Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Memo puts a chill on public servants' use of social media: unions

Kathryn May of the Ottawa Citizen reports:
Memos such as one recently sent to Justice department employees will put a chill on public servants’ use of personal social media accounts to engage in political activities during the federal campaign, union leaders say.
They say the tone of the memo in question – sent on behalf of Bruno Thériault, director general of Justice Canada’s workplace branch – is heavy-handed, intimidating and sends the message that public servants should avoid using social media altogether during the election.
“Recent memos being sent to federal public service workers go too far and seem designed to discourage our members from exercising their legitimate rights,” said Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
The union is preparing its own memo telling members how they can legitimately use social media during the writ period. The Association of Justice Counsel, which represents Justice department lawyers, said it also will raise concerns at its next meeting with management.
“There is no question in our minds that the department is targeting political activities,” said Sandra Guttman, the association’s general counsel.
“Any public servant reading it would certainly be reticent to use any form of social media whatsoever at the risk of being investigated and disciplined. One might also infer from the message that the department may be monitoring computers in the workplace and online activities of its employees.”

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