Saturday, 23 March 2013

“I want the Constables out [of the States] ….because they are not elected. They can get in with one vote...its ridiculous!” Voices from Queen Street telling it the way it is.

Canvassing for Option A continued this Saturday morning in Queen Street with 43 new voters (yes that’s FORTY THREE) registered to vote, and everyone favourable to Option A in the 24th April Referendum.

Having given out over 400 leaflets to enthusiastic islanders we eventually ran out and gave up satisfied that we had done a good job for the day. Islanders have got the link between a reformed structure of the States and real change. From that realisation it becomes obvious how poltically backward are Options B and C, since neither can satisfy that sentiment. If we do not get reform right this time we will spend a further decade or longer debating the issue, when more pressing issues, such as mass unemployment, and failed austerity economics, face the Island.

Listen to  “ordinary” islanders tell us why Option A is best.

Listen to real opinions:

 Voter registration drive

Voter registration forms an important part of the A-Team strategy, especially targeting youth and minority goups. Intent on adding as many new names to the electoral roles we will be carrying out this vital work up to the final registration date on 3rd April.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


The campaigning season for the 24th April Referendum has begun. Naturally, full of élan, it was The A-Team that were first out on Queen Street this Saturday morning.

Bang on 9.30am we were handing out leaflets and getting over the message that only Option A can deliver democracy and fairness. The response was overwhelmingly positive with many people completing voter registration forms in advance of the 3rd April deadline to register. Regardless of age, gender or residence, a cross section of Jersey has already decided it will be voting for Option A in the Referendum on 24th April.

Some of our A TEAM canvassed for opinion whilst others took the bold step of introducing themselves to passersby. Unfortunately, many walked past without acknowledging our presence, then stopped suddenly, turned on their heals and came back to take a leaflet. There was little need for persuasion, the message was out there – Option A was fairest and best.

Below are some short vox pop videos of the reaction of the voting public to the A TEAM message. Many were curious and wanted more information. The committed team was quick to provide that explanation and did it with a smile.

The disconnect between a government for the few and the ignored many

As we know there is a 60% voter abstention at elections in Jersey. We soon found out why - the disconnect between a government of the few and the ignored many. Politicians and media alike shy away from this self evident fact.

The campaigning season has begun and The A-Team is in the lead. We will be back in the center of Town every day right down to close of play. More reports and video updates will be posted here, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Rumour reached us that a couple of Option C supporters were canvassing on King. Delighted and spoiling for a forthright exchange of opinion, we went in pursuit of the target. To our disappointment they had packed up early, if indeed they were there at all. We suspectd they were there only there for the media photo shoot and left.

Opinion formation 

Opinion formation in the island is through the media. I call it strategic high altitude bombing. We are of course in the trenches but taking ground from our opponents as they do not like engaging with ordinary people. These folk really enjoy the fact that someone finds their opinions valuable. We had however to listen to a degree of unpleasant racism, but in every conversation there are nuggets of enlightenment. People read, listen to or watch the media and what they believe to be the opinion of others. Few of us like to hold opinions that others do not hold and as a consequence people in general prefer to remain silent if they genuinely hold different views, less they give offence. 

As an example there was one lady of a certain age who said to me she was voting Option B and recited the received opinion and argument mustered to support that case. I did not ignore her, but persevered sowing the seed of doubt. I had met the lady in the past and she sort of recognised me. She was not poor but she was not wealthy either and she was very Jersey.. I assume we had parted agreeing to disagree. Imagine my surporise when forty minutes later have completed her promenad of King Street and returning back up Queen Street, she came over to me and saind in a hushed tone that she might be open to reconsider her vote. The twikle in in the eyes was highly flirtatious. So, it is possible to change opinions with rational argument – especially if it is delivered with respect and politeness.

OPTION B and its supporters

To supporters of Option A I would say "steady"; popular opinion is in our favour. We may be pushing on an open door, even though we have hardly seen the whites of our opponents eyes. They dont like being out on the street because they are outside their comfort zone having to speak to the "angry masses" who tell anyone in government about their deficiencies.

Intellectually Option B arguments are weak and rely essentially on emotion and sentiment. People understand fairness and equality. Who would wllingly play a chess game with half ones pieces eliminated at the outset whilst one's opponent had a full set?. That is the case presently and would be the case as well under Option B were unevenly sized parish constituencies be retained as electoral districts. Automatic retention of Constables makes it more advantegeous in terms of representation to reside in the North or in the Country rather than an urban area or in St Helier.

