Toilet habit gets OFW in hot water


THE TOILET practice of a Filipino overseas worker in Queensland became the subject of press reports across Australia recently.


An initial report in the Townsville Bulletin, and quoted by the News Limited website news.com.au, said that Amador Bernabe, 43, had been sacked by his employer Townsville Engineering Industries (TEI) for using water instead of toilet paper to clean himself after you-know-what.


But in a news story that followed, TEI manager Byron Carter denied the sacking and explained the reason behind Mr Bernabe’s leaving the company.


Then the Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union state organiser Rick Finch jumped to the Filipino’s defence: “I think it is atrocious, an invasion of a person’s rights and cultural beliefs,” Mr Finch said. ”If it wasn’t so disgusting it would almost be laughable.”


Politicians followed: Queensland State MP for Thuringowa, Craig Wallace, was quoted as saying: “Employers should be worried how their business operates rather than what their employees do in the loo,” Mr Wallace said. ”I know in a number of cultures using paper to clean yourself is considered an offence because of their beliefs. If he is being hygienic and not bothering anyone else then good luck to him.”


Townsville Greens Party mayoral candidate Jenny Stirling praised Mr Bernabe for standing up for his rights. “I commend the man for standing up for himself and I encourage the employer to have further talks with the union and the employee and I am sure common sense will prevail,” Ms Stirling said. “I would like to see how Australians feel when they go to Europe in places where they don’t have toilet paper.”


In denying the sacking, Mr Carter said that Mr Bernabe was given an opportunity to clean up his toilet habits or he would be terminated.


”He was told the choice was his,” Mr Carter said. “After a heated discussion with the workshop foreman, Mr Bernabe left his place of work without notice.”


The news report said that Mr Bernabe, a machine operator on a working visa from the Philippines, had explained that it was in his culture to use water to clean himself in the toilet and that he got the shock of his life when his foreman followed him into the toilet questioning his toilet hygiene.


The report said Mr Bernabe’s version of events was: “I went to go to the toilet and I took a bottle of water when my foreman saw me and he said: `You can’t bring the water in there’. I asked why and he said it wasn’t good; but I said it’s our way, and he followed me into the toilet.


“I said it’s my personal hygiene. I didn’t break any law, I didn’t break any rules of the company, why can’t I do this; and he said he would report me to the manager.


“The next morning when I came in I went to punch my time card and he told me the manager wanted to talk to me in his office. He asked me what had happened and I explained to him, and he said if I didn’t follow the Australian way I would be immediately terminated and I said: `Sir, then you better terminate me’.”


But Mr Carter said that, contrary to Mr Bernabe’s statement that he had no problems … he had been counselled a number of times about his toilet habits.


“On one occasion, he was instructed to clean out the mess he made in the toilet cubicle as it was not acceptable to leave it in such a state,” he said. ”On a number of occasions, Mr Bernabe was urged to carry out his toiletry functions in the Australian way in order to prevent contamination of the toilet cubicle and upsetting other users of the facilities.”


The continuation of Mr Bernabe’s toiletry habits posed an unnecessary health risk to other employees and could (not) be accepted, Mr Carter said. – ?