In his latest column for Connect, the secretive business guru known only as 'The Fool' discusses the civil servants' pay dispute and the role of unions.
"I’m not quite sure how deep into the book ‘Ways to Get a Pay Rise’ I’d have to dig before I got to the section which recommends ‘Punching your customers in the face’? I’m fairly certain it’s well after the pages titled ‘working harder’, ‘innovating’ or indeed ‘changing employers’, but who knows?
In what must be some sort of weird compensation for the job security, pensions, generous holidays and flexible working arrangements many enjoy within the public sector, perhaps, like other great Marxist paradises down the years, a certain level of censorship of available reading matter occurs?
Perhaps every other page except that which recommends ‘F@:k the customers, lets party like it’s 1978,’ have simply been torn out of the book in question to protect employees from bourgeois oppression, or worse, economic reality?
Because other than encouraging the usual small bunch of perpetually agitated would-be revolutionaries to frot themselves insensible dreaming of smashing the system (weirdly, the same system that provides both the freedom and resources to enable them to take their fight to the Man) it is difficult to see any other reason for the sudden escalation into our present winter of discontent.
What is more difficult to comprehend, however, is what outcome our put upon civil servants expect to result from their actions? News reports boasting of 1,000 individual strikers certainly sound impressive, until you realise that it is 50,000 taxpayers who will ultimately have to cough up to meet their demands. And in order to persuade us to part with extra cash, we are offered the slightly strange inducement of disruption of our daily lives that strikes will bring. Is it just me?
This of course goes to the heart of questioning the role of modern public sector unions. On the basis that the state is no longer wilfully endangering its employees, or enforcing other methods of involuntary servitude, the central role of these organisations nowadays, despite the usual platitudes, is to achieve the maximum rewards for its members.
Pictured: It is 50,000 taxpayers who will ultimately have to cough up to meet civil servants' demands, according to the Fool.
Given that, in the case of the public sector, it is primarily another group who pay the wages (the private sector), it is therefore beholden upon the union to attempt to extract from taxpayers the most amount of money for the lowest number of hours worked by their members. Let that sink in, because it is neither complicated, nor an exaggeration.
A public sector union’s primary role is to maximise cost, and minimise return, to the taxpayer.
Now on the basis that there’s substantially more taxpayers than there are civil servants (or even States employees in total), how the hell have we got to the stage where the union and its members think that 50,000 people can be bullied into paying more for less?
A neat little vignette of the type of ‘victories’ unions can achieve played out recently when parents were forced to collect their children from schools because teaching assistants, emboldened by their union colleagues, had walked out, making lunchtime cover unavailable. That is teaching assistants, not teachers, who in this modern world, because (one assumes) of job demarcation rules or some other such nonsense, are seemingly unable to supervise children outside of formal teaching hours for a single day.
Thinking back only 30 years to the Fool’s own schooldays, Darwin would turn in his grave at seeing a certain class of mammal lose such basic abilities over such a short period. Not to mention of course the rise in support most parents must have felt for the union at having their days interrupted in such a manner.
Pictured: Parents had to collect their children from schools when teaching assistants went on strike.
Unions undoubtedly enjoy some level of support in the island, and indeed, go as far as buying the allegiance of members of a certain party by paying various expenses on their behalf. (Which creates its own weird Gordian knot of the party working both for, and against, the interests of the taxpayer, but that’s another column for another time). So what practical solutions exist to resolve the present impasse?
The most obvious is for the income tax department to create a new form of voluntary payment, let’s say an additional 5% tax, available to those taxpayers who believe we should acquiesce to the union’s demands. This removes the burden from the majority who don’t appreciate being ‘punished,’ and are appalled at the union’s, and their member’s actions, but still provides, one would imagine (given such apparent widespread support for their cause) the required extra funding for pay rises; and trebles all round.
Secondly, the States should immediately remove from all employees’ contracts the clause which guarantees an annual cost of living pay rise. This would avoid the confusion over both sides’ complaints as to who is entitled to what, and, from the taxpayers’ perspective, would ensure that it is only retired States employees’ for whom everyone else is on that particular hook.
Pictured: The Fool says employees who are unhappy with their terms should seek employment in the private sector.
Lastly, and most importantly, the States really need to end the practice of modern slavery, which prevents employees who are unhappy with their present terms and conditions seeking employment in the obviously more lucrative private sector.
It’s time we ended the suffering for all concerned.
P.s. emboldened by the Gilets Jaunes, are you comrade? You’ve got the picture upside down mate."
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and not of Bailiwick Express.
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