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States staff action over pay-award reversals

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ALMOST 90 employees are taking formal action against the States after having their pay rises reversed, costing them thousands of pounds, and they have warned ‘similar or worse’ could happen to other workers.

Civil Servant strike in Liberation Square over ongoing pay dispute

Earlier this month the JEP revealed that more than 126 social workers and allied health professionals – including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers and pharmacists – were due to have their 2017 pay awards rescinded in April next year after a report found their wage increases were ‘inappropriate’.

Their job roles were regraded as part of the workforce-modernisation programme, outside the recognised process used for all other roles, leading to substantial pay increases in some cases.

However, the move was criticised by unions representing nurses and midwives, who have voiced discontent at receiving unequal pay awards for many years and called for a review of the situation.

It is understood that the debacle will cost the taxpayer £750,000. Affected employees have complained of hardship being caused in some cases, such as individuals being put in a position where they cannot meet their mortgage payments.

In response to the pay-uplift reversals, 87 employees have decided to take out a formal grievance against the States Employment Board.

A statement from those affected, which has been supplied to the JEP anonymously, says that none of them asked for the uplifts and that there was no communication with staff for 13 months before they were told they would be reversed.

It adds: ‘As a group of employees we want to be treated with respect by our employer, to feel valued for the work we do with our customers, the people of Jersey, and work for an employer who has integrity, is that too much to ask?

‘It is fundamentally about how the employer treats its employees. If they can do this to us, they are not above doing similar or worse to other groups.’

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The statement also says that there has been no support provided for staff affected by the reversal, some of whom are suffering depression or anxiety, and that some staff moved to the Island unaware that their grades would be reduced after they started work.

It is understood that JCSA Prospect, the civil servants’ union, is seeking legal advice on the matter and will be providing an update for their members soon.

Unrest is already high among large sections of the public sector due to dissatisfaction with below-inflation pay awards for 2018 and 2019, which lag behind the increasing cost of living in Jersey.

The Island’s civil servants are engaged in a programme of industrial action, which has so far included working to rule and a two-hour strike that took place on 7 December.

Meanwhile, NAHT, the head-teachers’ union, has also voted in favour of strike action and other teaching unions are balloting their members on whether they would also be prepared to walk out.

The possibility of a general strike in the public sector has been discussed at joint union meetings.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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