Thursday, February 11, 2010

Public Sector Pay Is Not The Problem

The headline 'Adapt or Die' over the article on Ben Shenton's views was sufficiently alarmist to cast doubt on the integrity of what he was reported to be saying, but I was even more concerned when I read the details.He appears to say that the solution to the Island's problems lies in public sector pay, which must be reduced. I fail to see why he targets the public sector employees in this way, as they are in no way responsible for the current recession nor even for the 40% spending rises. In the period from 2005 to 2009, inflation has risen by 16%, and average earnings in the public sector have risen by 22% - the same as the average earnings in the private sector.

If we go back to the beginning of this economic cycle in 2002, the cost of living has risen by 31%. In this period average earnings in the public sector have risen by 33% and in the private sector by 38%. In 2009, due to the pay freeze, average earnings in the public sector have again fallen behind the private sector. So bringing public sector pay into line with private sector pay would involve a pay rise for most public sector workers. For example there is at least one private school in Jersey that pays its teachers 5% more than those in States' schools.

The 40% rise in spending mentioned by Senator Shenton may be due such projects as the incinerator, and the mismanagement demonstrated by senior officers but pay levels are not the cause of overspends. It seems that in any economic difficulties the public sector is targeted. When the economy overheats these employees are asked to show restraint. In times of recession, when they could help to boost the economy if their spending power were to be maintained they suffer a pay freeze. Let us not forget that these employees are not just faceless bureaucrats, but groups such as teachers, nurses, firefighters and paramedics who provide vital services.

Senator Shenton refers to the pensions 'black hole' but employees have paid contributions over their working lives and the employer's contributions have been part of their terms and conditions. These conditions and the job security that he also wishes to remove are part of what attracts well educated people into the public sector when they could earn more elsewhere. But these benefits are currently being eroded. For example, new entrants to the teaching profession will have much reduced pensions, and not until they are 65 rather than 60. As this is worse than is on offer in the UK we are likely to see further recruitment problems. There is currently a severe shortage of nurses due to the fact that the pay in Jersey is not high enough to compensate for the high cost of living.

Senator Shenton must know that Jersey is, contrary to the current spin, a low tax, low spend economy. Progressive taxation - not an increase in GST - could continue to deliver the services we have enjoyed up to now. Perhaps his emotive 'adapt or die' has some truth in it after all. Jersey must adapt to paying the appropriate rate for its services, or a cancer sufferer who has to wait for treatment because of a shortage of health professionals may well die.

Anne Southern

15 comments:

  1. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 12, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    Points very well made. How very fashionable to always attack public sector employees.

    We see this time and time again from the likes of Senator Shenton, Ozouf and the ubiquitous Mr. Keen - recently seen in the JEP sounding off about States Members bringing propositions to remove free States lunches; put an end to members of the Council of Ministers ripping off the taxpayer for Blackberry bills for which they already receive an expense allowance for etc.

    As per usual, totally missing the point. When will the likes of Mr. Keen and co finally understand that if you can't commit to saving the tens of thousands of pounds that propositions such as the above would do, you will never get to save the far larger amounts that we need to.

    Unfortunately, it is always the same old Thatcherite drivel passed off as sound economics - i.e. make 'efficiency savings' by laying off a couple of road sweepers whilst allowing management structures to develop where a mini empire of six to do the jobs of three will be neatly overlooked year after year.

    Just as making 'efficiency savings' by laying off 'coal face' employees, even within already profitable operations goes unchallenged, whilst simultaneously paying 'loyalty bonuses' to 'top management' without any justifcation is seen as quite acceptable.

    I fully support 'efficiency' but I can't sign up to the totally unrealistic attitude that many of our so-called 'senior' politicians have in not recognising the fact that essential services are just that - services - and that demands a certain cost being met.

    Finally, in considering the 'adapt or die' story the question also has to be asked. Where would we be if public sector employees all adopted the work ethic of certain Senators? I.e. regularly wondering off to their business premises after roll call, or even just not coming in at all if the mood takes?

    Yes, fine to attack the likes of manual workers, teachers, non-managerial civil servants etc...

