A meeting on 7 September for public sector workers in Jersey to discuss the pay freeze announced by the Jersey Government drew 1,000 workers and has resulted in plans for strike action across the public sector in Jersey.
The meeting was hosted by the public sector unions, mainly the teachers’ unions and Unite. 6,000 workers are affected by the freeze. The public sector on Jersey consists of manual workers, teachers, airport workers, transport workers and health workers. A strike by all these workers would shut down the island.
The Government has refused to negotiate and even bypassed its own negotiating bodies to impose the pay freeze. Last year saw low pay awards with the excuse that the cash was needed to fund initiatives to support the island and it workers in the current crisis. This year the money for the pay award is simply being sat on, “just in case” of further “economic pressure”.
Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur has repeatedly said there will be no reversal of the pay decision.
Strength of feeling is high and has been for some time. The gap between rich and poor on Jersey is huge, with a high level of poverty and a higher cost of living than the UK. The laws on Jersey are also very much behind the times. There are no real equality rights there. It is still legal to discriminate on grounds of race!
There are no political parties on Jersey barring the slightly left of centre and very small Jersey Democratic Alliance.
Last year saw threats of action which resulted in the unions coming together to co-ordinate. Now there is a 24 strong committee of representatives from the unions and the different sectors within the unions. Perhaps this could be the beginning of a real workers’ party on Jersey?