There are times when all of the joy and optimism of being able to experience a new culture, of meeting new friends and accessing different ways of looking at the world is replaced, if only momentarily, by the feeling that I’m backing a loser.
Just read this story, Robert, and it’s absolutely disgraceful; that they can’t find find Welsh speaking people with the right talent…well, I’m dubious. With your closing sentiments I’m in agreement also.
Unbelievable, I watched the “Hwyl yr Ŵyl” on a S4C Heno segment and it looked like a lot of fun. But that they couldn’t find a Welsh speaking Sîon Corn in Gwynedd beggers belief. I guess both the stories highlight the chipping a way of language and culture.
As a tenant, I’m extremely upset about this. We were told that Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd would keep to the standards set by the Council when they took over the housing stock. By dropping the requirement for Welsh, they are opening the pool of prospective employees to include: those who want the job but aren’t willing to learn Welsh - what kind of attitude to the work, the staff and the tenants does that suggest?
There’s no way I’d want to consider someone for a job worth £82,000 a year if they didn’t have the commitment to acquire new skills with it.
No, I don’t. I think they’d face immediate disciplinary action. In other words, an appointment in a Welsh-speaking workplace that does not require the language immediately deprives other staff of their choice of language.
I don’t know the exact wording of course, but I would have thought Welsh being “essential” meant that a Welsh speaker should be appointed rather than someone with a commitment to learn?
I won’t name names, but a friend of mine put his foot down in an organisation recently over the appointment of someone who couldn’t speak Welsh, saying there was no point in having “essential” in the job description unless a Welsh speaker was appointed.
[I’ve a fear that a “commitment to learn Welsh” could be used as a fig leaf. Or even to cover up no commitment whatsoever, or even a contempt for the importance of the language, or worse.
Mark James, Carmarthenshire County Council.
Don’t mind naming names there!]
No, that would be in clear breach of equality legislation, and rightly so. It is of course very important that commitments to learn are properly monitored and assessed (Cyngor Gwynedd itself has occasional lapses on this front), but that’s a slightly separate issue.
Some of the best officers I’ve known in Cyngor Gwynedd were second language speakers you would never, ever guess weren’t native bilinguals.
Timing is a bit trickier - but I don’t think it would be very reasonable to refuse to consider someone who was sincerely willing to learn the language (but for whom it would not otherwise have been relevant - someone not living in Wales, for example).
Quick answer there to establish what I was saying, as I don’t want anyone to think that I was advocating only appointing Welsh people to the job, which is what could have been taken from the above exchange.
I know two people who have learned Welsh, one working as a translator and one through Welsh language publications. Both would not gave been given the jobs without first being able to speak Welsh!
Most job skills which are essential to a job can be acquired over time by many people. They are generally given to people who already have most of these skills. On the job training for essential skills can be taken into account, but only generally in special circumstances. Calling Welsh speaking “essential” whilst stressing that anyone can have on the job training for it, dilutes - in my view - the meaning of the word essential.
Why take the risk that someone really has the desire or commitment for such an important part of the job?
And why lose time having someone in the job without an essential skill whilst they are being trained?
They always like something a little colourful as a soundbite…
Owain - I saw this happening on a regular basis in Cyngor Gwynedd, and making learning Welsh a required part of the job worked excellently. And, of course, it has the bonus of not being in breach of equality legislation!
Employment Statutory Code of Practice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission website:
Under the Welsh Language Act 1993, public bodies providing services to
the public in Wales must make their services available in Welsh as well as
English. This operates as a statutory exception to the Equality Act, and allows
a wide range of posts in public bodies in Wales (and some outside Wales) to
require workers who can speak, write and read Welsh sufficiently well for the
post in question. In some cases, Welsh language skills may be an essential
requirement for appointment; in others, the worker may need to agree to
learn the language to the required level within a reasonable period of time
after appointment. On this issue, employers are recommended to seek advice
from the Welsh Language Board.
Giving someone the job who spoke Welsh wouldn’t be.
Telling someone who was genuinely willing to learn that they couldn’t be considered for the job because they hadn’t already learnt would (almost certainly) be - based on a number of in-depth conversations about exactly this point I had with the head of the then CRE Cymru back in the day.
I suspect the real issue here is when requirements like this are used as a way to avoid the far more important step to becoming a workplace that operates internally through the medium of Welsh. Cyngor Gwynedd does that, and therefore has extremely strong social pressure in addition to employment terms and conditions - councils in other parts of Wales have (to date) refused to do that, and therefore have people operating in environments which are not consistently Welsh speaking, making it far easier for them to wriggle out of half-hearted commitments.