States workers’ anger over job review threat
THOUSANDS of public sector workers already ‘watching their backs and fearing for their jobs’ now face further uncertainty after a review that could lead to a complete overhaul of States services was announced, a union leader has said.
Unite the Union regional representative Nick Corbel criticised the States for failing to consider the workforce when going public with the review, which was announced on Friday by Chief Minister Ian Gorst and the new States chief executive, Charlie Parker.
They said the review could lead to service redesigns, spending cuts, a reduction in the size of the workforce and a complete rethink on the way departments run. Staff had been told on Thursday.
Several politicians have welcomed the review, but said that it is long overdue and symptomatic of years of failure to address waste in the civil service.
Former Senator Ben Shenton, who has previously chaired the Public Accounts Committee, said the fact that four highly paid consultants were being brought in from the UK to undertake the review signalled that outgoing States chief executive John Richardson’s tenure at the top had been an ‘absolute failure’.
‘Big questions need to be asked about why this needs to be done now – it is signalling the past work has been either ineffective or non-existent,’ he said.
Business ‘fixer’ Kevin Keen, who was drafted in to make the States more efficient in 2015 but left months later questioning whether States officers were motivated to see the change through, also criticised the departing chief executive for failing to drive through effective change.
‘He was in charge of public-sector reform and we haven’t seen anything near what we were hoping to see,’ he said.
‘It is good that he is moving on and good they seem to have a very highly qualified guy coming in.’
The project will be led by Mr Parker, who is taking over from Mr Richardson after the outgoing head of the civil service asked to leave sooner than his planned January retirement. Mr Parker has drafted in a ‘transition team’ of four top UK consultants who will each be paid between £1,200 and £1,300 a day for roughly six months.
Mr Corbel said the review was likely to lead to a ‘further erosion’ of terms and conditions for staff. He described the cost of carrying out the review – which will be met from States reserves – as a ‘slap in the face’ to States workers.
‘I find it offensive that the Chief Minister feels the need to bring in more consultants at a vast cost,’ he said. ‘What has the Chief Minister and the chief executive done in terms of supporting their own workforce?’
He added that morale among the workforce was already low with staff ‘watching their back, fearing for their jobs’ and the review would not help ease those concerns.
St Clement Deputy Simon Brée said that the more than £600,000 due to be spent on the four consultants seemed ‘excessive’ and ‘doesn’t present the message of a less expensive structure’.
Senator Sarah Ferguson added that Jersey ‘absolutely needs the change’ but that it has taken an ‘extremely long time’ to reach this point.
Mr Shenton, meanwhile, said the outgoing head of the public sector had to shoulder some of the blame for that delay.