Option B campaign inauguration

Senator Ben Shenton on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday, announcing the inauguration of the B Team, was woefully ill informed. It was only the presenter's assistance that kept him focused and gave him the opportunity to reherse a lame alliterative slogan - "Option A, the awful option". The other slogan was "Option A doesn't do what it says on the tin" - clearly he was reading the lable upside down.

Ad nauseam repetition of "heritage" and "tradition" will not trump our Aces of equality and fairness. It is true that the Parishes system "is very very important to the island of Jersey ", but I cannot accept that self evident truth being used to instrumentalise the retention of the automatic right of Constables to sit in the States. 

An accomplished individual has many choice available to them including being both Constable and standing as a Deputy in one of the new large Districts. This will sort out the capable Constables from the less so. In that way those who have no desire to sit in the States can concentrate on the matters they know and love best in the parish, without being expected to meet the the levels of performance expected of a States Member in terms of committment and capability. This will avoid the embarassing situation that is currently evident with many Constables (and we might add a number of Countrty Deputies) not up to the job of being a States Member.
Ben Shenton likewise failed to explain what he meant by an "efficient" States; a contradiciton in terms as presently constituted. 

Equally tendentious was the statement that "most people's point of contact is the Parish Constable". Wrong. Try getting one to listen on a contentious issue, let alone represent you at an Appeal Board or Social Security Tribunal. Deputies do that and that is often why they are approached first.

He referred to St Helier as being split in the future between District A and District B, when in fact they will be called District 1(combing the current Town Districts 3 and 4 and a bit of 2) and  District 2 (the current District one plus the Town centre part of District 2).

One particular howler was the suggestion that Option B makes "the people of the island more involved in government". He did not explain how and it will certainly not address the issues raised by some of those we interviewed in the videos below. Reducing the number of States Members to 42 will make it even more difficult to find someone to take up an issue, especially if contentious and Scrutiny will be decimated by being undermanned

The BBC presenter rightly pointed out the disparity of representation between the Country Parishes and St Helier, but Ben Shenton took this to mean the mandate or number of votes by which a States Member was elected, not the gross difference in size of constituencies and number of eligible voters. He clearly does not understand what is meant by the historic divide between Town and Country. He must acquire a copy of Dr John Kelleher's seminal work on the 19th century Jersey rural commnuinty "The triumph of the Country" (sadly out of print but in the Public Library).

His political science got worse as he sought to explain the lower voter turnout "in Town" as being "largely because it has a more "transient" population" and/or tresidents are not eligible to vote. I beg to differ. St Helier has many long term residents. The right to vote is acquired after only two years residence. A better explanation for a 75% voter abstention in Disrict 1 St Helier is social class.  The working class are much less likely to vote than other social groups, especially if they are part of the main immigrant communties.

BBC Radio Jersey, "Option D" - demoralising the electorate

Incidentally, it was wholly inappropriate for the BBC presenter, Matthew Price, to suggest at the beginning of the interview and in the closing summary, that there was an "Option D" - to ignore the Referendum entirely an not vote. This was presented in the form of a deniable throw away quip,  Such light talk undermines the Referendum whose very legitimancy depends on voter participation. Why would the BBC encourage people not to vote? He did subsequently read out a comment I placed on the BBC Facebook page in complaint.  The shot across the bow was noted. No more gallows humour please Matthew and get a grip Editor Gripton. I have yet to hear a BBC Radio Jersey programme devoted to the reasons for voter abstention being so high in the island, possibly the highest in Europe. The BBC has the excellent and informed Professor Adrian Lee from Plymouth University who could provide the facts and figures. This is of course an embarassing subject for Jersey's govenment and one that consequently is best ignored by the ever loyal media. So there is a challenge Matthew and John, use the Poliicts Show on Sunday to explain this little understood or discussed feature of Jersey's political landscape.

It is imperative that there is a level playing field maintained by the media in the Island or the elctorate will be grossly ill informed about the Referendum. 

Vox Pop

I feel certain that readers will not hear such verement expression of opinion  in the Jersey Media as was expressed to us today on the street - but I wait to see. During the coming weeks we will be giving voice to the true opinions of the island. Liberty of expression is a vital ingrediant of a vibrant Democracy. Come and talk to us. We will be at the top of Queen Street. Also look out for our stall in Kings Street.

