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Civil Service: Guidelines for Social Media

After three and a half years of the McNeil government’s attacks on labour rights and on the free collective bargaining process, cuts to public services and threats of contracting out, delegates at the NSGEU 2016 Convention passed a resolution that we would organize against the McNeil Liberals in the next election. This means that the union will be communicating information to our members during the run up to an election to remind you of this party’s anti-labour record.

Constitutionally, the NSGEU is a non-partisan non-profit organization – and we will not be telling you who to vote for. However, we have a policy that allows us to work against any government who works against us – so we will be telling our members not to vote for the McNeil Liberal government.

Almost all of our members work for organizations funded directly or indirectly by the government. As the election unfolds, you may ask yourself what you can or cannot say online in social media.

Here are some basic guidelines:

If You Work In The Civil Service:

Members in the Civil Service have more restrictions on what you are able to say publicly then the rest of the membership.

Recently, you have received a communication from your Employer, via Laura Lee Langley, outlining what you can and cannot do as an employee during an election. A few of the items were of particular concern to us, as they affect your ability to speak publicly about the government. However, the restrictions were taken directly from the Civil Service Act and as an employee of the Civil Service, you are subject to them. Even though these restrictions may not be able to withstand a Charter Challenge, we would not want members subject to discipline in the meantime.

Section 38 (1) of the Civil Service Act says that an employee shall not (except during a leave of absence):

(e) publish or broadcast media statements of a partisan character which would in any way support or oppose a candidate or political party;

(f) draft or speak, in a partisan context, on policies directly associated with the employee’s work, or in any way to support or oppose a candidate or political party;

Consequently, although you will see and hear non-Civil Service NSGEU members stating their opposition to the McNeil Liberal government, and posting pictures of themselves with placards that read, “I am not voting for the McNeil Liberals because…” we are asking you to refrain from participating in that aspect of the campaign on social media.

However, our legal counsel has advised us that you are able to participate in other union activity during the campaign.

Here is a list of social media Dos and Don’ts for ALL NSGEU members to consider:

DOs and DON’Ts of Social Media: A Guide

DOs

  • Please repost, share, retweet, and email any union communication you receive on your own personal time and on your own personal social media sites. Communication as a Union member is an expressive activity in association with other members that is protected by the Charter, and not expression in a purely “partisan” sense.
  • NSGEU members are not required to be silent on workplace issues that affect you as union members. You have the right to raise your voice as a union member about issues like government legislation that takes away free collective bargaining rights, contracting out, and cuts to public services.
  • For the Civil Service: There are long standing provisions in the collective agreement which protect legitimate union activity. Article 2.02 of the collective agreement provides:
    • Article 2.02 No Discrimination for Union Activity: The parties agree that there will be no discrimination, interference, restrictions, or coercion exercised or practiced with respect to any employee for reason of membership of activity in the Union.
  • As an employee of a public sector employer, including the government directly, you should conduct your work efficiently and impartially. You should not share your personal views with clients in your workplace and always maintain the confidentiality of the work you do where necessary.
  • It is the Union’s position that you can use your work email to distribute union information to coworkers. However, you must do this on your own time and not during work hours.

DON’Ts

  • Keep in mind that you should not be critical of your direct employer (i.e. if you work in government finance, you shouldn’t criticize the financial decisions of government)
  • There are a list of specific cautions in our NSGEU Social Networking Policy: In posting content, NSGEU members may subject themselves to discipline, lawsuits or criminal charges if they engage in any of the following:
    • Violate an employer’s confidentiality policy I. Example: Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information relating to corporate affairs, clients, patients, coworkers. II. Example: The unauthorized posting of photographs containing confidential information relating to corporate affairs, clients, patients, coworkers.
    • Harm, or do something that is likely to harm, the company’s reputation I. Example: Making insulting, scandalous, rude, insubordinate or insolent comments about the workplace, this includes comments about management, coworkers, clients, and the company’s services or products. II. Example: Posting racist, discriminatory or violent comments. III. Example: The unauthorized posting of photographs that may harm the company’s reputation.
    • Harm, or do something that is likely to harm, the employer’s operations I. Example: Gossip and other unprofessional postings can cause strife and disruptions among colleagues in the workplace.
    • Breach the Canadian Criminal Code
    • Act in a manner inconsistent with job obligations I. Example: An employee charged (implicitly or explicitly) with customer or public relations should not air his private views about his employer, colleagues, clients, etc. II. Example: A health care employee posts scornful comments about the services provided by her employer.
    • NSGEU social networking policy can be found on-line at: Social Media Policy

If you have any concerns, questions, or comments, or experience any issues related to your participation in union activity during the election or after, please contact your Employee Relations Officer by contacting us at 902-424-4063 or toll-free at 1-877-556-7438 or by email at inquiry@nsgeu.ca.

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