Discrimination against Hungarian employees in a Profi supermarket

Discrimination against Hungarians took place in one of the stores of the Profi supermarket chain in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe), a town in Szeklerland where 77 percent of the 55,000 inhabitants are ethnic Hungarians. The manager harassed employees speaking in Hungarian with each other, and seven employees have already quit their jobs because of this. The Mikó Imre Association for the Protection of Minority Rights filed a complaint with the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD), while the Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania (EMNP) has called for a boycott of the supermarket chain.

The manager of a Profi supermarket in Sepsiszentgyörgy forbid her employees to speak with each other in their mother tongue. (Illustration: Pixabay)

Leader of the Mikó Imre Association Erika Benkő said at a Wednesday press conference that several employees of the supermarket had turned to the Association with their complaints about the discriminatory behavior toward them at their workplace. Benkő finds it shocking and outrageous that such a thing can happen in Sepsiszentgyörgy, a town where a majority of the inhabitants are Hungarian.

Leader of the Mikó Imre Association Erika Benkő on May 5, 2021. (Photo: János B. Kocsis / erdely.ma)

According to the complaints, it turned out that

the Romanian store manager ordered the employees on her very first workday in February not to speak in Hungarian, in their mother tongue, with each other. Moreover, it even happened several times that she rebuked customers for speaking in Hungarian.

“We live in Romania, we speak Romanian here.”

Her explanation was the following: “We live in Romania, we speak Romanian here.” The atmosphere in the supermarket was so intolerable that seven employees have quit their jobs since March. One of the complainants, who had already quit, authorized the Mikó Imre Association to use her/his personal data and officially proceed in their case. Those still working at the store decided to keep their identity a secret because they are afraid of losing their jobs. Erika Benkő said that

they wrote to the country-level management of the supermarket chain, asking to replace the manager and relocate her to an area where she would not meet Hungarians, as she is clearly bothered by the use of the Hungarian language.

They also pointed out to Profi’s upper management that in a multilingual environment, the Hungarian language is legitimate and that the basis of a successful business is to communicate with customers in their mother tongue and to not restrict employees’ use of their mother tongue. The Romanian constitution grants the free usage of one’s mother tongue, and it is strictly forbidden to discriminate against anybody on the basis of their nationality, mother tongue, religion or any other minority affiliations, explained Erika Benkő.

Call for a boycott of Profi

“Until our requests are fulfilled and the Profi supermarket chain’s management clearly distances itself from the store manager with an anti-Hungarian attitude, we call on all Transylvanian-Hungarians to boycott the supermarket chain!” reads the communiqué of the Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania (EMNP).

In their letter sent to the management of the chain, they ask for the incident to be investigated as soon as possible and for the manager in question to be removed from the store; they also seek that every action necessary is taken to ensure that such an incident never happens again in any of their stores. Besides these requests, EMNP also requests that Profi’s management apologize to both its local employees and the whole Transylvanian-Hungarian community.

The company’s reaction to the discrimination

The Profi Rom Food company supports bilingualism in its supermarkets in those settlements where a significant number of ethnic Hungarians live; both its written communications and advertisements announced over the loudspeakers are bilingual, Romanian and Hungarian, wrote the company’s PR manager, Gabriel Pâslaru in his reply to a letter from Transylvanian-Hungarian news portal szekelyhon.ro, asking the company for its opinion about the incident.

Pâslaru also noted that if the company is informed about an employee discriminating on the basis of language, they “retrain” that colleague; he also said that their stores endeavor to create the friendliest atmosphere possible for their customers.

Not the first time

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Hungarian employees and customers have been discriminated against in Szeklerland because of their mother tongue. Read more about the topic in our article from last summer.


Title image is an illustration. 




Author: Attila Szoó