Firefighters ticked off by city's new social media policy

Posted: August 03, 2012

The firefighters union's got their pants all in a tweet after the Nutter administration issued rules for firefighters' use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites this week.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers issued a three-page memo Wednesday detailing social media guidelines that prohibit employees from using city property for social media while on duty, prohibit any comments or images about patients, racial slurs, any other defamatory comments and anything that may affect the efficiency or effective operation of the department.

Employees are also forbidden from posting "any information or images involving off-duty activities that may bring a member's or the department's reputation into question." Failure to comply could lead to disciplinary action.

"They are messing with people's First Amendment rights and freedom of speech," said Bill Gault, president of firefighters union Local 22. "The Commissioner and the Mayor can't take criticism."

Mayor Nutter's chief of staff, Everett Gillison, said the regulations reflect an executive order Nutter signed in the spring that all city employees are subject to. He noted that the Police Department issued their regulations six months ago.

"This city is joining the 21 st century in all of our social media aspects and we're adopting like all major cities are adopting reasonable policies to help us guide in this great world called social media," Gillison said. "And that's it."

Gault argued that the guidelines should have been bargained. The administration disagrees. The union plans to file a grievance and an unfair labor practice complaint early next week.

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or Ransomj@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jan_Ransom and read her blog, phillyclout.com.

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