Public sector workers in Jersey, one of Europe’s most prosperous enclaves, are striking over a ‘derisory’ below inflation pay offer from their employer, the cash-rich States of Jersey government.
Unite has 400 members who were striking yesterday (January 14) and today (January 15), as the current retail price index (RPI) is running at 4.3 per cent on the Channel Island.
“Jersey is the wealthiest area of the UK, and the States of Jersey has a strategic investment reserve of £771.5m in its well-padded coffers,” said Steve Preddy, Unite regional officer for the south west which covers the Channel Islands.
“Additionally, there has been a £23 million underspend in the budget and the government has received £30 million more in income from tax returns than forecast during 2017/18,” he added.
“Despite this abundance of riches, the government has offered pay increases which are less than half the RPI rate of inflation which is currently running at 4.3 per cent on Jersey.”
Customs staff and teaching assistants took strike action yesterday and all other civil servants, including nursing staff, are on strike today, after rejecting a one per cent consolidated and 1.1 per cent non-consolidated offer for 2018 and the same amount for 2019. The government has now imposed these pay rises unilaterally.
A combined dispute committee, involving Unite and Prospect, has been formed to plan further industrial action, if necessary.
Steve Preddy, who attended a series of mass meetings, supporting striking workers this week, added, “I have spoken with desperate individuals, who cannot afford their own home. One teaching assistant told me she pays £750 per month for a room share, leaving £150 a month for all of her food and living costs.
“Many public sector employees work full-time and then have to work at extra jobs, just to survive in Jersey – one of the most prosperous places in Europe. It is an absolute disgrace that the States of Jersey government has allowed this dire situation to develop.”
Preddy urged the government to return to the bargaining table, with a sensible offer that raises, not lowers, living standards.
“Many of Unite’s members are upset and bewildered to have been ‘forced’ into taking strike action, as they have huge personal and professional pride in their roles, protecting, teaching and caring for Jersey residents,” he went on to say.
“The States of Jersey can afford wage increases that raise living standards, but have decided to worsen the plight of these dedicated public servants out of some form of perverse political dogma.”
Unite said that the impact on this action has been felt across the public sector, with school closures, reduced services at customs and immigration, and adverse impacts on passport applications, income tax, social security, health services and education.