Language demand after Welsh ban claim

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Nov 12 21:06:29 UTC 2008

Language demand after Welsh ban claim
Nov 11 2008 by Robin Turner, Western Mail

A WELSH language pressure group last night demanded that a local
authority proves it takes its commitment to the language seriously
after an employee claimed staff were "afraid" to speak Welsh. Cymuned
said Swansea Council should demonstrate its position after an employee
told a local radio station he had been challenged for speaking Welsh
at work. Swansea Council strongly refuted the allegations. The worker
rang a phone-in programme to talk about a blunder which led to a Welsh
road sign being erected which read: "I am out of the office at the
moment." It was taken down after bemused Welsh-speaking members of the
public reported the error.

The employee, who has not been named, said: "There are Welsh speakers
in the department that could have avoided this latest embarrassment
for the council. But if they are aware of what happened to me they may
be afraid to lift their heads above the parapet and show that they are
Welsh speakers.
"I stand by what I said on air, the people deserved to know. I simply
wish to highlight my experience and skim the surface on what happened
to me since the local government reorganisation in 1996.

"I was banned and disciplined for speaking Welsh in a certain section
of the council, even on the phone to my own family, between 1997 and
"Later, following redeployment, I had further complaints and
disciplinary action for speaking Welsh in the workplace and listening
to Radio Cymru when working on my own. I have no motives here other
than to protect the integrity of my mother tongue, Welsh-speaking
employees of the authority and in the public interest of openness and

But a Swansea Council spokesman said claims of disciplinary action
being taken against an employee for speaking Welsh were "absolutely
not true".

"The use of Welsh in the workplace is encouraged, particularly if it
helps improve understanding of an issue or situation," he said.

"Swansea Council has a Welsh language scheme which is approved by the
Welsh Language Board. It is a stated policy of our Welsh language
scheme that we encourage members of the public, should they wish, to
pursue an issue through the medium of Welsh. Information given out to
the public generally, such as leaflets and newsletters, is always

"The mistranslation of the sign was dealt with as soon as it was
brought to our attention and steps have been taken to ensure it does
not happen again."

Iestyn ap Dafydd, a member of Cymuned's executive committee, said: "We
will be asking Swansea Council to assure us it is taking the Welsh
language seriously.

"There is clearly some problem or the embarrassing road sign mix up
would never have happened.

"Following that we had an employee claiming on air that Welsh is not
exactly being encouraged.

"In some parts of the Swansea area, predominantly in the Swansea
Valley area, some communities have some of the highest proportions of
Welsh speakers left in Wales.

"As a result this is certainly not the authority where we would expect
this to be happening."

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