Sunday, 22 February 2015
Be afraid, be very afraid... - Deputy Geoff Southern Guest Posting
The Chief Minister has a problem with his fiscal policy. The problem is an £80m shortfall in the 2015 budget. The Chief Minister would have us believe that the problem is one of excessive spending by a bloated, inefficient public sector. On the contrary, the evidence shows we have a highly efficient public sector workforce. The public sector workforce as a proportion of private sector numbers is as follows: Scotland 20%, Isle of Man 18%, Guernsey 17%, Jersey 13%.
The real problem for the Chief Minister and the island is that after 8 years of recession, both profits and wages have shrunk year on year, and with them, tax revenues. This has been made worse by the increasing use of insecure zero-hours contracts. Unfortunately, the Chief Minister and his colleagues, in order to get themselves elected, have promised not to raise taxes. This they cannot do without a further swathe of savage cuts to public spending and ultimately to public services.
The “guru” chosen to deliver these cuts, Mr Keen, has a track record in the private sector which needs scrutiny:
As CEO of Jersey Dairy, our guru’s response to cash-flow problems was to scrap home deliveries, (and school milk) and to make redundant over a dozen milkmen.
Then he moved on to Jersey Water where he saved costs through sacking the drain-digging team, and replacing their long serving workers with cheaper ones on much reduced terms and conditions.
At Jersey Post, far from taking the workforce with him, he bullied workers into accepting massively reduced pay and conditions by sacking them and making them all re-apply for their jobs. The result was a reduced workforce on reduced pay; butalso, critically, a reduced service (no Saturday delivery; reduced collections)
Most recently, we have seen Mr Keen use his methods on the Tourism department and yet again we see some 18 States employees laid off. Not one has been re-engaged with reduced terms and conditions on the new “Visit Jersey” team.
Here we can see the method. It is not rocket science. Sack staff; reduce wages; privatise or outsource to reduce conditions. The end result has always been reductions in the level of service, both in quantity and quality.
Of course it will not be the likes of Mr Keen, on £650 per day, who will suffer from this new round of cuts; it will be the most vulnerable in our society. We have already seen the start of this process with the introduction of sanctions against those with a disability and the scrapping of widows’ pensions. To the poor, to the sick and to the elderly in Jersey, I say “Be afraid; be very afraid.”