States officials have been dealt another major setback in their attempts to avoid entering into negotiations with more than 30 firefighters who claim they will be worse off under a new pension scheme being introduced this month.
The States Employment Board (SEB) was yesterday told it would not be allowed to appeal the result of an Employment Tribunal case that found they failed to keep to a bargaining agreement created to prevent the emergency services from going on strike last year.
The Fire and Rescue Service Association (FRSA) argued that 33 firefighters were entitled to recompense – either in the form of compensation or a pay rise - from the SEB because they would be worse off under a new government pension scheme known as CARE.
Rules in their contracts stipulating that they must continue to maintain what is deemed an “essential public service” mean that Fire Service workers cannot go on strike, so the FRSA attempted to initiate negotiations with the SEB.
Pictured: Firefighters want compensation as a result of the pension scheme, which they say leaves them worse off.
But they complained that – against rules set down on how to resolve pay-related disputes – the SEB had refused to properly engage with them.
The States said that this was because they feared compensating Jersey’s firefighters could lead to a “tsunami” of claims from other public sector workers, and even threaten the whole government pension scheme.
But the tribunal was not convinced by the argument, ruling on 4 December that the SEB would have to enter discuss the issue with the FRSA or face reprimand under the law.
But on 28 December, the SEB applied for permission to appeal against the decision, arguing that the judgment was based on mistakes, that the tribunal hadn’t adequately explained its thought process, and that the final decision itself was “perverse."
That request was thrown out yesterday, with the Tribunal’s Deputy Chair, Michael Salter, rebutting each of the points.
Employment Tribunal update: @StatesofJersey SEB refused permission to appeal; Tribunal judgment to remain in effect. The FRSA are pleased with this outcome but disappointed at the time & effort spent on this vexatious appeal https://t.co/9X1jdvfJLy— FRSAJersey (@FRSAJersey) January 7, 2019
He found that the Tribunal, which during the previous hearing was led by Chairman Hilary Griffin, did not make any “errors of law."Mr Salter said that, instead, the SEB appeared to be disputing findings of fact – in other words, disagreeing with the Tribunal’s assessment of the situation.
Mr Salter similarly rejected the allegation that the tribunal was not clear in giving its reasons for its judgment.
“The Tribunal’s reasoning is transparent, structured and easily determinable from the judgment, it contains a summary of the Tribunal’s factual conclusions and a statement of reasons which led them to those conclusions, it informs the parties why they have won or lost and when looked at in the round and in the context of the material before the Tribunal and the submissions it received from both parties and which are set out in the judgment is sufficient,” he said.
The Deputy Chairman also noted that no reasons had been provided to explain why the judgment was “perverse,” and therefore struck out the claim.
“Accordingly I do not consider that the judgment demonstrates a failure to give sufficient reasons for the decision and so does not contain an error of law…The Tribunal judgment should remain in effect,” he concluded.
Speaking following the judgment, the FRSA, which is known as the 'voice of Jersey firefighters,' commented: “The FRSA are pleased with this outcome but disappointed at the time and effort spent on this vexatious appeal.”
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