'If this becomes standard practice can anyone conduct the roles they were elected to do without fear?'

James Turner

By James Turner

OVER the past few weeks I have spent some time working and on leave in the UK and on my return it seems there has been some significant events both politically and within Health and Community Services.

I will attempt to explain here why I feel these events, that may at first seem potentially trivial to many, may in fact have a far wider-reaching effect for all Islanders, both negatively and positively.

Firstly, a political issue arose which, in my experience and professional opinion, should be cause for major concern among the public who elected these individuals to be the custodians of the jurisdiction of Jersey and its sitting government.

How can anyone with any recognition of what is right or wrong consider what happened to Deputy Geoff Southern in recent weeks to be either just or fair? The Deputy raised genuine concerns over other panel members’ conduct within meetings, all of which was evidenced if anyone took the time to properly investigate.

Instead, individuals turned the tables on Deputy Southern in what can only be described as a revenge attack for being challenged themselves – a ‘how dare you challenge me’ stance that I see far too often on this island. For him to then face a vote of no confidence himself is absolutely absurd, proving to me the old guard still exists in a very unhealthy and dangerous way within the Chamber.

This leads to a ‘mates of mates’ politics and Members not doing the role they were elected to do. Many also, oddly, chose to abstain from the vote – a leading cause in the ousting of a long-standing and experienced Scrutiny chair without a majority vote for simply attempting to correct other panel members’ behaviour. In point of fact here, this is exactly what a chair of any kind has within their remit. Furthermore, I feel this should be a protected act i.e. exempt from any detriment or counter complaint, as long as it is not being enacted with any malicious intent, until fully and formally investigated as the ‘primary’ issue – as it is when raising a formal grievance against your employer or other employees.

This could now bring far greater problems. Already, some have concluded this could become the norm with challenges to the Chief Minister role and indeed any other. I suppose only time will tell if the dust ever settles on this injustice or if Reform Jersey find a way to correct the balance. But if this does become standard practice can anyone really conduct the roles they are elected to do without undue influence or fear? This is why this issue causes me great concern for the future.

There, of course, should always be a process to remove anyone from a public position or office if they bring disrepute or present damaging behaviour, like multiple appearances or at least summons to debt court maybe?

There is something about this particular event that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, not just with the final outcome but how it was generated and the tactics applied. That is why these type of actions are a serious threat to the very democracy the States Members were elected to serve.

In other matters, two senior healthcare professionals will be leaving their posts in HCS at the end of March. Reasons given for this have been vague at best, but I feel this may just be the beginning of many more changes to come within the service.

Unite the Union are a key stakeholder in the voice of the workforce and have raised many cultural and behavioural concerns over the years, none more so since my arrival in Jersey as Unite the Union regional officer working out of our local office in St Helier. Although we are seeing some marked improvements these have been slow to progress. We continue to work closely with senior government officials and directly with the States Employment Board on moving things in the right direction within HCS, both in the public interest and our memberships.

Let’s hope pay is also now a top priority after nurses and midwives across all three unions (Unite/RCN/RCM) voted to reject the 7.9% that other groups have recently accepted. We await further talks with the employer and have meetings scheduled from mid-April.

This government and the highly paid panel of ‘experts’ continue to explore the reported failings throughout the service. This intense review is gaining swift momentum and as taxpayers’ money is being used I presume at the end of what is to come everyone should see a step-change in both service and culture – that’s the goal at least.

The latest government chief executive has also now resigned with notice, leaving another top position to fill once again after her predecessor received 500K to leave. With these well-reported issues from the previous chief executive I am sure questions will be asked here. With the ability to retain key positions failing at all levels of government we should all be asking why.

Unite the Union will continue to strive for the answers and have the difficult conversations when needed to provide clarity on all of the aforementioned matters in the public interest.

The question is now, is anyone’s position safe?

  • James Turner is the regional officer for Unite the Union in Jersey.

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