Listen to the voices of some of those getting ready to vote and vote for OPTION “A”.

St Martin resident: "I think [Constables] should carry on being in their Parish which is where they are at their best."


"You wouldn't fancy doing a quick interview to camera would you?  A TEAM member Deputy Montfort Tadier explains the unquestioned advantages of Option "A"


"The system doesn't exist for your average Joe; litterally no one understands how politics works in Jersey... no one has a connection with the government of Jersey!

Option A will begin the process that will give the public a chance to structure the government and have a choice of policy.

Here is the leaflet provided to islanders today. Read the arguments and let me have your comments.


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Lid off the 2012 Jersey Fulfillment industry crash – Business as usual (elsewhere); unemployment for workers (here)

We hear very little about how Jersey’s working class actually live and work and now increasingly don’t work because of unemployment. For the media, they are not worthy of investigation, other than forming the dramatic headlines for the unprecedented levels of post war unemployment. No one cares to look at their lives, struggling to pay high rents, “actively seeking” non existent jobs and dealing with a Social Security Department and Income Support system that was never designed to deal with mass unemployment.

Fulfillment industry collapse

The collapse of the fulfillment industry across the Channel Islands following the removal of the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) on 1st April 2012, will be well known to sophisticated readers of internet media. We also know there have been numerous redundancies and that unemployment has increased as a consequence, but we have heard nothing about the real tragedy of those workers who spent their lives “picking and packing” in cold warehouses converted from potato sheds.

For many years, Fulfillment was extremely profitable, at least for the companies that provided services for corporations that sold everything from computer memory sticks to contact lenses.

One enterprising Jersey Boy, who made his fortune early, now lives his life as a nomad millionaire, resident on a cruise liner sailing endlessly around the world; his children flown in from their exclusive Swiss Lycee during school holidays to which ever port on the planet daddy’s ship has birthed.

Others involved in the industry have not been so fortunate, including a Jersey Portuguese family of father, mother and son, who brought a recent claim for unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal against their former employers.

The EU’s Eastern marches

Some fulfillment businesses went into immediate liquidation, but the more savvy, those with different business models, had plans in place to carry on from other jurisdictions. Professional Film Services Limited (t/a PROFS Ltd), the Respondent in the Tribunal, now carries on from “an undisclosed foreign jurisdiction”. The Tribunal never sought to pry into where that new location might be since it was not legally relevant. The reticence of the company was to protect a business model one step ahead of competitors. The new location was never disclosed but could be somewhere in the EU’s Eastern marches.

According to the Jersey Portuguese family before the Tribunal, the end of LVCR was a bombshell exploding to ruin their lives. Like a bomb from the sky, they really had no idea why it should fall on them. Hard working and committed, working in a drafty shed provided a wage to meet life's necessities. They certainly would have never read Richard Murphy’s blog about the iniquities of VAT scams, or the dangers of building economic activity on sand. Nor would they have known the name of the Economic Affairs Minister or the outcome of an appeal to the High Court against a decision of HMRC to end LVCR to the Channel Islands. Loyal to managers that provided a wage, they could not understand why their hours of work were being cut, then demoted from full time to part time and eventually being selected for redundancy.

Disturbances in Trinity

Lay off day from the Trinity warehouse was 31st May 2012. The staff were called individually and told their jobs were no more. The news was translated into Portuguese and Polish by supervisors, who themselves were to loose their jobs. The event was a mixture of disbelief, tears and anger. The senior management alluded to, but did not eleaborate upon, an incident that forced them to consider locking the warehouse door. No one was allowed to return inside to collect their belongings, which were brought to the individual as they left.

For many islanders without the skills to find comfortable jobs in the Finance Industry, fulfillment offered a reasonable wage for routine factory type work. It also brought in large numbers of East European migrants to meet the demand for labour. Left high and dry by collapse of the industry, locals, Portuguese and Polish residents alike face a bleak immediate future. Some have found new employment, like the son of the family mentioned above. He is a salesman living by commission. Back to work this very week, the wage was low “but so what, it’s a job” he told the Tribunal and it was better than the boredom at home whilst unemployed.  Social Security’s Job Club had assisted him and he was grateful to find new work.

