Terry Hanby of the Jersey Nursing Association, which is a branch of Unite, said that there was a ‘poisonous atmosphere’ between social workers and nurses due to a ‘disparity in pay’. And he has urged nurses to attend a meeting later this month to discuss the matter and ‘make their voices heard’.
Mr Hanby said nurses were angry after hearing that allied health care professionals – a sector which includes social workers and occupational therapists – received a ‘significant pay uplift’ in November.
The Health Department said changes were communicated to affected staff in October and added that the regrading of jobs happened ‘from time to time’ to improve services or efficiency within the public sector.
Mr Hanby claims allied health care professionals were moved up civil service pay grades shortly before all States workers received a statement informing them how much they would be paid under the workforce modernisation programme.
The £47 million programme, which was later rejected by the unions Prospect, Unite the Union and the Jersey Nursing Association, would have subjected all States staff to one set of terms and conditions and a standardised pay scheme.
Following the rejection of the offer, nurses will receive a 2.5 per cent pay rise in line with a prior commitment from the States Employment Board while other States employee groups which had not agreed a pay deal under the workforce modernisation scheme will receive a two per cent rise.
Mr Hanby said that nurses phoned the Jersey Nursing Association ‘absolutely disgusted’ after hearing about the changes from allied health care professionals they work alongside.
He also claims he was told that allied health care professionals were told to keep the changes ‘secret’ from nursing staff, although Mr Hanby added that when he discussed this with Health senior management said the word ‘discreet’ was used.
‘It has been underhand,’ Mr Hanby said. ‘They [allied health care professionals] were told to be discreet about it because it may cause disharmony, which it has done. Some social workers have described it as a poisonous atmosphere because obviously nurses are doing similar jobs and are being paid less.’
Mr Hanby said that he met Health officials in November to discuss why allied health care workers had been moved up the civil service grades and claimed he was told that following the publication of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry the Island needed to attract more social workers.
However, he said he later learned that the changes affected all allied health care professionals not just those that work with children, which was one of the reasons why a mass meeting of public sector nursing staff is now due to be held at 6.30 pm on 18 April at the Town Hall.
When asked what course of action the JNA may take, Mr Hanby said the branch could consider bringing a vote of no confidence ‘against the management that introduced said changes to these people’s pay’.
A Health Department spokesman said: ‘At any given time there are generally parts of the public sector reorganising to improve services or efficiency. From time to time this may lead to regrading of existing or new jobs.
‘This is part of business as usual and work by managers within the Health and Social Services Department in autumn 2017 led to changes in grading for some staff.
‘The changes were agreed in October 2017 and communicated to affected staff. The changes were not confidential, but staff whose jobs had been upgraded were asked to be sensitive to the feelings of those whose jobs had not.
‘Nurses have been awarded bigger pay increases than the rest of the public sector since 2012. The workforce modernisation offer, which was intended to equalise pay bands for similar work, included average pay increases for nurses and midwives of 7.8 per cent by 2020. The workforce modernisation offer was made on 8 November 2017 and subsequently rejected.’