bound and gagged

Yukon government employees don't need whistle-blower legislation. They need courage, and a little support from their union. Currently, they lack both. Yeah, for those of you who don't realize it, you've got a union.

Yukon government employees don’t need whistle-blower legislation.

They need courage, and a little support from their union.

Currently, they lack both.

Yeah, for those of you who don’t realize it, you’ve got a union. Every month you fork over roughly $70 for its services (or about 1.4 per cent of the average worker’s pay), though you might be excused if you don’t know what services your money buys.

It’s kind of a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil organization. Sultan-rich, but, as unions go, kinda useless.

Employee grievance proceedings have, inexplicably, been known to stretch out over years.

And recent settlements hammered out by union negotiators have been so bad they’ve been rejected by employees.

It’s enough to make one wonder if its leaders are more interested in kowtowing to the government than representing the interests of its dues-paying members.

Case in point, we heard rumours about a particularly threatening gag order issued to civil servants by the Yukon Party government.

As part of the investigation, we asked Yukon Employees’ Union president Laurie Butterworth if he’d heard anything about it.

Nope, he said.

Besides, the union supports the idea employees shouldn’t speak to the media, he added.

If a frustrated employee suggested they want to talk to the media, the union reminds them of their confidentiality agreement and the fact they are to refer all queries to the communications department – they are encouraged to clam up.

The union provides a copy of the communications policy to the worker, he added.

That’s nice, in a sycophantic toady kind of way.

Does it provide a copy of Section 2 of the Constitution alongside that policy? Specifically, “Everyone has the following freedoms … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

Butterworth wasn’t sure if the union had ever defended that right.

It’s hard, difficult, and the employee would face a suspension of more than a month, he said.

The Yukon needs whistleblower legislation, he said.

But they probably don’t.

What workers need is for some agency to champion their existing right to free expression.

The perfect candidate for that would be a feisty union willing to go to bat for workers who are courageous and principled enough to want to expose waste and wrongdoing in government.

Instead, workers have a union that issues the gag itself, urging them to quietly return to their post and study the communication policy pushed by a government that recently sought to secretly sell off a public utility.

It must be disheartening to workers who are forced to pony up a sizable chunk of change from their paycheques every month for … what?

But it’s clearly not enough to spur them to action.

Which leads us to believe the rumoured threatening gag order probably doesn’t exist.

What government would be stupid enough to issue such an order?

Nobody’s going to talk.

They’re cowed without it.

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