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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Why manual workers are right to strike

The preferred method of government in getting out of the financial mess that their excesses have created is what is euphemistically termed 'economic growth' but such growth of course relies solely on the individuals within that society devoting more of their time to taxable activity.

But is this something which the individuals who make up that society really want?

What are the options open to an individual:

1) Income Support
Entitlement to Income Support for a single Person Household
  • Adult Component: £92.12
  • Household Component: £49.56
  • Rent Component: £161.66 (1 bed flat)
Total Weekly: £303.45 Annualised: £15,779.40
Add Back Income Tax and Social Security £1,486.60
(A working person would benefit from the marginal rate (allowance £13,780) but pay 27% on the £1,999.40 left meaning an Income Tax bill of £539.83 and would pay 6% social security on the full amount £946.76). See income tax allowances for 2013
So the equivalent wage (after taxes) to an individual income support claimant with no dependants is £17,266.00.

Now at first glance this might seem a lot of money, but you have to remember that income support was not designed as a career choice, but short term assistance to someone who for whatever reason finds themselves in a difficult place and is likely substantially less than they were earning prior to claiming.

In an ideal world people who had been unemployed for a prolonged period would be first choice for government manual worker posts.

I would also bring an end to the discrimination against Jersey people and make any entitlement dependent on living in Jersey for 25 years, as it is for those who are born here.

2) Working for Government (Manual Worker)
How does that compare to the Civil Service Pay Scales well Grade 1 pays £17,370 to 19,209 and Grade 6 pays £26,547 to £29,358. Remembering that Income Support for a family with two children is equivalent to £34,095,88 and it is not unreasonable for a worker to want to have a family and perhaps one parent will want to stay at home or only work part-time.

Now government workers should get paid less than those who work for private enterprise. The employment is generally more secure, but their work does not contribute to the very necessary 'economic growth' which is required to save the government. I would argue that government should be taken out of GDP statistics because it is very easy for the governments of the world to manipulate their growth figures simply by employing more people and spending more money. This distorting effect does not allow us to truly understand whether the economy is growing or not; I suspect that much of the reported growth is actually government masking how bad things really are.

3) Working at minimum wage
Let's now compare that to the minimum wage hourly rate: A grade one worker works 48 (5 day) weeks a year less 9 public holidays so 231 days per year at 7.5 hours per day or 1,732.5 hours per year. So that is an hourly rate of £10.36 per hour. I realise that States Workers get paid holidays etc, but many people don't and we need to get a fair comparison so for our purposes I am assuming that they only get paid when they work. Now minimum wage is £6.48 per hour (or £6.73 in reality as you need to add 4% to account for holidays and such like) so to get the same value as someone receiving income support a person on income support has to work fifty weeks at fifty one hours and twenty minutes per week. That is fairly easy for table staff to clock up working 11am to 3pm and then 6pm till 1am five days (55 hours) per week.

Now very few people get paid minimum wage as far as I know although I am sure that there are some, (if I work out my hourly rate for example it does not even match minimum wage but I know that is an unfair comparison because I would rather be working than not most of the time.)

A note on pensions

I am ignoring 'benefits' but then I don't actually believe that the States pension or indeed the State pension is going to be worth anything like what it is today in ten years time, at 40 if I were working for the States I would not want to join the pension scheme.

Inflation and the loss of index linking will gradually pare it away and leave it without any real value by the time I would be able to retire in 2039, plus I will get a better return if I invest it myself in gold, than if I pay some pension adviser to do it for me.

A note on overtime

My real issue with terms and conditions is in the payment of overtime - overtime should be paid at the same hourly rate as normal time. If there is so much overtime to be done then why not simply employ another worker to do it? If you don't want to work on Sunday then don't but why should you get double time for doing it?

Breaking the link between manual worker pay and civil service pay

On the civil service pay scales there is a grade 15 who earns around £75,000 per year - this is wrong. There are also grades above this who earn more, the Bailiff for example earns £360,000 per year. This means that the Bailiff's work is worth twenty times what the work of a manual workers is. Can this be right?

When Sir Pip, who was seemingly an appallingly bad lawyer, so bad that his own father passed him over and gave the family law firm to his younger brother. Was seemingly such a bad judge that the post of Royal Court Commissioner had to be created so that competent judges could sit on cases that required a sound knowledge of the Law. Perhaps he should have stuck to politics where at least he is not afraid to have an opinion and to stand by it, unlike many of the unemployable ditherers who fill the States Chambers.

But he was paid even more than the current Bailiff, was his 'work' really worth twenty times what the work of a street cleaner is? Arguably the street cleaner performs the greater public service.

Who is to blame?

The people at the top of the Civil Service are having a laugh at the expense of the people of Jersey, all the people of Jersey.

It is important that all the people of Jersey target their anger at the progress of government in the right area. The manual workers may come in for a lot of bad press  as those in power seek to find yet another section of society to pass the blame onto - as they have recently done to local businesses.

If the Civil Servants want to know who is to blame for the mess they find themselves in, then they need to stop looking around and look instead into the mirror.

Our politicians need to stop representing the views of the Civil Servants and start representing the views of the people of Jersey who elect them. The people of Jersey need to stop electing the members that they do.

The strike is valid as the management of these manual workers is the problem, that poor management is the reason that they are being asked to foot the bill, that is not right.