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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Speak Dutch, says Belgian company
Defaced sign
Language has become a contentious issue in Belgium
A Belgian auto parts supplier has ordered its workforce to speak only Dutch or risk being fired.

The human resources boss at HP Pelzer, in the Belgian town of Genk, said the rule was "to avoid cliques forming".

Genk is in Belgium's Dutch-speaking Flemish region but 70% of the company's 125-strong workforce is non-Belgian.

Half of the non-Belgian workers at the company are Turkish and have complained to politicians and the union that the rule is aimed at them.

The rule will be in force at all times, including lunch breaks.

"We have people from Italy, India, Poland, Algeria here," human resources manager Geert Vermote told Reuters news agency.

"It's to avoid cliques forming here and there."

'Three strikes'

Workers found breaking the Dutch-only language rule are to be given a warning. Three warnings would lead to a worker's dismissal.

Two staff have received written warnings, Reuters said.

Mr Vermote said the "three strikes" policy applied to all of the company's rules, not just the language prohibition.

"It's really nothing other than other rules we have, such as a ban on smoking."

Belgium has seen a number of language rows between the Dutch-speaking Flemish population and the French-speaking Walloons.

Belgian town bans school French
01 Sep 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Belgium
07 Apr 07 |  Country profiles


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