Hundreds of States workers will this morning flood Liberation Square in protest against years without pay increases in line with the cost of living, raising the stakes in a long-running and increasingly bitter row over wages.
The move to strike between 09:00 and 11:00 today has forced the temporary closure of some schools and will see blood and specimen testing at the hospital put on hold.
But the Chief Minister maintains that the situation is not an “emergency” and that essential public services won’t be disrupted.
Members of the two large civil service unions, JCSA Prospect and Unite the Union, will be striking in the square for two hours this morning in protest against a stalemate in negotiations for next year’s pay deal.
Pictured: Both of the unions representing civil servants in Jersey voted unanimously to strike for two hours this morning in response to the pay-deal stalemate.
This marks the first of what could be many public sector strikes over thousands of workers being told that “there is no more money” for their 2018/19 wages.
Although named ‘civil servants’, the pay group also includes roles such as pathologists, and teaching assistants. In a move some have labelled as “divide and conquer tactics”, the latter were told that their proposed pay rise for 2018 and 2019 would be doubled to 4% in line with teachers yesterday – less than 24 hours before the strike’s start.
Civil servants voted unanimously for strike action last week, with JCSA Prospect President Terry Renouf telling Express that staff felt “backed into a corner” with no choice but to raise the stakes.
Pictured: Speaking at yesterday's IoD lunch, the Chief Minister urged listeners that "we are not in an emergency situation".
Ahead of the strikes, which are set to disrupt school opening times across the island, Mr Renouf said that ultimately, workers “would much rather it wasn’t happening”, but that there is a real “strength of feeling” amongst staff about this dispute.
Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré echoed the sentiment during a speech at an Institute of Directors lunch yesterday, stating: “The industrial action that is to take place tomorrow is not desirable, but I want to be clear that we are not in an emergency situation. We will continue to offer essential services to all islanders throughout this time.”
However, Mr Renouf said that, although essential services will still be in place throughout the strike, union members have had to organise this all off their own bat, with no assistance from their employers.
Pictured: JCSA Prospect President Terry Renouf will be leading his civil service colleagues in their strike action this morning.
He added that “the only communication we’ve had from the employer is an acknowledgement of the letter” that was sent to say the strikes were going ahead. The Prospect President told Express that union members working in pathology and radiography will be striking, but will not be leaving the workplace to ensure that if there is an emergency they will be on hand to assist.
Routine appointments for blood tests have been postponed until next week.
It is likely that many strikers' resolves will be strengthened after the politicians kicked out an idea that would have opened a new avenue of negotiation and brought workers closer to securing inflation-level pay rises.
Deputy Geoff Southern had proposed a change in the law that would allow for money to be taken from the States' currently inaccessible coffers to resolve the row, but it was defeated in a knife-edge vote last night with 21 votes to 20.
Numerous politicians took to social media to express their disappointment.
Deputy Kirsten Morel wrote ahead of the vote, "I believe an RPI increase is reasonable and I don't want to see more talented people leaving the island, so I'm supporting Deputy Southern's proposition to make real pay negotiations possible." After it was defeated, he added: "The vote to enable proper pay negotiations has been lost 21-20. Very disappointing. The govt has caved in to Charlie Parker's agenda."
Senator Sam Mézec wrote: "Our teachers, nurses, manual workers, carers and everyone else who goes the extra mile to look after islanders deserved so much better than this. Just one vote would have swung it."
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