Library board tells employees not to contact MHA, minister

James
James McLeod
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Urged to use internal mechanism to voice concerns

Andrew Parsons

Library staff in the province are being told to keep quiet when it comes to the provincial government’s budget cuts.

In an internal letter sent to all in the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries’ division, executive director Shawn Tetford told them that they shouldn’t talk to MHAs, cabinet ministers or the premier about budget cuts.

“Recently, a local staff member wrote their MHA, the Minister of Education and the Premier criticizing the budget cuts,” Tetford wrote. “Such action by public servants is unacceptable.”

Tetford said that it’s up to public servants to carry out the government’s decisions, and if anybody doesn’t agree with the direction that things are going, that should be dealt with internally.

“If any staff member has concerns regarding the budget reductions and the impact on public libraries, there is an internal process to bring those concerns forward,” he wrote.

“The appropriate protocol is to put your issues/concerns in writing and forward them to your supervisor/manager for consideration and appropriate action.”

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said he’s appalled the government won’t let civil servants speak to elected officials.

“What kind of government is this when people working for them aren’t even allowed to write to their own local MHA?” Parsons said.

“This has always been a government that was obsessed with control, but I think with how things have gone in the last couple of years, it’s gotten even worse.”

Parsons said he routinely struggles with political control and bureaucrats saying they’re not allowed to talk to him, especially when he wants to deal with constituency issues.

“Some, in fact, say to me now, ‘I would love to talk to you, but I’m not allowed,’” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education emailed a statement to The Telegram saying that the minister wasn’t involved in the memo being sent out to library board employees.

“Meanwhile, the department and minister are always open to hearing the ideas and concerns of individuals, including those who work for its boards and agencies,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

“Representation would typically be made by the employer (senior staff and/or the board chair), in accordance with processes and protocols established by the board/agency.”

Tetford said here’s nothing specifically wrong with an employee sending an email to their elected representative, as long as it’s not while they’re on the clock. But he said they assume that the case in question involved an employee sending something while at work.

“In this case, the individual indicated they were a library staff person, so the assumption is that they’re writing as a staff person and not as a citizen of the province,” he said.

“If it’s done outside of work, there’s nothing wrong with saying where you work, I guess, but the way I took this is that I’m writing you as a staff person, and it’s like I can’t get any satisfaction from the management structure.”

Generally speaking, Tetford said, by going to the minister, it means that the library board doesn’t have a chance to respond to whatever the employee’s issues are. He said the situation could become too much to control.

“There’s a mechanism to raise concerns through the management structure. If they have concerns, they can bring them up the line and we will certainly make a case,” he said.

“If all of our staff started writing letters to politicians criticizing all the decisions that are made, then it becomes uncontrollable and unmanageable.”

The library board’s budget was cut by $1 million this spring, and they were forced to cut more than 17 positions and reduce hours at some locations.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Education

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Kev
    July 13, 2013 - 17:34

    Remember when the PC's promised to protect whistleblowers, not punish them? Neither do they!

  • Wanda White
    July 12, 2013 - 22:34

    This is 2013 not the 1800s! By essentially muzzling its public sector worker, the PC government is threading a very fine line here. Too bad the workers don't stage a revolt en masse. They would have 94% of the province supporting them. I say it is time for Newfoundlanders to find their voice and do it TODAY! As Red Greene would say, "we're all in this together.!" I'm rootin' for ya!

  • hslaw
    July 10, 2013 - 20:50

    If anyone got the guts this Tetford fella should be punished He just put the truth out fr all to see

  • Ed Hyde
    July 10, 2013 - 17:59

    When Public Defendant lawyers and Justice Department officials are too cowed to complain publicly for fear of reprisals, what are librarians expected to do? It seems like the key qualities the P.C. 's look for in Public Servants are a lack of backbone and muteness

  • Scott
    July 10, 2013 - 17:13

    YES GEORGE,,,I KNOW GOT THAT MAGIC WORD...AND HIDING IT AWAY FROM THE PEOPLE...JUST CALL THE LIBERAL..THEY ONLY BRING IT OUT...WHEN THEY NEED TO USE IT AGAIN THE OTHER PARTY...JUST LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID TO MR MURPHY

  • Police State
    July 10, 2013 - 15:42

    We live in Newfoundland in 2013. We do not live in 1939 Germany.

  • George Murphy
    July 10, 2013 - 14:12

    I'm a Member of the House of Assembly, and I'll say this to the library board: Ever hear of the word "democracy"? That's part of the problem in this province, that you can't use your own voice or express your opinion without the promise of a kick-back from someone who holds an iron over your head. Yes....what happened to our democracy? Anyone see it around?

    • Sylvia J.
      July 12, 2013 - 21:37

      I haven't seen any sign of democracy since Harper took over Federally and from what I can see he taught Dunderdale well.

  • Torey Nomore
    July 10, 2013 - 13:57

    Lack of transparency and cover-ups; trademarks of The Secret Society known as the Con Party of NL; reason # 68,761 that I can't vote Tory no-more.

  • Jack
    July 10, 2013 - 13:28

    Just another case of Kathy Dunderdale turning Newfoundland and Labrador into a Fascist Dictatorship due to a fact that the Progressive Conservatives are a right wing party, but are acting more and more dictatorial and taking away our freedoms, akin to Fascism.

  • Brian
    July 10, 2013 - 13:26

    The real problem is management, they do not listen to the employees, it's their way or the highway. Just look at recent cuts that were reversed, cuts were okay with managers!!!!! Get to the minister and they get reversed. Time to deal with these so called managers who do not have the word "NO" in their vocabulary! when dealing with the upper levels of government!!!

  • Chrissy
    July 10, 2013 - 12:23

    YES THE GOVERNMENT GOT NO OTHER CHOICE TO MAKE CUTS...IF NOT WE ALL WILL BE IN THE POOR HOUSE... AS FOR MR PARSONS AND HIS LIBERAL PARTY...YE ALL SHOULD BE APPALLED...BECAUSE I JUST FINISHES READING ARTICLE IN THE WESTERN STAR CONCERNING ONE MR MURPHY...WHO RIGHT WAS TAKING AWAY FROM HIM...