Union's action threat over web abuse
UNION leaders have warned they will take legal action against anyone targeting social workers and other council staff for abuse on social media websites.
Neath Port Talbot Council has now adopted its first social media policy designed in part to explain to staff the correct use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
At the same time it provides protection for staff who have been attacked through these sites.
And leading local government union Unison has said it will use the new procedures to take legal action against those responsible.
Union branch chairman Mark Fisher said the lack of a formal policy had been a cause for concern since 2010, when several staff were suspended and three lost their jobs for inappropriate internet use during work time. There were no guidelines in place.
"We have now put procedures in place to stop people using these sites while they are at work," said Mr Fisher.
"At the same time there have been issues where a number of our members were potentially being targeted on Facebook and Twitter, and they had no redress.
"Social workers involved with child protection cases have had to go in and, quite rightly, take children away. They, and other staff such as enforcement officers, were then being targeted just for doing their job.
"It was easy for family members to pick on them through social media sites. Now we have something in place that will protect and support them."
One section of the policy document is aimed at staff authorised to use social media on behalf of the council.
There is also advice for staff who can only use it during their personal time.
It also confirms the council will consider taking action against anyone making untrue or defamatory comments against staff.
Mr Fisher said: "If people do target our members then they will be prosecuted.
"The evidence will be there and we will use that evidence to build up a case to prosecute them. This is a big step forward, one we have pushed for. It's a supportive measure for all our staff."