Schools contact parents ahead of Friday’s strike
PARENTS are being contacted by head teachers to advise how this Friday’s civil service strike will affect schools – including their ability to open.
Speculation has grown that a number of public-sector services could shut as employees, including teaching assistants, office staff, engineers and radiographers, prepare to walk out of the workplace after two civil service unions – JCSA Prospect and Unite – called a strike, which is due to take place for two hours from 9 am on Friday.
Large numbers of States workers are dissatisfied with receiving below-inflation pay-rises for 2018 and 2019. Employees are not required to tell departments whether they are union members, so the effect of the strikes on public services remains unclear. Head teachers of individual schools will need to decide whether their schools open or not based on factors such as health and safety, and whether staff are properly able to teach the curriculum.
A statement released by the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department says parents were being notified in writing as to whether individual schools would open or not on Friday.
‘Schools are continuing to review their contingency plans on a regular basis ahead of the proposed industrial action among civil servants on Friday,’ the statement says.
‘The department’s director-general, Mark Rogers, the leadership team and officers have been supporting schools to update their risk assessments and contingency plans since the action was announced.
‘All head teachers are writing today to advise parents and carers of the expected impact of the action on Friday, so that they can prepare in good time should there be disruption at their school.
‘Schools and the department are committed to doing everything they possibly can to avoid the interruption of the learning for children and young people, but the main priority is for their safety at school.
‘While schools will do everything they possibly can to stay fully open, the right of those who wish to go on strike is acknowledged.’
Sam Cooper, president of the National Association of Head Teachers in Jersey, said that it had been difficult to establish which staff might go strike, as workers do not have to tell departments whether they are part of a union or not.
A States spokeswoman said that officers were ‘compiling information’ on which other departments might be affected and would pass it on when it had been ‘gathered and verified’.
‘All departments will make every effort to provide the best possible service during any industrial action and contingency arrangements are the responsibility of the relevant director-general,’ she added.
Brendan Carolan, president of the Jersey branch of the National Education Union, said that his union was fully supportive of the strike on Friday ‘even if it does close schools’.
He added that he believed the States and the Council of Ministers were to blame for the strikes and any potential service closures, due to their failure to properly control inflation in Jersey’s economy.
‘The damage that school closures will cause is insignificant in comparison to that being caused in the long run by failing to provide the necessary funding that Education provision badly requires,’ he said.
Mr Carolan added that ballot papers would be circulated to NEU members on 10 December about potential strike action and the poll results announced in the new year.
The JEP asked a number departments and services how they might be affected by the strike.
- Customer and local services, which handles general queries from the public including social security matters, said that they were ‘not sure’ which of their employees would go on strike but added that their building in La Motte Street would remain open.
- Deputy Greffier Lisa Hart said that staff at the States Greffe ‘can strike if they choose to’ but the industrial action should not affect this week’s States sitting, if it is still going on on Friday. ‘Myself and the Greffier can’t strike, I believe, because we are appointees, but everyone else is able to exercise their right,’ she said. ‘If we are still sitting in the chamber on Friday we will still be able to operate a skeleton service, but Twitter etc may not be undertaken to the same level of activity as is the norm.’
- The Planning and Building Department said that they would be open on Friday as usual, as did the Environment Department.
- A spokeswoman for the Heath Department said a ‘couple of clinics’ might be affected, but contingency plans would be put in place.