Seven States secondary schools – Grainville, Haute Vallée, Hautlieu, Jersey College for Girls, Le Rocquier, Les Quennevais and Victoria College – were forced to close to pupils due to a strike organised by the National Education Union’s Jersey branch.
A number of protesting teachers gathered in Liberation Square, where they were addressed by union representatives and States Members from the Reform Jersey party.
Teachers, along with several public sector groups including civil servants, nurses and head teachers, have been locked in a long-running dispute with the States Employment Board after receiving below-inflation pay awards for 2018 and 2019.
The most recent pay offer of 2% rises for 2018 and 2019, with the addition of an inflation-plus-1.3% rise for 2020, was recently heavily rejected by union members, prompting yesterday’s strike.
A further strike organised by the NASUWT union is planned to take place next week on 26 March.
Brendan Carolan, president of NEU’s Jersey branch, and Marina Mauger of NASUWT, both said that a series of strikes could now be expected unless the deadlock with the SEB was broken.
‘Our plan is a series of rolling strikes. It will be primary schools who will be targeted next,’ said Mr Carolan.
‘We will attempt to co-ordinate our action with the NASUWT if nothing results from the respective actions on the 19th and 26th of this month.’
Next week the States are due to vote on a revived proposition lodged by Deputy Geoff Southern to fund pay rises for public sector staff from the States’ consolidated fund, a balance of surplus cash held by the government.
Mr Carolan said that ‘no headway whatsoever’ has been made during negotiations and claimed that the SEB was waiting for the outcome of the vote before taking action.
‘The SEB appear to be content to allow these two separate strikes to happen and await the result of the proposition to see if a review of their position is required,’ he said.
Mrs Mauger said that NASUWT members were planning to attend next week’s States sitting, which will take place while they are on strike, and that her union was gearing up for a period of sustained action.
‘The SEB needs to realise that this is not going to go away. Teachers have not voted to take strike action just to then not go on strike,’ she said.
‘There will be protracted strike action. It’s a desperate situation for this island. Teachers don’t want to strike: they want to teach.’
She added: ‘Any future action we will want to take at the same time as the NEU because that is fairer to parents and sends out a more powerful message.’
Yesterday the SEB released a letter claiming that they had offered public sector workers a ‘fair and appropriate’ deal.
In response, Mrs Mauger said that the letter had failed to address the issue of teachers receiving below-inflation pay rises for a decade.
During yesterday’s gathering in Liberation Square, Reform Jersey party members Senator Sam Mézec, Rob Ward and Montfort Tadier addressed the crowd.
Senator Mézec said that it was the duty of the States to safeguard the living standards of working Islanders.