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'No Indians, Asians' job ad sparks anger

By Alexis Lai, CNN
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Wed August 29, 2012
A shopper walks outside a Coles supermarket in Melbourne, Australia.
A shopper walks outside a Coles supermarket in Melbourne, Australia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Australian supermarket chain under fire for online job ad that specified "no Indians or Asians" should apply
  • Coles said ad was placed by cleaning subcontractor without its knowledge
  • Coles said subcontractor has been fired and it will retrain contractor on equal employment policies
  • Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner will investigate Coles, website, and subcontractor

(CNN) -- One of Australia's largest supermarket chains has come under fire for an online job ad that specified that "no Indians or Asians" should apply.

The ad, which sought cleaners at a Coles supermarket near the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, sparked condemnation after it was posted Sunday, according to Australian media reports.

Coles said the offending ad was placed by a cleaning subcontractor without the company's knowledge, in a written statement from spokesperson Jim Cooper.

"Coles is a proud, equal-opportunity employer and at no time have we ever issued the directives contained in this ad."

The company said it was "extremely concerned to learn of the ad and its contents" and has terminated the subcontractor's services as a result. It said it will also retrain its cleaning contractor on equal opportunity employment policies.

The ad has since been removed from the popular Gumtree classifieds website.

"I'm certainly going to look at commencing an investigation into what's happening—the role of Gumtree, what Coles' role was, and find out more details about the subcontractor," said Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks.

She said the ad was clearly "discriminatory on the basis of race" and a breach of the Tasmania Anti-Discrimination Act.

Banks said she would examine whether Coles "fulfilled its obligations to ensure its agents do not engage in discrimination," while Gumtree may have breached the Act by permitting the publication of discriminatory advertising, she added.

Banks said that while she has encountered discriminatory job ads in newspapers and other websites, this was the first case she has seen involving Gumtree.

"It happens every so often," she said, adding that in her experience, newspaper editors have been "very responsive" in improving procedures to vet ads and setting up training for their staff.

In addition to media reports, Banks was alerted to the Coles ad through a post to her personal Facebook page. This showed that the community cares about fighting discrimination, she said.

"One of the things we're trying to encourage in Australia, especially in Tasmania, is for people to do something about it (discrimination), to report it."

India and China are among the most common countries of birth of non-native Australians. According to the 2011 census, 1.4% of the country's population is Indian-born, and 1.5 % hail from mainland China.

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