A SENIOR teaching union leader has warned that industrial action is becoming increasingly likely as a result of stalled pay talks.
Members of the main teaching unions are set to be balloted over the next two weeks, with the prospect that industrial action will affect education – but not exams – during the second half of the summer term and could even stretch into the next academic year.
Marina Mauger, of the NASUWT, said that the States Employment Board, the government body which handles pay negotiations with staff, had left unions with no alternative.
She said: ‘The SEB has pushed our backs against the wall and by their absolute refusal to negotiate they have given us no choice but to ballot members and see what they want to do.
‘We don’t want to be balloting teachers, and I don’t believe teachers would want to take action – they are not antagonistic and do not want to affect children’s education.
‘The employer has shown a real “take it or leave it” attitude and I’ve never known strength of feeling among teachers like this.’
Mrs Mauger said that the government’s unwillingness to make a better offer meant there remained a large gap between the 7.9% offer made earlier this year and the current rate of inflation, which was 12.7% at the end of the first quarter of this year – the same level as three months previously.
‘There hasn’t been an above-inflation pay rise since 2008, and many teachers are finding they can’t afford to live in Jersey any longer,’ she said.
Forthcoming exams would not be affected by industrial action, Mrs Mauger predicted, but she said that teachers might stop participating in activities outside their core classroom duties, and that if the dispute was not resolved before July it could affect the autumn term as well.
‘Historically there’s been goodwill from teachers – that’s why some of them were in on Liberation Day doing revision classes when everyone else had the day off,’ she said. ‘But that goodwill is on the point of getting up and walking out.’
There are also fears that the current pay offer of almost 5% below inflation, and the ongoing cost-of-living challenges faced by many Islanders, will lead to a higher number of teachers opting to quit their jobs this summer.
Teachers giving three months’ notice to finish at the end of August would need to act before the schools break for half-term on 26 May.
Mrs Mauger said she was already aware of 87 teaching roles that were set to be vacant by the start of September, and that she expected the number would be even higher by the end of this month.
She said: ‘There are a lot of teachers who are moving away from Jersey to the UK or places like Dubai, and others who are taking jobs in finance – moving to where the money is.
‘Education have told us that there’s been a very successful recruitment campaign, attracting teachers from the UK to come here – the salary probably looks attractive to begin with, but I think a lot of them may not stay after coming here and realising how expensive it is.’
The JEP has asked the government for a response to union concerns.