Protecting public servants’ privacy

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In response to the letter to the editor from the MHA for Burgeo La-Poile that was published in the Dec. 3 edition of The Telegram, I felt that it was important to respond.

First and foremost, other than how the base salary of a public service employee is released there are no other changes to how employee benefits are released under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Prior to amendments to the legislation in spring 2012, the exact salary of an employee would be disclosed if requested. Today, the salary range of an employee is released and if there is no range the exact salary amount would be available upon request. In addition, how any additional benefits are calculated including pension entitlements, vacation leave entitlements, paid leave entitlements, employment contracts and performance pay are disclosed.

The basis of this change was based on a recommendation of John Cummings, who completed an extensive review of the legislation. Through this process, public service employees raised concerns about the lack of protection for their personal information, specifically the availability to an applicant on request of their exact salary amounts.

To address these concerns, Mr. Cummings recommended that departments and public bodies adopt a harm test, which is a list of various types of personal information that, if released, could be harmful to individuals. Employment or educational history, personal recommendations and personnel evaluations are examples of information that are considered to be harmful to an employee if released.

The disclosure of specific benefits of a public service employee such as an exact bonus amount could indicate their performance in the workplace. Mr. Cummings believed that disclosure of this information would be an unreasonable invasion of an employee’s privacy and relate specifically to overall job performance which is believed to not serve the best interests of the individual.

Any additional information relating to compensation information released in the past was disclosed voluntarily. At any time an individual can publicly release their salary and benefits, which has occurred in the past.

As a steward of personal information belonging to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, our objective is to share as much information as possible while balancing the need to protect highly sensitive information such as personal information pertaining to citizens and commercially sensitive information about businesses.

We intend to abide fully by this commitment, as well as the principles of transparency and accountability.

Keith Hutchings

Minister Responsible for the

Office of Public Engagement

MHA, Ferryland

Organizations: Office of Public EngagementMHA

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Recent comments

  • Ron Tizzard
    December 23, 2012 - 15:23

    I agree with Ken completely. People who work for government are 'Public Servants", be they MHAs or a person dusting desks. Citizens of the province in the final analysis, are the 'deep-pockets' from which Public Servant salaries are paid be they The Premier, and on down. The salaries, including any bonus monies paid out of any Public Servant, high or lo, including 'elected politiicians' should be available upon request y any citizen of the province. If not, why not? These people work for me. I don't care what they do with their earnings, that's private stuff....but, the WAGES of any Public Servant...FROM THE PREMIER ON DOWN SHOULD BE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST BY ANY MEMBER OF THE pROVINCE, INCLUDING THE PRESS. If otherwise, then there should be a very good reason...apart from 'privacy issues'. There is no privacy in the Public Sector. Why would the salaries be private information, if you, as a public servate, actually earned the salary? Personally, I think the salaries of POLITICIANS are what's at issue here. Many Politicians must feel personally guilty/shamed at the money they earn...and the qustion has to be asked...why? For many years, I was a public servant, I was never ashamed of the money I earned...personally, I always felt cheated about the LOWER-END money I earned, as a union member...then laterally, as a non-union PUBLIC SERVANT;. But, I PERFROMED WITH NO APOLOGIES OFFERED...no sense of shame. The public is paying the salary bills...the public has a right to know who (or position) is getting what level of pay? What is the tragedy in publicizing all salary levels of ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS...if they earn the money i.e. they perform as expected...why not release the the money they earn? It's not personal information! The salary-paying public, per tax payments, has a right. to know.

  • Ken Collis
    December 13, 2012 - 08:44

    Mr. Minister, may I respectfully submit that if, as you state, and I quote "Employment or educational history, personal recommendations and personnel evaluations are examples of information that are considered to be harmful to an employee if released." then that person should be looking for a new job. As well, " The disclosure of specific benefits of a public service employee such as an exact bonus amount could indicate their performance in the workplace" Are you suggesting that public employees are entitled to bonuses for doing less than a stellar job? Would not getting a bonus show the exact opposite of the excuse you are using for keeping secerets from me about the way you spend my money? I am proud to tell everyone that I got a performance bonus at work.

    • Ron Tizzard
      December 23, 2012 - 15:06

      I agree with Ken completely. People who work for government are 'Public Servants", be they MHAs or a person dusting desks. Citizens of the province in the final analysis, are the 'deep-pockets' from which Public Servant salaries are paid be they The Premier, and on down. The salaries, including any bonus monies paid out of any Public Servant, high or lo, including 'elected politiicians' should be available upon request y any citizen of the province. If not, why not? These people work for me. I don't care what they do with their earnings, that's private stuff....but, the WAGES of any Public Servant...FROM THE PREMIER ON DOWN SHOULD BE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST BY ANY MEMBER OF THE pROVINCE, INCLUDING THE PRESS. If otherwise, then there should be a very good reason...apart from 'privacy issues'. There is no privacy in the Public Sector. Why would the salaries be private information, if you, as a public servate, actually earned the salary? Personally, I think the salaries of POLITICIANS are what's at issue here. Many Politicians must feel personally guilty/shamed at the money they earn...and the qustion has to be asked...why? For many years, I was a public servant, I was never ashamed of the money I earned...personally, I always felt cheated about the LOWER-END money I earned, as a union member...then laterally, as a non-union PUBLIC SERVANT;. But, I PERFROMED WITH NO APOLOGIES OFFERED...no sense of shame. The public is paying the salary bills...the public has a right to know who (or position) is getting what level of pay? What is the tragedy in publicizing all salary levels of ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS...if they earn the money i.e. they perform as expected...why not release the the money they earn? It's not personal information! The salary-paying public, per tax payments, has a right. to know.

  • Kim Jon Hutchings
    December 13, 2012 - 07:54

    Pathetic Keith, you know it and everyone else in this province knows it. Tell steve Kent to keep the caps on those Black Markers on account of the fumes. Historic Hard tory times or is that a secret too.