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  2. Shenton borrowed the "adapt or die" slogan from a funds investment lecture held recently in the Town Hall that he happened to be chairing; it is not a original catchphrase. The epigram was used in the context of investors who failed to read the market and adopted a herd mentality - those who buy high and sell low, will eventually end up losing their capital. Shentor remarked at the time that he thought it a excellent expression that could well be applied to the States of Jersey - and so he has.

    It is ironic that the phase should come from a sector that has just be bailed out to tune of billions by States worldwide. The chaps are completly unapologetic - they just want to get on and make more mayhem.

    Reducing the size of the state for Jersey's government class is simple an ideological statement. These are the same guys that have grown the expenditure of the state over consecutive years, not by increasing ordinary workers wages, but through enormous capital expediture. It all goes to show that this current right wing government, that proclaims its competence at management of the economy and state budget, does exactly the opposite. Competent they are not.

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  3. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 13, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Anonymous #2

    Thanks for revealing the origin of the Senator's insights. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making use of a coin of phrase or slogan where it is apropriate - we all do it. Unfortunately, I think the gist of your observations is pretty much spot-on.

    It could also be added to with the rider that for a fair number of Establishment Party politicians 'sound-bytes' are about as far as their political analysis ever goes. Nothing like an easy target, eh boys and girls?

    For the record I do not think there is a single one of us 'pinko-liberal-subversives' (sorry, Progressives) in the States who do not support efficiency savings being taken as far as they realistically can.

    The difference, as so many of us have said before, is that we do not support the madness of cutting frontline services when the said savings could be far better targeted further up the command chain.

    But a big 'no-no' for the Establishment Party in and out of the States, of course! You have to maintain 'loyalty' however expensive. I mean, you need people to close ranks should a controversial suspension come along for instance...

    Likewise who could seriously defend the type of 'efficiency' that creates brand new Deputy CEO posts to 'cut costs' and at a salary totally unjustified?

    Who, indeed, our Establishment Party aside, could support the mythical need for the Treasury Minister to now recruit a 'Personal Assistant'? What will this person do - work out when the Minister can spare a whole day in a States sitting?

    Work out the plausibility of which are the best scare tactics to have the Propaganda Unit spin to the public? To avoid facing up to the core underlying fact that the policies of the last two decades now leaving us so at the mercy of global financial meltdown are the result of their political ideaology and nothing else.

    Still, at least the Treasury Minister does regularly particpate fully - unlike a couple of other Senators who really must thank their lucky stars that Senator Syvret is drawing all the fire in London. Otherwise an 'investigative' journalist might have begun to ask the question as to where they had been for so much of the last three months of States sittings? Which external business premises perhaps? Maybe even which country...

    These attacks on our public sector employees en masse are simply pathetic. Most people whether in public or private sectors do their best at their jobs. And I know I speak for at least 17, 18 of us in the States when I say we are getting pretty sick of the garbage spun by the likes of the people I mentioned earlier.

    If only there was the same willingness to carve up the little Empires of the unaccoutables at the top....

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  4. Trevor when are you and your cohorts going to actually come up with a solution to the £50 Million black hole? You spend so much time attacking other ministers about money matters yet your group seem unable to ever come up with any suggestions to save money? I am starting to think that yourself, Time 4 Change and some independents do not actually have any sensible solutions and therefore have a limited purpose in running this Island. By just looking back at your time in office so far am I making a fair comment here?

    I think at the next elections we need people who are going to be more hands on committed to this future problem rather than avoiding it all the time.

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  5. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 15, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    Hello Jon

    Thanks for the e-mail. I think actually taking action on the incinerator, supplementation, paying adequate wages that would not have the taxpayer needing to support many on the lowest salaries would save a tidy sum. We have promoted/supported all.

    But try getting that past your Establishment Party friends. Not so easy. Perhaps you also recall that this same collection of 'safe pairs of hands' couldn't even agree to save £11.000 + by scrapping their free sandwiches without blubbing for weeks.

    Not to mention the ripping off of the taxpayer with the Balckberry con - limnitless expenses all set at the feet of the taxpayer! As I have said before, if people can't even commit to saving tens of thousands then they will never save the far bigger sums.

    The fair taxation review - something we have oh so surprisingly been excluded from (do you still believe in Terry's promise of 'inclusive' government?) says a great deal. Hence the JDA will be putting forward our own progressive proposals later this year. I wonder if you will support?

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  6. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 15, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Gary #4

    Sorry, I think I called you 'Jon'.

