Nine office workers employed by a Labour-run local authority have been lost their jobs after it was discovered that they were spending up to two hours a day on the internet auction site eBay. Three were sacked and six resigned when they were challenged and the employer produced logs of their Internet use. They worked at Neath Port Talbot Council in South Wales.
This case highlights a trend. Employers are cracking down on unauthorised Internet use. Solidarity knows of several cases where employees face disciplinary action. In some of them there is a political element as the employer does not like the sites being looked at and in others the content of the sites is not an issue.
Solidarity is naturally concerned by threats to the employment of its members. We call on major employers to take away the temptation of unauthorised Internet use by installing firewalls. Employers should take measures to bar access to all but approved sites and restrict personal use to break times in so far as possible. We also note that many employers take inadequate steps to inform staff of Internet use policy and ensure that it is properly understood. We believe that employers should obtain express consent from workers for any monitoring of emails or Internet use. In some cases the rules are not consistently applied and the policy is used as a stick to beat particular staff who are unpopular with the employer. This is wrong and we will seek to ensure that no one is singled out in this way.
Our advice to members of Solidarity is simple, however. Don't use the Internet (whether for browsing the web or sending emails) for any private purpose whilst at work. We would advise you that you should assume that your Internet use would be monitored and that you have no privacy using a connection at work. We will advise and defend you if you get into hot water (as is our function) but prevention is better than cure - don't risk losing your employment. Use the Internet in your leisure time only.