Saturday, 23 February 2013

Austerity Jersey – Nurses march against failed government policies - Video Report and interviews

Year Six of the Crisis and tentatively Jersey Labour is gaining confidence, acting independently and asserting its interests. Moving beyond the comfort zone is not easy, but necessity is a hard master. Exasperation at government intransigence is forcing the pace.

Today’s march by 500 plus nurses and supporters was a great success in building confidence for future action. Of course it’s difficult for nurses, committed as they are to patient care, to consider withdrawing their labour. This the employer knows, but acts of defiance such as overtime bans may be the way forward.

With Unite the Union and RCN flags flying, the march proceeded at 2pm from the assembly point in Howard Davis Park through town and into Parade Gardens, where the nurses were addressed by two leaders.

There was plenty of public sympathy up and down King Street and passing motorists, even those caught in the inevitable traffic jam, tooted horns in support.

Better organisation next time
This was the first march by Nurses, so the learning curve of organisation is steep. The Teachers march a few years ago should have been the model to follow. Teacher’s union representatives were at the front of the march.

Assembly in Howard Davis Park could have been the opportunity for more speakers whilst the assembly process proceeded. The band stand was a perfect location which would have afforded the possibility of powered music and entertainment beforehand.

There should have been leaflets for the marches to hand out to the public setting out grievances and calling for support.

The final destination point was somewhat desolate. The speakers only had a feeble loud hailer with which to address the crowd instead of a powered PA system.

The organisers consciously kept the march exclusively to nursing groups rather than inviting other groups of workers. This will change as confidence grows. There were no politicians invited to address the crowd for similar reasons. Certainly there needs to be good speakers who can rouse listeners and leave them with a positive feeling. The meeting dissolved too soon after the two speakers had spoken. People dispersed on a rather flat tone rather than being fired up and resolved to further action. The call must ever be for more effort and bigger turnout.

Further politicisation of the movement

A number of States Members joined the march including Deputies Tadier, Southern and the Pitmans. Deputy Rod Bryans kept watch at the periphery to report back on the mood to the COM later. Deputy Jeremy Maçon, out doing his Saturday shopping in King Street, stopped to watch and provided approving smiles for the marches, but took no further part.

What will be the outcome from today? Not much; the Council of Minister and States Employment Board will probably issue a press release saying they will look again at the ever worthy nurses and do nothing.

The conclusion is that a one off demonstration is not enough and must now develop a wider political dimension that includes other groups of States employees. The COM will be slightly bemused by today, however to get them worried will require bolder steps beyond the comfort zone. Bon chance!

Here is a compilation video offering a flavour of the day including the main speakers John McNichol and Patricia Marquis.

Democrats to Arms! … The political under-representation of St Helier’s 1886 style – Country (33) v Town (5) - A historic battle still to be won

Few understand today what is meant by the historic Town/Country divide that has been a feature of political life in Jersey history for centuries. Even fewer will have read the seminal work by Dr John Kelleher “The Triumph of the Country”, that records the victory of the rural and conservative interest over the commercial and Liberal interest of St Helier in 19th Century Jersey.

Even the radicalisation of Jersey society after the shock of Occupation and Liberation failed to break the mould. We live with the legacy today and it explains why so many of the island’s institutions remain only partially modernised and democratised. It explains why we have two Police forces, a Paid Police and an Honorary Police; twelve rubbish collection services all ending up in one incinerator in St Helier, and 60% voter abstention in elections, the highest in Europe; GST rather than progressive income tax; and 51 turkeys in an utterly despised States Assembly.

The division between the Country and Town and the unfairness it embodies is personifed in the 24th April Referendum in the form of Option “B”. It explains why proposed District 5 with its four rural Parishes of 11,000 electors gets 9 representatives whilst St Helier has 10 Deputies and a Constable for 27, 000 eligible electors.

It really has ever been thus, and, it was ironic today to stumble across the following petition in the Public Library.

