Employees await Facebook verdict in landmark case

The case of six prison officer from New South Wales who were threatened with the sack after making disparaging comments about their boss on Facebook will have their case reinvestigated following a Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) decision.

The NSW Department of Corrective Services sent the employees a letter in which they were warned of misconduct and that Corrective Services Commissioner, Ron Woodham, was considering disciplinary action that may include dismissal. Woodham was one of the people named in the comments on the Facebook group ‘Suggestions to help Big RON save a few clams'.

The Public Service Association (PSA) took the case to the IRC, urging the decision on the fate of the group should rest with a third party and not the commissioner.

PSA senior industrial officer, Stewart Little, says he is pleased the six prison officers are still working and the association raised issues about procedural fairness in during the hearing.

“The issue for us is we’ve got a lot of members who use social networking sites like Facebook and being shift workers, these people perform a very stressful job," Stewart said. "Often the only way they can communicate with each other is through this medium.

"They believe they were having a private conversation with each other... We are concerned as there are no policies in place to govern the use of social networking and inappropriate Internet use.”

The department has agreed to appoint a third party to asses the case of the prison officers and the PSA are expecting a letter from the department next week outlining the way in which they wish to proceed with the reinvestigation.

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