Union crunch talks today
CRUNCH talks between union officials and the States were due to take place after public-sector workers overwhelmingly rejected plans to overhaul how the workforce is run.
Prospect – which represents thousands of the Island’s civil servants – announced that their members had followed Unite the Union and the Jersey Nursing Association in rejecting the States’ pay and workforce modernisation offer.
Both Unite and the JNA suggested that potential industrial action could be the next step for staff if the States failed to improve its proposal.
However, the States Employment Board have said there is no money left in the pot to increase its offer and that the workforce modernisation programme was the ‘best deal possible’. Under the £47 million programme, all States staff would be subject to one set of terms and conditions and a standardised pay scheme. Entitlement to maternity leave, holidays and overtime would be the same throughout the workforce.
In order to achieve a standardised pay structure, several groups of workers, including 35 ambulance service staff and residential child care officers, would receive substantial rises in pensionable pay by 2020. Other sectors would see rises as little as 2.5 per cent.
However, the unions argued that thousands would be left out of pocket by the changes, with the 3,229 civil servants working in the public sector set to receive an average rise of 3.3 per cent by 2020 – below the expected cost-of-living rises.
And almost 90 per cent of civil servants balloted on the offer rejected it.
Prospect said: ‘This is a very strong message to the employer that their package is seriously flawed and is not acceptable to staff. Our hope and expectation is the employer will now work towards a new proposal that will be acceptable to staff while there is still some element of goodwill in existence.
‘The [States] new chief executive, Charlie Parker, has acknowledged in a recent email to staff “we’re about ten years behind other public sector organisations and businesses in how we treat our people. Staff are our biggest asset, and if we’re serious about building a modern, joined-up States of Jersey, we have to start with pay and conditions”.
‘Now the employer has the opportunity to prove these are not empty words and show public sector staff they are respected for their work and effort and are valued accordingly in line with other equivalent market sectors.’ Several unions have claimed that the States ended the negotiations prematurely, rushed the deal and had failed to deal with concerns in several key areas.
A States spokesperson said: ‘The States Employment Board is disappointed in the outcome of the ballot. SEB maintains that the offer is the best deal possible for employees within the Island’s financial constraints, and it provides guaranteed pay rises for three years.
‘The Workforce Modernisation programme will enable the States to streamline and harmonise pay and conditions for 5,000 employees as part of essential public service reform.
‘States of Jersey representatives will be meeting the unions to discuss the results with them and will then consider its position before informing employees and the wider public of its next steps.’