Schools could close following civil servants’ strike decision

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On Wednesday evening members of JCSA Prospect and the civil service branch of Unite voted in favour of striking for two hours at 9 am on Friday 7 December. The unions are calling for workers to join them for a gathering in the Royal Square during the strike so they can make their feelings known to States Members.

The decision was made at JCSA Prospect’s AGM with a show of hands, and members also voted in support of authorising the union’s executives to arrange further industrial action if necessary.

As well as office workers, other civil servants set to join the picket lines include teaching assistants, radiographers, prison officers, social workers and engineers.

The move comes because of widespread dissatisfaction with below-inflation pay offers being made to large numbers of staff in the public sector for 2018 and 2019.

Civil servants are set to receive one per cent pay rises both this year and next, while the latest inflation rate recorded in Jersey was 4.3%.

Jersey’s teaching unions are also balloting their members over strike action, with the results expected to be published shortly before Christmas. Indicative polls have suggested that teachers will also support strike action and a general public-sector strike has been discussed as a possibility.

During the AGM, JCSA Prospect’s negotiations officers Bob King, heavily criticised States Employment Board chairwoman Senator Tracey Vallois, claiming she was ‘out of her depth’ and was not engaging or negotiating properly with the unions.

Sam Cooper, president of the National Association of Head Teachers in Jersey, said that the strike action next week could lead to schools being closed because of a number of factors, including health and safety issues for children and staff or the inability to deliver the curriculum.

‘The decision to open or close a school is for the individual head teacher. Head teachers will undertake individual risk assessments to determine whether or not it is safe for their individual schools to open,’ he said.

He added, however, that the JAHT was ‘fully supportive’ of JSCA Prospect’s actions and could soon vote for strike action of its own shortly.

‘The JAHT’s statutory ballot will be undertaken in the next few days, with a robust response to the current situation anticipated – if the mood of our indicative ballot is anything to go by,’ he said.

‘No one wants industrial action to affect schools and the population of Jersey, but the likelihood of this is becoming increasingly inevitable. It is in SEB’s gift to resolve this situation.’

Some sectors – including nurses and manual workers – have received a revised pay offer for 2018 and 2019. Manual workers are understood to have accepted their new deal.

SEB vice-chairman Constable Richard Buchanan said that the board was ‘very disappointed’ with the decision to take strike action.

Senator Vallois again failed to respond after being repeatedly contacted by the JEP for comment during the last week.

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