The arbitrary division between the haves (those with residential qualifications) and the have-nots has been ingrained in Jersey culture for many years. Those who have work in offices. Those who have not work in hotels, bars, restaurants or on the land.
Some work in shops, but they are the luckier ones and will have lived here or worked here over several years.
Many of the have-nots will have come from the European continent, from countries that are now part of the European Union. Many speak good English, are well educated and highly qualified. They come here to improve their English and to see for themselves a world that, for those from the former Communist bloc, was barred to their parents for many years.
Others are highly skilled in their own trades and have been brought up in countries where people take pride in working in restaurants and in agriculture.
The fact that the only jobs that have been available to them are relatively poorly paid and regarded as menial is by and large a result of the Island’s seasonal needs.
Going back generations, Jersey has depended on the summer sun to grow crops and bring in the holidaymakers. It makes hay when the sun shines, hence the annual recruitment drive by the Jersey Hospitality Association to find workers from outside the Island to do the work that there are not enough residents to do.
And because it is seasonal – and in most cases hard graft – an invisible barrier has come down between those jobs and the jobs done by people who live here all year round.
Non-Islanders may find it odd that elsewhere in the world people who wait on tables or serve drinks behind the bar are regarded as doing a skilled job. In other places there is no stigma attached to being a bartender, or waiting on tables. High standards are expected, both in terms of quality and speed of service.
Work in hotels and restaurants is carried out by local young people from that region, many of them training in colleges specifically set up for the hospitality industry.
I’m not sure that the job barrier in Jersey has always been as strong as it is now. In my schooldays, back in the 1970s, I spent a year of Saturdays working on the lingerie counter at Marks & Spencer in Halkett Place.
It taught me to be humble enough to take instruction from people who knew what they were doing and it taught me how hard it is to stand on your feet all day in one place, with the same music playing over and over in the background (Moon Shadow, by Cat Stevens) and still smile pleasantly at the customers.
As an undergraduate I can remember getting a summer job serving breakfasts in the hotel around the corner from my home. I was horrified to see that one man was responsible for washing every dish, by hand, standing at an enormous sink piled high with grime. It was a miserable job and I lasted all of three days.
I fared better the next summer, when I got a job on an organic fruit farm. Actually, it was the happiest job I have ever done. Apart from me and some other students there were a couple of travellers from Australia, and the establishment was run by an enlightened ex-teacher and his wife who insisted that we took tea and biscuit breaks, morning and afternoon, under the shade of a tree, putting the world to rights at the same time.
The delight of working among the strawberry beds, blackcurrants and peas is still with me, and I still love being outdoors and growing things. And if I had never done that holiday job, I may never have known how much enjoyment there was to be had.
During my time working in the UK, when times got hard I swallowed my pride and worked behind bars and in pub kitchens. In fact, my first job when I got back to Jersey was making sandwiches in a pub kitchen. Mass catering is not my natural forte, but it paid the bills. Along the way I met some great folk and saw slices of life of which I would otherwise be in ignorance.
So perhaps it is not a bad thing at all that Jersey’s residents will need to ‘lower their sights’ and do the jobs that they have hitherto scorned.
Not only that, but people who try these other avenues of work with an open mind may find that they enjoy them more than they thought they would. The Jersey Hospitality Association has long bemoaned the fact that very few applicants are local residents, which is surprising, they say, given that hospitality is a global industry which opens many doors.
There may be other benefits, too. Perhaps it will help to close the class and racial divide which has become all too apparent during the recent correspondence over something as innocuous as the change of a St Helier street name.