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  7. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 15, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Gary

    Meant to add, I also proposed during 2009 that we cut the Assembly by six politicians: thus saving more than a quater of a million pounds. Guess what? The Ministers - those 'safe pairs of hands' wouldn't go for it!

    And then there was the small matter of saving a similar sum by scrapping the Propaganda Unit. This wasn't supported by the Ministers either.

    So am I/the JDA avoiding the issue of saving money? Clearly not.

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  8. Trevor, you like a small handful of others are just demonstrating too much hatred towards people which the rest of us voted in. In the last elections I attended the St Helier Hustings for Senator and because a small number of idots were heckling current Senators when they spoke it made me more determined to find out what the new people had to offer because these hecklers were obviously brought in by them and it was the same thing.

    Scrap GST but no credible or sane way to do it and this is why the same people get back in, the opposition is never strong enough or have a hidden agenda.

    For example Geoff Southern said in the last elections that GST could be removed by cost cutting yet your party has since wanted us to carry on spending money even during recession.

    Every 3 years we hear the same story yet when the past 3 years come back into the spotlight for review the only reason things have not changed is because too much time has been spent dithering on other issues or; no realistic ideas have been tabled.

    If it comes to culling members of the States I would start with the ditherers who need to go first. In the next question time you are again asking questions which are not of concern to the majority. How many people living in St Helier No.1 & 2 actually care about a suspended Police Chief when its being dealt with anyway? Well you do not know because you never come around to ask anybody but there are a lot of unemployed people in these districts at the moment and it surprises me that the JDA have so far even this year shown very little interest about their welfare.

    There are a few people who are pondering with the idea of standing in the districts next year and to be honest (and this is not just the JDA but other elected people who do nothing) more representation is seriously needed now because I think St Helier districts have been ignored or should I say 'used' for people just to get a job in the States.

    This may sound a bit mean but the voter turn outs especially last time said it all.

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  9. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 16, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Paul

    I don't display 'hatred' to anyone. Perhaps a look in the mirror is needed given the tone of much of what you write.

    Quite honestly your comment about none of us coming around or 'doing nothing' really says it all.

    Strange then, one might ponder, how all four of the JDA Deputies have such large constituent portfolios and are also contacted for help by so many other people from different districts and parishes where there is - as yet - no JDA States Member.

    As I know from my own experience prior to my election, people tend to go to States Members who have a good grass roots name for getting up off their backside and doing all they can to help people.

    All of our four politicians fall into that category - as meny other States Members could confirm.

    It is equally clearly apparent that all four JDA States Members play a full role in every area of political work open to us.

    So 'Paul' please keep the hatred and the attempts at misinformation to yourself. Better still, get up off your rump and show everyone how it is done - stand for election. But maybe that is too much like hard work for you...

    A final point. I thought I would just flag up that we have been contacted by other agancies regarding an individual posting in the name of a 'Paul' and even attempting to assume another gentleman's ID.

    I only highlight this to suggest that any 'Pauls' avoid any problems by sending in their full contact details with any posts to the administrator so that they can be verified.

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  10. Trevor you are avoiding the question and then using it as a personal attack. You do this regularly and you should really knock it on the head.

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  11. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 19, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    Paul

    AS I said, have a look in the mirror, mate.

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  12. Trevor,

    Gary and Paul both have valid points to make and they should be seriously addressed. At present JDA policy and politics of the "Progressives" does not offer the correct analysis of the problem, nor solutions. Gary and Paul are correct, but for the wrong reasons.

    What we are currently experiencing is the disintigration of the "Tax Haven" model of economy. A state simply cannot be funded on the basis of no or very low taxes. The model adopted by Jersey, suits the interest of big capital, but undermines the functioning of public services in the island because it is unable to generate sufficient revenue. Add to that, the fact that the UK is withdrawing its hidden subsidies - in health, education and defence. The model is now "hoist with its own petard". Designed to undermine the tax base of large states, the offshore island is unable to fund even its own budget.

    The managers of the model now find that they are having to tax more heavily, not capital and the wealthy, but the simple workers and empolyees of the finance industry. Fine, but it is creating a visible social divide between the very weatlhy that are lightly taxed, because they can easily evade taxes in an island that is designed for avoidance, and labour, in the form of a working and middle class, that finds it is having to pay for the expense of the state. Why should the working people have to pay more so that corporations pay little or nothting? This is the central social contradicition. This is where alternative politics come in and begin to get traction.

