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[Trinidad] Aviation worker suspended for Facebook post

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[Trinidad] Aviation worker suspended for Facebook post

Unread post by bimjim » Thu Apr 27, 2017

https://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2017-04 ... ebook-post

[Trinidad] Aviation worker suspended for Facebook post
Anna-Lisa Paul
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Public Services Association (PSA) has warned the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) that it will not tolerate attempts to bully, harass or intimidate workers with threats of suspension or loss of work over their social media presence and/or online postings.

Speaking during a press conference at the PSA headquarters in Port-of-Spain yesterday, first vice president Christopher Joefield highlighted the case of a senior air traffic controller who was suspended for two weeks without pay after his online contributions about the behaviour of managers in a “secret” Facebook group were disclosed to senior TTCAA officials.

Dhanesh Kumar was suspended from March 18-31 on the basis of certain remarks he reportedly made as a member of the group.

Formed in 2012 by colleagues of Kumar’s, the group enables members to discuss their concerns about issues both within and outside the workplace, as well as comment on management style and the treatment of employees. It was a secret group as opposed to an open or closed group on Facebook, which means it offers a high level of privacy.

According to documents filed in the High Court on April 12, “members felt secure and confident in making their comments, knowing these comments were not in the public domain and were confidential.”

The document added that the secret group was specifically chosen in order to protect the fundamental constitutional rights of members to enjoy both freedom of speech/opinion as well as the right to privacy.

Kumar is being represented by Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan, instructed by Travers Sinanan.

Pointing out that Kumar’s contributions were disclosed by another member of the group, Joefield yesterday accused the TTCAA of acting in a “high-handed” manner when they convened a tribunal and decided to suspending Kumar as a result.

Having been summoned to a senior manager’s office in early November 2016, Kumar was advised that an investigation had been launched into certain postings in the secret group. It was during this that Kumar was made aware the senior manager was also a member of the secret group.

Kumar later denied responsibility for exposing or circulating in the public domain any of the postings from the secret group.

On November 18, 2016, Kumar received a memo which charged him with gross misconduct for posting allegations which could possibly bring the TTCAA into disrepute.

Joefield said Kumar fell ill and had to seek medical treatment for a heart-related condition which was exacerbated as a result of the stress brought on by the situation, leading the TTCAA to adjourn the disciplinary hearing from November 2016 to January.

At the hearing on January 10, the TTCAA attempted to introduce a document purportedly dealing with the use of social media by Staff, which was conceptualised after the disciplinary charges had been brought against Kumar.

Referring to this yesterday, Joefield argued the TTCAA did not have any policy regarding social media at the time of the incident. He said it was “quite possible” the TTCAA was using this incident to remove Kumar, as he has been a vocal employee representative advocating for workers’ rights.

Joefield said if this matter went unchallenged it would set a dangerous precedent, as “workers should have the right, even in a secret forum, to express their views without having to run the risk of being taken to task for it.”

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