There is no room for belligerence
Wednesday 13th March 2013, 2:28PM GMT.
HEAVY snow and near blizzard conditions meant the postponement of a mass meeting of States workers yesterday that had been called to consider a 0% pay offer and decide a response to it.
When it is held, the expectation is that the proposed settlement will be rejected and industrial action threatened – and possibly even carried out.
It is a dangerous game. Unless the Policy Council – new look since the general election and business-minded – has lost its backbone there will be no mood for compromise, especially since options for funding any increase are limited.
On the basis that States manual workers and others will not agree to self-fund an increase through job losses or Spanish practices being bought out, it means that departments either balance budgets by cutting services or the taxpayer foots the estimated £6m. bill by finding an extra £142 each.
Not only will there be no public support for States workers – especially if islanders who generally haven’t had pay rises get affected by industrial action – there is another issue for the public sector.
Contractors and others in private business have seen how much it costs the States to do things and are increasingly approaching the Policy Council offering to outsource services.
States Works losing the toilet cleaning contract is merely the start as Beau Sejour, sewage cart collections, signs and lines and refuse collection are all potentially in line for privatization along with the ports.
The leaders of public sector employees are doing their members no favours if they adopt a belligerent, ‘RPI at any cost’ approach. There are many in the Policy Council and in the States generally who would welcome an increase in the price of government services as further proof that they should be sold off.
However, there is a good opportunity here for employer and employee to sit down in partnership and recognise the new reality that government needs to be fair, not generous, and that it doesn’t have labour shortages.
Where pay rises are agreed, it is on the back of savings and productivity elsewhere and that the taxpayer is not there for the financial benefit of public sector staff.
It can happen – but not based on the latest union rhetoric.
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