Health staff pay awards scrapped in £750K ‘error’

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Unions representing nurses and midwives felt the substantial pay increases for social workers and allied health professionals – which include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers and pharmacists – were unfair and asked for a review.

The grading of these roles had been re-evaluated in November 2017 as part of the workforce modernisation programme and the grades were changed and pay increased, outside the recognised process used for all other roles.

The error has come to light at a time of unrest across the public sector as several sections of the States workforce threaten further strike action.

And in the latest escalation, schools could close in the new year as teachers weigh up striking over pay deals which ‘erode their standard of living’.

The National Education Union is due to begin balloting 315 of its Jersey members this week with a view to starting strike action in early 2019.

Constable Richard Buchanan, vice-chairman of the States Employment Board, said the 126 staff thought to be affected would now be returned to their original pay grades from April 2019, although, they would not be asked to pay back any of the increased salary they received as a result of the error.

The review was carried out by job evaluation specialists from NHS Wales, who said that the ‘uplift goes to the heart of the current dispute and grievance with nursing and midwifery staff in respect of equal pay for work of equal value’. It added that the outcome had been ‘disastrous for industrial relations and staff engagement in the Health Department’.

Their report identified a number of failings and issues with regard to process and poor judgment by senior staff, and those with primary responsibility for these failings were no longer with the organisation.

Mr Buchanan said: ‘This has been an issue of contention for nurses and midwives for most of the past year and it is important that we resolve it fairly and appropriately.

‘We regret the upset that this correction will inevitably cause to those who are directly affected, but we have to put this right. We won’t be asking them to pay back any of the uplifted salary they received, because we don’t want them to be penalised unfairly for a situation that is not their fault.

‘A full pay and reward review will now be run across the public service, alongside departmental restructuring. We want to tackle pay and grading issues properly and any proposals for further change will be presented to the States Employment Board by the end of March 2019.’

The Royal College of Nursing has announced that it was planning to ballot its members on whether to accept a revised pay award of 3.1 per cent for 2018 and 3 per cent for 2019. The ballot closes on 7 January and the union plans to hold a branch meeting two days later.

Meanwhile, schools could close next year with ballots asking teachers whether they wished to strike due to be sent out on Thursday.

Andy Woolley, regional secretary for the NEU, said that, if members agree, two schools a week could close for ‘one or two days’ at a time with the States potentially facing long-term disruption across the public sector.

On Friday, hundreds of civil servants turned out in Liberation Square to strike as the ongoing pay dispute between the States and its staff plumbed new lows.

Mr Woolley said NEU members would be balloted over the Christmas period and strike action could begin in February.

‘We want the States to come back and start talking to us about putting some extra money on the table,’ he said. ‘We are indicating that this will be ongoing action.

‘If we get the required majority, we would be looking a probably two schools a week, then another two the following week [going on strike] and so on.

‘Teachers have had to deal with years of pay deals which erode their standard of living.’

He added that the members being balloted stretched across ‘teachers in schools employed by the States who fall in the affected pay groups’.

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