Precipitous decline

The employer submitted in evidence some interesting statistics that record the rapid, but uneven, decline of the fulfillment industry after the abolition of LVCR on 1st April 2012. The twelve to six months prior to that date were in fact the peak of orders for that particular company. Once LVCR was abolished, some clients panicked and withdrew immediately whilst others waited to see what would happen. By contrast in Guernsey, where the company also has a warehouse, the end was immediate and dramatic, with virtually 100% redundancy. The Guernsey government did not seek to challenge the ruling of HMRC, unlike Jersey which went to the UK Courts, ultimately unsuccessful but permitting companies to relocate and avoid an unseemly rout.

Ineveitably, the largest clients moved, albeit the business in Trinity still operates from a small corner of the two story warehouse, with 2 remaining clients and 3 part time staff. At its peak, the business employed 21 staff. The days of glory are gone, just like Jersey’s oyster fishery sank precipitously after diseases and over fishing in the 1830’s.

A fascinating insight into commercial decline are the figures submitted in evidence for order numbers, total employee hours and staff numbers over the months after 1st April:

Month             Orders            Hours      Staff
                                                                Managers;      Full Time;  Part Time;  Agency
March              103,000           3400                2                  9                3          7
April                   31,000           2152               2                  8                 2          Nil
May                   23,000           1723                2                  6                3          Nil
June                   17,400             934                2                  2                3          Nil
July                    16,380             910                ditto            ditto          ditto       ditto
Aug                    10,500                                   1                 2 (30hrs)     3           1
Sept                     3,800            569                 1(part time) Nil               3

Law Report

The legal issue under consideration by the Tribunal was whether the employees were selected in an unfair manner for redundancy. The employees were adamant that their years of loyal service and dexterity at the job warranted better treatment than they received. The Tribunal will produce its judgment in two weeks. Whatever the indignation and sense of injustice the employees felt, the employers made a very convincing case for fair procedures, well documented and approved at each step by JACS.

The management appear to have followed the guidelines and were able to demonstrate this before the Tribunal. The management were well prepared and confident in presentation. Whether they were advised by lawyers in the background was never clear. At any rate, were all employers so meticulous.

"Back to school"

An amusing annedote reached me recently. An employee in the HR department of a large local organisation posted on their Facebook page a photograph of them holding a book "Beginner's guide to Employment Law", under the title "back to school". The HR department were undertaking training. This perhaps explains why so many employers, not just small organisations, but the large ones too, think they know it all because they have HR specialists. Before the Tribunal it soon turns out they have no real conception of fair procedures and simply go through the motions of investigations and appeals, only to have employee legal advisers tear their procedures to shreds. Boards of Directors must be wondering how useful or otherwise are their HR departments.

It would appear that JACS and the CAB are able to provide both employers and employees with the rudimentary information they need to deal with employment issues legally and fairly. Law firms can provide the same service, but their fees, at £350 to £500 per hour, are prohibitive. For small businesses, getting accurate and comprehendable advice is difficult.

Labour's need for political represention in the States Assembly

Clearly there is a lot of downsizing going on. Employers are shedding staff; redundacies are occuring. Perhaps the most humiliatiing is for a department, say of 7 or so people, having to reapply for their existing jobs, knowing only 4 will be rehired. Employers are using the Recession to impose increasing work discipline and achieve restructuring. This is precisely what the government is doing in the Public Sector with its own civil servants, manual workers, teachers and nurses. It explains why employees, individually and through their unions, are beginning to understand the need to have political represention in the States Assembly.

“Unfair dismissal laws “favour employees”, firms complain” (JEP 21 Jan 2013)

Are the employment laws too favourable to employees and disadvantageous to employers? The answer may be yes and no to both.

Recently, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a body that represents human resources professionals, expressed opinions in the press that “there was bias in the process towards the employee and a lack of consistency in judgments”. From the report, it sounds like ideological griping by small  businesses that have since ever operated an arbitrary hire and fire policy, now facing angry employees who cannot find alternative work and seek redress from their former employer.

The Tribunal does appear to be indulgent to employees and that is part of its duty and function as an expression of industrial democracy. Employees do get to have their day in Court, even if the Tribunal ultimately finds that they have no legal case. In a sense that is part of the process of offering justice to people who are powerless, yet feel a sense of grievance. As citizens they are afforded a degree of equality with employers, at least for a few moments.