    The contradictions are our hope.

    GST is one obvious example of the fact that working people are having to fund the state. Those on salaries get GST, whilst the owners of Corporations get zero or near zero tax. The Establishment Party will happily increase GST knowing full well they can ride out any political storm. The present political system is designed to ensure there is a disconnect between the popular will and government policy. A discontented population has no political mechanism to effect change and the system is maintained deliberately in all its pristine antiquity for that very reason. Hence the love for pre modern Constables and elite status Senators, Jurats elected by an electoral college of "the elect" and Crown Officers appointed from afar yet drawn from the inner cirle of the ruling social elite.

    The discussion about median and mean salaries in assessing the Minimum Wage is wholly academic. These fine points only matter to the JDA, not to the weathly fund mangagers and Advocates as they drive into work in the lastest BMW and Mercedes sports model, nor to those on minimum wage, concerned more about whether they still have a job and what scraps they can get at Safeway when item passed their sell-by date are reduced to ten pence.

    The issue that is being missed here is that of Poverty and social inequality. Why are people having to exist on the minimum wage when there are those whose only worry seems to be which colour of their new bathroom suite and model of 4x4? It is not just the JDA that fails to raise this fundamental issue.

    Is it not morally repugnant that small employers and politicians express outrage at the idea of the poor getting a few extra coppers, whilst at the same time the economy rests of billions of capital?

    Moral indignation must now transform itself into political action to achieve social change.

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  13. Trevor,

    Stop apologising in every speech for being a "pinko lefty". I object, not on the grounds that its an accurate discription of your or JDA politics (which it is not) , simply that a repeated apology for being something sounds rather lame. If you believe in something then state it openly and be proud. The demand for social justice requires no apology. Also stop the "Power to the People", strutting Che Guevara stuff. It is a construct designed to discredit real revolutionaries and must be seen as part of the anti communist Cold War era.

    The people want solutions, not slogans and rhetoric. We are in the midst of a Crisis created by the forty years of financialised Capitalism that has brought the world economy to the brink. The Left is weak and without solutions, but there is a constituency for an alternative. It is an opportuinty not to be missed.

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  14. Deputy Trevor PitmanFebruary 21, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    Anonymous

    One of the strengths/problems of being able to 'dead-pan'... I'm sorry but you miss the point. I am not apologising for being a 'pinko-liberal-subversive' I'm taking the P*** and it is aimed at people who should know better. And it works in the sense that it pulls the rug of attack from under them.

    I'm actually sitting here in my Hugo Chavez tee shirt at the computer now. As to my copy of Thatcher's autobiography... its just propping the door open for the dog. Hey...but never knew that I strutted!There was a guy at the last elections who did rhetoric and way over the top too, but he didn't get in I'm afraid.

    Fully agree with you on the no need to apologise for wanting social justice. If the left is far weaker than it should be (and I agree) it is because all too many fall out over comparitively minor differences, whilst the EStablishment Party always stick together. WE need to learn from that. Regards.

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  15. 1776 I agree with most of what you say but your comments on the finer points of the minimum wage issue for instance only mattering to the JDA are way wide of the truth. Whatever the flaws of the JDA I take my hat off to them being in the vanguard of trying to create real opposition as an alternative. Most of us can only imagine how frustrating it must be in the States madhouse arguing a case that most won't listen to no matter how common sense.

    It just disappoints me that a few more of our politicians being basically of the same political ilk can't show similar backbone. If only half-a-dozen more out of the fifteen to eighteen who regularly vote the right way would stand together under some basic principles it would quickly lead to a few giant strides forward to the place where it sounds like you and me both would like us to be.

    But I doubt that most of them will be brave enough. Which is why the longer path of eventual full party politics is likely the only way this change will ever happen. Those amongst the left, the disillusioned, the socially aware or whatever we want to call ourselves who carp at the the likes of the JDA for not yet having done all that we would want them to are just playing straight into the hands of those who the current system benefits so well.

    For that reason you will only hear me ever encourage. For all too many people who come on here and other sites attacking our own side for want of a better word ego and jealousy seem to cloud their vision. People need to stand together.

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