants the use of the IGA brand to independently owned and operated supermarkets in Australia' there is a 'set of minimum brand standards and operating criteria' those stores must follow.
The spokesperson said the sign was 'completely unacceptable' and was 'immediately removed' when Metcash became aware of it.
Staff at the store are being trained while Metcash 'assesses the matter to determine what further action is appropriate'.
A supermarket in Melbourne, Australia, had this taped to their counter for THREE YEARShttps://t.co/WcKnLYUjGT pic.twitter.com/RvDCXUZjtH
- Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) November 29, 2021
"We please ask the public to remember that this is one single store owner who made a gross error of judgement, it is not reflective of the other 1,300 IGA stores out there, who genuinely take pride in serving their local communities each and every day," they said.
The sign caught national attention when it was picked up by a user on TikTok.
"How is this even legal? This would be clear cut discrimination and racial profiling," a comment on the social media platform read.
The store manager has identified himself on Twitter and claims the sign was posted in response to a robbery.
"I'm store manager IGA Sunshine West. We got robbed by five African men, one of the staff had a gun put to our head, we were scared, I'm sorry for what I done," he wrote.
I want to know how 3 years of pretty blatant profiling went unnoticed and/or unchallenged by external management. @MetcashLtd restorative action is needed - for the community & for the staff. It should've been picked up a lot earlier. Well done @ahmedyussuf10 for uncovering it. https://t.co/Ik9sCNplqo
- Dana Morse (@DanaMorse_) November 29, 2021
Joseph Romeo, chairman of the IGA National Retailer Council, said in a statement that 'this type of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any IGA store across the country'.
"As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting local communities across Australia, we are committed to ensuring ALL IGA stores and their employees continue to create a shopping environment where all are welcome and equal," he added.
"IGA retailers across the country are shocked by this event, please be assured that this is a one off case that will be dealt with appropriately."
Racial profiling of African communities has been a significant issue in Melbourne across the last few years.
Im store manager iGA sunshine west, we got robbed by 5 African men, one of the staff had a gun put to our head, we were scared,I'm sorry for what i done,, i told the ABC news all the reason behind this, But i don't see any main point been reported, this is unfair, unfair news
- Jack he (@Jackhe97599128) November 29, 2021
A 2018 episode of Channel 7's Sunday Night claimed 'African gangs' were terrorising the city, however the segment was later condemned for being 'racist propaganda'.
A reporter in the episode claimed there has been a considerable increase in crime by 'African gangs' and that they were responsible for 'an alarming surge in violent crime' in Victoria.
In 2019, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled the current affairs program breached its guidelines.
ACMA ruled that while the assertion in relation to the increase in crime was supported, the comment that 'African gangs' were responsible was not.
ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said the broadcast was 'unacceptable'.
Today's speech on racial hysteria in our public debates - and the dangers it poses https://t.co/gEzdp9ZHTW pic.twitter.com/RidcpXg190
- Tim Soutphommasane (@timsout) July 27, 2018
An apology note has been written and displayed in the Melbourne IGA store following the backlash and the owner told ABC he didn't mean offence, but that it was intended for the safety of his workers.
The man, who did not want to give his name, said he wanted to put the sign up as a reminder to his staff that if a 'stranger or African' comes in, they should press a button to alert other staff members.
"We [can] get somebody to stand next to them just for safety reasons," he said, adding the alert button was not only used for African customers, but also when the store was busy.
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