we live in an open democracy. which means that every person is free to join a political party, to join a protest, or to take part in democratic processes. or so you would think.
so why would CYFs staff be categorically told that they were not allowed to take part in a protest against the canning of the pay equity investigation? especially when the canning of said investigation directly affects their workplace? and when the protest is outside of their work hours?
can an employer forbid an employee to take part in a political protest? it's not like this particular protest will bring the employer into disrepute, because it wasn't CYFs that canned the investigation, it was the minister of state services ie it was not even the minister of social development who is ultimately responsible for CYFs. it's not like it's some kind of racist protest by the national front, or behaviour that is objectionable in any way.
i have a real problem with this, particularly in light of the redundancies across the public sector. at a time when jobs are being cut willy-nilly in an attempt to prove that the government is "doing something", obviously those who are visible activists or who make any kind of vocal complaint will be the first to go. fear of losing their livelihoods will mean that employees will be extremely reluctant to raise issues of injustice in their workplaces.
i've also had a doctor working in a public hospital not joining a political party because they believed they're not allowed to, as a public servant. even though they support that party's objectives and want to participate in policy discussions, they believe they can't do so because they are required to be neutral as public servants. even in their out-of-work time.
i don't know where they are getting this message from, but it really bothers me. sure they can't be political in their work time and as part of their work activities, but i don't see how their out-of-work time can be controlled in this way.
i had another experience tonight at an office of ethnic affairs workshop on making submissions to select committees. when we broke into groups for discussion, one member of our group told us that he was not allowed to make submissions because of his position. he wouldn't reveal what that position was - i'm wondering if he is a justice of peace who sits on some kind of legal tribunal. but again, it bothered me that he felt he was unable to participate in the democratic process.
surely, in a free and open democracy everyone has the right to participate, to associate with whomsover they please and to take part in legitimate protest action. but this is obviously not the reality for everyone in this country.