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Suspension hasty and unjustified
DOUBLESPEAK award of the month goes to the Welsh government for its comments after suspending an Aberystwyth trade unionist wrongly accused of leaking information to the press about the proposed closure of government offices in Caernarfon, Llandrindod Wells and Newtown.
“We are investigating potential breaches of ICT (information and communication technology) procedures, not the leaking of a document to a national newspaper”, a government spokesman said. And, later: “Suspension is a neutral act…”
Neither of those statements is true. If the government had not – entirely mistakenly as it turns out – jumped to the conclusion that an internal document had been leaked to a newspaper, a mere technical breach of ICT procedures would never have impelled the hasty and unjustified suspension of an employee who just happens to be an energetic trade union activist.
It’s futile for the government to pretend that suspending someone in a case such as this is “a neutral act”. It’s an act verging on the aggressive, and one now acknowledged to have been completely unwarranted. The daily newspaper the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) member was supposed to have leaked to later took the highly unusual step of saying that it had never had contact with the person concerned about anything at all.
It’s equally futile for the government to pretend that suspension in this case was not influenced by an eagerness to damp down the spirit of resistance that is inspiring public sector workers in Ceredigion Against the Cuts (CATC), and their trade union colleagues in other parts of Wales, to campaign to block unacceptably damaging central and local government spending cuts.
The government has taken fright. Sadly, they regard anti-cuts activists as a disruptive nuisance, when they should actually be recognising them as allies in a sensible attempt to persuade the UK government to modify, in the interests of jobs and the economy, its frenzied assault on the deficit. CATC is striving to protect public services, and the jobs of the 40 per cent-plus of people in Ceredigion who work in the public sector.
They are trying to stem the loss of teachers’ jobs in Ceredigion, they are trying to protect council workers’ terms and conditions, they are speaking out against cuts to S4C and to the police budget. We should all be part of this struggle, because job-losses, spending cuts and consequent damage to local economies will leave few of us unscathed.
In essence what CATC is saying is of course the UK deficit has to be reduced, but the way in which that is being tackled is needlessly frantic and fast and threatens deep social and economic injury on local communities. Bear in mind that even the influential economic think-tank the OECD, which until a couple of months ago supported the UK government’s economic policy and George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan, is now saying the chancellor should consider changing course.
What’s disturbing now is that, as I write, the wronged PCS member remains suspended after nearly three weeks. There’s a word for this. Victimisation.
Mortified by faux pas!
I KNOW I speak for everyone in Aberystwyth when I say we have all been mortified to learn that the mayor has dragged the town’s good name through the equivalent of a trail of seagull-masticated black bags.
I refer to Richard Boudier’s attempt to undermine that proud cornerstone of civic heritage – Protocol. How could he do it? How could he toss aside centuries of etiquette, presumably whilst lavishing, with bitter irony, his trademark cheeriness on all around him? How could he have thought it right to wear his chain of office to a formal dinner in Llanbadarn Fawr?
You of course just don’t do that without being in possession of written authorisation from one’s neighbouring council, the gold-embossed message delivered to the town clerk on a silver salver.
The letter of apology that has gone from town councillors to their scandalised community council colleagues down the road is totally inadequate. The man should be considering his position.
With Patrick O'Brien
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