Sunday, 4 November 2012

We all need a pay rise and that includes States Members – 2% a “modest increase in basic pay of States Members” yet Chief Minister seeks 40% hike!

The issue with the present economic crisis is that demand is being sucked out of the economy through unemployment and stagnant wages. For that reason alone States Members should set an example and accept the modest 2% increase in salary. In doing so the government should also meet the wage demands of its civil service and other States employees. This might give encouragement to those in the private sector to demand pay rises.

“SMRRB” – States Members’ Remuneration Review Body

How the media and political class handled the proposed 2% increase suggested by the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body this week reflects a confused set of values and priorities.

Few will have been bothered to read the Report and recommendations. What we discover is that member’s basic pay increased by 4.6% since 2008 at a time when inflation over the period was 2.5%, so salaries stayed ahead of inflation. This amounted to an annual increase of around 1.1% and the current recommendation of 2% is, as they state, modest.

Being a States Member is a job, just like any other job and it deserves to be appropriately remunerated with the hope that those who get elected will perform. In stating that principle one has to overlook that the electorate continues to elect the undeserving, the incapable and a lot of dead wood.


The media concentrated on the £818 increase rather than the rather less dramatic 2% that the increase from £41,182 to £42,000 represents. Was the use of a figure rather than percentage mere populism to whip up public feeling? I am aware that employees in the private sector are not receiving pay rises or very modest ones and that new starters are facing lower pay. Meanwhile, government has imposed its own form of austerity on the civil servants through no increases in pay. Teachers and manual workers are readying themselves for industrial action over the issue. It is convenient therefore to blame the evil politicians who say one thing and do another.

The issue of States Members pay is divisive for the political class. In the public sector it seems certain employees will be taking industrial action and this is what frightens government. To damp down employee pay claims it is convenient to argue that States Members should not accept their recommended increase. To that end Constable Sadie Renard and Deputy John Le Bail, were wheeled out by the JEP and BBC Radio Jersey respectively to denounce the proposals.

Le Bail, interviewed by the BBC, was a mass of contradictions. The interviewer directed him and ensured he followed the script, coming out with a raft of shallow arguments designed to confuse the listener and play on prejudices. Le Bail gave the game away as to his true purpose when he said any pay rise would set a poor precedent for States employees whose salary demands the States Employment Board, on which he sat, was seeking to prevent. He personally was not going to accept any increase and would vote against it, albeit the decision is not within the power of the States. He then went on to support the idea of substantially higher differential pay for Ministers. They deserved such pay because they work he said "from 7am to 7pm" (and others dont?). The Chief Minister and Treasury Minister deserved double the salary as they could earn "triple in the private sector". Some salaries should be cut he suggested to the average wage in Jersey of £33,000 simply because these individuals are professional politicians "and do nothing but" (in other words commitment deserved to be penalised).


There are traditionalists and backwoodsmen who view States Members pay from the ideological mind set of honorary service. They hark back to the times 30 years ago and more when there was no remuneration and only those with sufficient rentier income or business activities, could contemplate election.

Excluding representatives of lower social groups and restricting membership of the States to a propertied elite was best achieved by the absence of a salary or other remuneration. There were individuals that slipped though in the post war period and survived against great adversity. Men like Norman Le Brocq had to seek 5s and half a crown donations from supporters in order to supplement a workers wage.

These conservatives like to blame the presence in the chamber of all those lower middle class types with a grudge and an increase in perceived “conflict” on the existence of a salary. That it is simply an ideological position since the gentlemen are gone with private fortunes willing and capable of performing a job that no longer consumes just a few days a week. Constables are supposed to personify this type, but even they do not conform, being entitled to a salary by virtue of being members of the States, that most if not all claim. If parishioners had to set the pay of a Constable in the States, one wonders if many would receive anything and what impact this might have on social background and personal wealth of those who entered the States as our representatives?


Then there is the managerial group among the political class that resent the idea of civil servants being paid considerably more than their political masters and aspires to a salary that reflects their status as a member of the executive as distinct from a simple member of the legislature. This has additional appeal to those seeking “independence” for Jersey as “the small island state”. They believe anyone forming the government should be appropriately rewarded in terms of status and money if they are to rub shoulders with representatives of other countries.

Inequality and Patronage

Whilst limiting pay rises for States Members may be government policy, this has not in any way diminished the appetite to introduce differential salaries for Ministers and other member of the Executive. Higher salaries would be a form of patronage that could easily be used to command loyalty around the government block and reprimand the disloyal.

Suggested salaries for Ministers have been mooted before at around £75,000. On Wednesday, BBC Radio Jersey invited Pierre Horsfall, a former Chief Minister as head of the Policy & Resources Committee of the day, to argue the case along with St Helier Deputy and government supporter, Rod Bryans. Although there was no salary in Horsfall's time and only a very modest form of income support for those without private incomes, no mention was made of remuneration through directorships, including one famous one with Bank Cantrade, that came as a result of holding political office.

Would any of the current States Members be prepared to do the job for a workers wage?


  1. I always say that States Members should be paid a multiplier of the single person's OAP. Thus they would always know what the OAP rate is and it would be increased whenever States Mambers pay went up.
    4 or 5 times would be about right I reckon - but this might mean increasing the basic OAP to £250 p week - so that won't happen!

    For some (lack of) reason "we" want the best possible political management at the least cost.
    Like a fair rate for OAPs - this is not achievable.

    It is the same sort of double thinking that demands the very best care for our children and elderly - yet at the same time we expect to pay minimum wages and provide the worst conditions of social protection for the carers!!!

    Cake and eat it syndrome...

  2. Great post Nick.

    Your opening point about the lack of demand in Jerseys economy is incredibly powerful.

    However politically inconvenient it may be for States Members to be seen to give themselves a pay rise, we need more members who understand economics and who understand that Jersey won't get itself out of the economic situation it is in until wages rises so ordinary people get spending again. It might be expensive in the short term, but eventually it means growth in the economy, a greater tax intake, more people off benefits and into work. At the very least, they should legislate for a large increase in the minimum wage. That will affect both private and public workers and reduce the amount paid in income support.

    But on Constable Rennard... Given that she has only opened her mouth 3 times in the entire year she has been a States Member (one of those times having to be reprimanded by the Bailiff for unparliamentary language), I'd happily have her wage taken off her entirely and given to a hard working States Member.