States may back down over pay offer for staff

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During a public Scrutiny hearing on Monday, States Employment Board chairwoman Tracey Vallois said that the current pay offer for 2018 and 2019 could be ‘restructured’ after weeks of deadlock with unions representing public-sector workers

Her comments come as Terry Renouf, president of JCSA Prospect, the civil servants’ union, said that he expected its members to vote in favour of industrial action up to and including going on strike because of widespread discontent at receiving pay awards that are below Jersey’s rising inflation rate. Union officials, such as NEU president Brendan Carolan, have also criticised the States for offering one-off ‘unconsolidated’ pay awards as part of packages rather than ongoing ‘consolidated’ awards.

And nursing unions have said that their members feel betrayed because promises to equalise their pay with other public-sector workers have been broken.

The States Employment Board were due to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the issues.

Earlier, during a hearing of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel with the Chief Minister, Senator Vallois said that the board had listened to the concerns of the unions.

‘The States Employment Board met with unions on 25 October to listen to their concerns about the pay offer,’ she said.

‘We took note of their concerns and are due to meet today as the States Employment Board to look at the possibility of restructuring that pay offer.’

Both Senator Vallois and Chief Minister John Le Fondré said, however, that pay rises could not be sourced from ‘non-recurring’ funds such as £50 million of capital that is being set aside to be placed in the Stabilisation Fund, which acts to protect Jersey’s economy.

‘If we were to raise the pay offer by £10 million, let’s say, we would have to find the recurring amount again and again,’ said Senator Le Fondré.

‘That’s on top of the stuff that we already have to face bearing in mind the future financial position.’

States chief executive Charlie Parker, who was also in attendance, said that the Fiscal Policy Panel, a panel of economists which advises the States, had recommended that the Stabilisation Fund be ‘replenished’, because of the funding that might be needed in case of a hard Brexit next year.

JCSA Prospect is currently balloting its staff on whether they are prepared to take industrial action and expects to announce the result on or shortly after 16 November.

Mr Renouf said that he had no indication of how members had voted so far because the ballot was postal but added that he felt strike action would be supported.

‘This is the first time that we have balloted our members on taking industrial action up to and including going on strike,’ he said.

‘And judging by the show of hands at the recent meeting it seems quite likely that out members will vote in favour of it. This is unprecedented and it would be a shame if it does happen.

‘But we are still willing to sit down and negotiate with the employer, which is something that has not happened yet.’

Mr Carolan said that members of the NEU were due to balloted ‘imminently’ on the next steps they wished to take.

The hearing was also attended by panel chairwoman Senator Kristina Moore and members Deputies Steve Ahier and Jess Perchard, as well as Constables Richard Vibert and Karen Shenton-Stone.

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