The Chief Minister has said a longstanding government employee relations agreement could have been invalid for more than a year, as he promised a "fundamental joint review" on the matter.
Senator John Le Fondré finally delivered a response to civil servants' accusation that his government had reneged on the 'Joint Council Framework Agreement' (JCFA) – which underpins interactions between public sector staff and their employer – in a letter sent on Friday.
The reply came around two months after unions JCSA Prospect and Unite the Union wrote to him to express their concerns.
His letter suggested that the JCFA was invalid because it was linked to the failed ‘Workforce Modernisation’ pay plans.
The civil service unions – referred to collectively as ‘Civil Service Staff Side’ – initially wrote to the Chief Minister at the end of September asking whether his Government will honour the agreement signed back in 2014.
This agreement underpins all relations between public sector employees and the States Employment Board (SEB) including arrangements for negotiation and consultations, collective disputes procedures and provision of facilities, time off and training for union representatives.
Pictured: The correspondence centres on the issue of the Joint Council Framework Agreement.
By 27 November, the unions still had no reply from the Chairman of SEB, and subsequently issued an open letter demanding a response on the matter and asking why the Joint Council – representatives from all pay groups – had not met with their employer since 2017.
Two days after this, but almost two months after the unions’ original letter, the Chief Minister issued his reply.
He said that the SEB had met on 8 November – six weeks after the first letter – to discuss the matters raised by Civil Service Staff Side where they received “a briefing from officers” regarding the correspondence.
His response stated: “In particular, SEB were keen to review the current employee relations situation in the context of a difficult round of pay negotiations, which – in the case of Civil Service Staff Side – resulted in yet another year of pay increases being implemented without agreement.”
As the public sector heads for further negotiations on 2021’s pay offers, the SEB say that they have commissioned a “review [of] our employee relations arrangements.”
The Chief Minister also promises “to meet with the Civil Service unions to discuss matters with particular attention on how to establish meaningful information sharing, consultation and negotiation machinery that drives a significant improvement in relationships.”
Pictured: The issue arises as the public sector heads for another round of pay negotiations.
However, he also says that it’s “envisage[d] that this may be a new arrangement” due to the fact that the JCFA was linked so closely with the Workforce Modernisation scheme that was eventually withdrawn by the Government due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction it elicited from unions.
The modernisation scheme was withdrawn early in 2018, but now – over a year on – the Chief Minister says that work needs to be done to find an alternative employee relations arrangement.
“As you will appreciate, the framework to which you refer was established to progress pay talks with all pay groups around a single table, reflecting the negotiating structure anticipated through Workforce Modernisation. However, Workforce Modernisation was rejected by the Civil Service unions, and others, which underpins the need for a fundamental joint review.”
Now, the Chief Minister has said he will set up “an early meeting to progress this important issue”.
In response to the letters, JCSA Prospect posted on their social media page: "Dear Chief Minister, thank you for finally replying but unfortunately you do not answer the key question. Will SEB be adhering to the existing agreements until we develop new ones? Your real Team Jersey deserve an answer."
This follows confusion in the States Assembly when the Vice-Chair of the SEB Constable Richard Buchanan told his fellow Members that the agreement “was never signed and as far as we can see was not approved by SEB."
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