A Welsh language campaigner claims an engineering firm may have “broken the law” by asking workers to speak in English .
Babcock, which maintains planes at RAF Valley , Anglesey , found itself at the centre of a language row earlier this week after it confirmed it asks Welsh speaking workers to talk in English “in the interests of politeness” in a business context when there are non-Welsh speaking people also present.
It said this was “discussed and agreed at a union meeting in December 2017” – but Unite has categorically denied there was any such agreement.
Osian Rhys, of Cymdeithas yr Iaith language group, said: “These are serious allegations. If they are true, the company has broken the law – it has been illegal since 2011 to stop, or attempt to stop, two individuals from speaking Welsh to each other.
“The law passed in the Assembly in 2010 established, among many other rights, a new freedom to use the Welsh language with others in Wales.
“If you feel that somebody has interfered with your freedom to use the Welsh language with someone else, the Welsh Language Commissioner may be able to investigate.
“These types of situations include: somebody stating that you should not use the Welsh language, either spoken or in writing, with someone else who also wishes to use it; somebody stating that you will be at a disadvantage for using the Welsh language with someone else; somebody placing you at a disadvantage for using the Welsh language with someone else.”
Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws has now written to both Babcock, part of BAE Systems , which employs 470 people at the airbase, and Unite to establish the facts in this case.
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A spokeswoman for Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws said: “The Welsh language has official status in Wales, and the law states that persons wishing to use the Welsh language with one another have the freedom to do so.
“If a person feels that somebody, be that an employer or another individual, has interfered with his or her freedom to communicate in Welsh with another person – who also wishes to communicate in Welsh – they may contact the Welsh Language Commissioner who can investigate the matter.”
She added: “If the Commissioner decides to investigate, she will prepare an investigation report determining whether there has been an interference with the freedom to use Welsh and her views on whether the interference was justified.
“This report is then shared with the parties involved and with the Welsh Government. As part of this process, the Commissioner may provide recommendations to ensure that the interference does not occur again.”
In 2014 Betsi Cadwaladr health board was told by the Commissioner to apologise after a female locum doctor at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd said she took ‘personal offence’ to a 15-year-old patient, who was suffering anxiety attacks, speaking Welsh to her mum, Dorothy Williams, of Dolwyddelan , who claimed the comments were racist.
Also in 2014, the Commissioner rapped Swinton insurance after it tried to ban staff from using Welsh when discussing details of financial products with Welsh-speaking customers.