Maccas boss: cut back on te reo

By Will Trafford

A Hastings McDonald's manager has had to apologise for telling a young employee to use less te reo Māori in the workplace.

The father of a 15-year-old who works at a Havelock North McDonalds restaurant, Renata Nepe took to social media in a now viral post when his rangatahi told him their manager had instructed him to use ‘kia ora’ at work less, because ‘some people might not like it’.

"We are actively using te reo Māori in our homes, in our whānau spaces, and it was really demeaning to hear that my boy had to be submitted to that situation and for me, it was racism disguised in sugar-coated words." Nepe said.

"When my boy let me know that, he wasn't distressed about it, he wasn't sad or anything. He was actually oblivious to what had happened, really,"

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Nepe said, the instruction came while his boy was working a weekend shift on the drive-thru.

“It is not OK that our boy and us as a whānau have to feel this way, of feeling discriminated against, of feeling it was a racial attack, despite the best intentions of the manager."

"There is no harm in using two words, a two-word phrase, a common phrase. We know this, we know kia ora is the phrase from Aotearoa New Zealand." He said.

The father says his first response to his son was to continue using te reo as the first and official language of Aotearoa.

"My first reply to him was, you carry on me haere tonu koe, me te whakamahi te reo Māori. Kaua e aro ki ngai kūare me ta rātou whakahē i to tātou reo, i to taua reo," Nepe said.

"So don't worry about [what] your manager's instructed to do because it wasn't an instruction from the point of a manager, it was a person insisting another person to not use the language and it was done very quietly, it was done so no one else could hear." He added.

In an update Nepe says the manager in question has recently transferred to a different McDonalds location, but having come across his post, took the initiative to reach out and apologise to his son.

Nepe says he didn’t believe the statement was conscious racism as the manager is herself Māori, but argued, speaking te reo Māori is something to be proud of, not to shy away from.

"Even though we've always put up with this kind of behaviour and attitude, we shouldn't have to anymore, whether it is a small situation or a huge situation." he said.

This is not the first time a McDonalds employee's been instructed not to kōrero te reo Māori by managers within the organization. 

In 2018 a McDonalds employee at Te Rapa in Hamilton was told to stop using te reo Māori in interactions with customers.

A McDonald's spokeswoman says although it was initially unclear who instructed Nepe's son to speak in english, the incident was "quickly investigated" after they learnt about it through social media.