That was the headline on the front page of the Jersey Evening Post after the new Jersey Council of Representatives, a cross-union committee, held a hustings for the vacant Senate seat in the States Assembly.
The government has announced ten percent cuts over three years including:
• Scrapping plans for anti-discrimination legislation
• Scrapping subsidy for diabetic medication
• Cutting back Special Educational Needs services
• Stopping “non-essential” minor surgical procedures
• Reducing physio services
• Removing Christmas bonuses for those on pensions and benefits
• Freezing accommodation component of income support
• Ceasing funding for school milk
• Hospitals must reduce patient costs by ten percent.
67 jobs will go in the first round – on an island of 90,000. That’s one fifth of the planned job cuts.
Saturday’s hustings were the first trade union-organised hustings ever to happen on the island. 52 union reps and members turned up to quiz seven of the nine candidates.
Of the seven, only Geoff Southern of the (liberal) Jersey Democratic Alliance and left-wing candidate Nick Le Cornu said even vaguely anything pro-worker.
Southern made some okay noises about supporting the unions, cuts and the need for a progressive taxation system. But his platform is also anti-immigration and advocates a ‘population ceiling’ (he didn’t say if he would introduce euthanasia for OAPs and a ban on having children to follow this up...)
Le Cornu was much better. He said clearly that he supported the fight against cuts and workers organising to defend themselves. He demanded taxing the rich, no privatisation, no job losses and no victimisation of workers involved in taking action. I think some of the workers found it disconcerting that he mainly answered questions by promising to support their struggles rather than by promising to deliver the earth himself in the States!
Stuart Syvret, the former senator who fled to the UK after he was persecuted for exposing a child abuse scandal, triggering this election, came out with a load of middle-of-the-road populism. His record is not pro-worker and he voted for the anti-union laws when they were introduced in the 90s.
The consensus seemed to be that Nick Le Cornu came out on top. Following the hustings, new unions signed up to the JCR.
The CWU has now signed up, as have the potentially very powerful dockworkers, who are in Unite. Unite members are very discontented with the way their union has handled the pay freeze and threat of cuts – and its organiser’s unilateral decision to back Geoff Southern for Senator. Hopefully the JCR can help Unite members reclaim their union.
The JCR is not yet at the point where people feel comfortable endorsing candidates as a collective body. Things are at an early stage politically. The AWL will continue to argue for Jersey labour movement to create its own workers’ party capable of translating Jersey workers’ growing militancy into the political sphere.