Multiple messages criticizing the province’s vaccine mandate for government workers were sent by employees to coworkers using their government emails, the B.C. Public Service Agency has confirmed.
The emails attacked the province for implementing a vaccine mandate for its employees, introduced on Oct. 5.
The mandate applies to all 30,000 public service employees, who must be able to show proof of vaccination by Nov. 22 or face suspension from work – a similar rule was also introduced for federal workers.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Public Service Agency confirmed multiple employees used their work emails to send the messages, which violates various government Standards of Conduct agreements employees have to sign.
“While we do not comment on specific human resource issues, the responsibilities of BC Public Service employees are clearly defined in the Standards of Conduct, the Oath of Employment and the Social Media Guidelines for public service employees,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
The spokesperson stated the B.C. Public Service Agency was “undertaking appropriate follow-up” to deal with the situation.
Members of a recently created social media group, BC Public Servants Employees for Freedom, on Telegram – an encrypted social media platform similar to WhatsApp – have exchanged messages about how to plan similar email blasts and get past spam filtering systems on government servers.
In the page description, the group describes itself as a group for BCPS staff who are “pro freedom and do not consent to a vaccination mandate.” It adds, “This is not an anti-vaxx group, it is a group for personal freedoms and right to privacy.”
Members are encouraged by the group’s administrators to use a pseudonym in case the group is being monitored and are asked not to send emails during work hours or using work equipment.
They are also asked to contact their union representatives, with the aim of pressuring public service unions into opposing the vaccine mandate.
A lawyer retained by a group of healthcare professionals – who are not necessarily members of the Telegram group – sent letters to that effect to the BC Government Employees Union, BC Nurses’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Hospital Employees Union and Health Sciences Association.
The letters describe the provincial government as a “ruthless employer” and states that the unions are exposing members to liability by supporting the “patently illegal, dangerous and devastating” vaccine mandate.
Some members of the Telegram group have expressed concern about their employment status come the Nov. 22 deadline. Public service workers among them who are not vaccinated by then are set to be suspended without pay. The group had over 1,000 members as of Oct. 14, but since many are using pseudonyms, it is not clear how many are actually civil servants.
The BC Public Service Agency said they aren’t concerned about potential staffing shortfalls if people don’t get vaccinated before the deadline.
“We are confident the vast majority of employees, just like most British Columbians, will be willing and able to meet the requirement by Nov. 22,” the spokesperson wrote.
“Individual ministries are responsible for managing staffing availability issues,” they added. “As we have throughout the pandemic, ensuring continued access to services will remain our first priority.”