“Pétition Solicitant une Augmenation du nombre des Députés pour la Paroisse de St. Hélier”

In 1886 the Town Constable, its 3 Deputies, various ratepayers and a Vice Admiral, submitted to the Privy Council a Petition calling for an increase in the number of Deputies for the Parish of St Helier. The arguments are all too sadly familiar. The Petition reads:

“To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council…

“….THAT it is important to the well-being and good government of Your Majesty’s subjects in the said Island, that the number of the members of the States representing St Helier’s  should be to a great degree proportionate to its relative importance and to the number of its inhabitants.

THAT according to the official Census on 1881, St Helier contained 28,020 inhabitants, whilst the eleven rural Parishes together only reached the figure of 24,425.

THAT the houses in St. Helier’s number 4,961, and those in the eleven rurul parishes 4,523; the houses and land in St Helier’s being valued by sworn Appraisers at £2,700,000, and the houses and land in the eleven rural Parishes at £4, 100, 000.

THAT the trade of the Port of St Helier’s averages from 300,000 to 320,000 tons annually.

THAT St Helier contributes over 50 per cent of the total revenues levied upon the inhabitants of the whole Island.

THAT on the 20th day of December, 1856 Your Majesty in Council sanctioned an Act of the States, by virtue of which fourteen members were added to that body as “Deputies” to be also chosen triennially by the electors of the said Parishes, three Deputies being given to St Helier and one to each of the eleven rural parishes.

THAT the 24,425 inhabitants of the rural districts are now represented in the said Assembly of the States by eleven Rectors, eleven Connetables and eleven Deputies; that is to say, by 33 members; whilst the 28,020 of the district of St Helier’s have only five representatives, the Rector, the Connetable and the three Deputies.

THAT your Petitioners cannot but express their sincere belief that the interests of the Town, and, as a consequence, those of the whole Island, continually suffer when, in the opinion of the country members, Town Interests clash with their own.”…..

It goes without saying that the Town never got its additional Deputies when the Petition came up for debate in a States dominated by “the rural interest”.

It should be pointed out that this bit of special pleading by the gentlemen of St Helier was somewhat disingenuous, since working men without property did not have the right to vote in an election and nor did women, none of whom signed that Petition.

Perhaps some readers will now understand what is meant by the great mensonge that is “the Parish link”, of which we will be hearing ad nausiam for the next 8 weeks.
Plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose). What a difference 127 years fails to make. The Triumph of the Country seems to run and run.

If any of this is to change, then Option "A" must triumph in the first count of the Referendum on 24th April. Island Democrats need to make it happen in an historic political campaign; that campaign has begun.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

“There is power in a Union” - "If you go, we'll go!" - Action at last? - JERSEY TRADE UNION RALLY - Fort Regent - 19th February 2013

The mood of last night's Rally was for action. On the platform were leaders from public sector trade unions representing civil servants, manual workers, teachers and nurses. They gathered in Fort Regent to express their discontent against the unilateral decision of government to withdraw from pay negotiations. The common theme was that government intransigence should be met with preparedness for industrial action.

Speakers from the platform included Nick Corbell, Unite the Union; Alain Traynor, Civil Servants;  Anne Southern, National Union of Teachers, Marina Mauger, Jersey NASUWT; John McNichol, Nurses Union; Steve Preddy – Unite South-West Regional Coordinating Officer.

Here are a few of those speeches.

Alan Treanor – Civil Service Union

Anne Southern – National Union of Teachers

 John McNichol -  Nurses Union

Steve Preddy – Unite South-West Regional Coordinating Officer

It has to be said that the union movement has been here before. Two years ago there was a well attended rally at Fort Regent calling for united action and an impressive march held by teachers from Howard Davis Park to a meeting at the Opera House, yet the outcome was, well, nothing much. Last night's meeting alluded to that failure and promised to do better. Clearly there is a need for the leadership and membership to work together. Leaders must lead and members must provide support as well as direction. Unions are about democracy.

A speaker from the floor, aware of the disunity in the past within groups and across unions, was concerned  if this time there would be unity. When asked about coordinated strike action alongside the NASUWT teacher's union, Anne Southern, representative of the National Union of Teachers, reaffirmed "If you go, we'll go".