Tuesday, 28 January 2014

NICK LE CORNU declares as candidate for St Helier No.1 By-Election

"Something is impossible until it is inevitable" Gramsci

It won't be a surprise to many that I shall be standing as a candidate in the by-election for Deputy in District No.1 where I live.

Here is the press release that went out to the media today.


 28TH JANUARY 2014

Candidate for St Helier No.1 By-Election

                 ‘Social reform campaigner to stand for Deputy’

Havre des Pas resident Nick Le Cornu is standing for election for Deputy in St Helier No 1 district

A qualified English Solicitor, Nick has practiced commercial law and litigation in the City of London and is currently assisting Union members and others with Jersey employment issues.

He is Secretary of the Jersey Human Rights Group campaigning on equality and anti-discrimination measures. 

‘Social and Political reforms are now urgently needed,’ says Nick Le Cornu.

His priorities are:

-          To improve the quality and affordability of private and social rented accommodation.
-          To implement statutory maternity and paternity leave.
-          To oppose any suggestion of an increase in GST.
-          The fight for a true ‘living wage’.
-          End the abuse of zero-hour contracts.
-          Investing in Fort Regent, with improved access from Snow Hill – this is vital.
-          Managing population growth.
-          Fair electoral representation for St Helier.

For more information contact:

Nick Le Cornu

Mobile            07797 740886

Zero Hours Contracts - uses and abuses

Yesterday I was on BBC Radio Jersey to talk again about Zero Hours Contracts, their use and abuse. The interview with Matthew Price on the Morning show can be heard here http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p01ph3y0 at 2hr06mins

The interview followed on from the Sunday Politics Hour yesterday, when Deputy Geoff Southern and employer’s employment lawyer Lyndsey Edwards-Thatcher debated their use. It was a useful discussion of the subject at a theoretical level. 

What was lacking was statistical evidence and first hand interviews with those on such contracts.  The statistical aspect is being dealt with by the States Statistics Department and an extra question to employers on their manpower return about how many people they have on zero hours contracts. The results will be most revealing

The anecdotal evidence is that zero hours contracts are being given by employers to staff instead of fixed term contracts and permanent contracts. Clearly it’s a way to get around the employment law with its rights against unfair dismissal, pension rights, sickness benefits and holiday entitlements. The danger for employers is that though they may think by doing so they are gaining an advantage, however if they operate those contracts with regular shift pattern with regular hours, it will be interpreted by a Court or Tribunal as a contract of employment with associated rights.

The Deputy Chair of the Jersey Employment Tribunal indicated she would be produce a thorough critique of zero hours contracts as to what they are and what they are not. This has yet to appear in a judgment, however there have been a number of cases that have exposed contracts for what they are and struck them down to expose real rights and entitlements.

There is pressure for state regulation of zero hours contracts because it causes havoc for the calculation of income support entitlement. That said they are too useful to employers. Social Security just mops up the mess, topping up people’s incomes to allow them to get by.

The other strategy for reducing their use is for workers to organise, join unions and campaign for better conditions, including pay. Easily said, but it will take a lot of hard work to achieve that level of uninonisation.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Two Deputies down – will St Helier recover?

Sympathy is in short supply nowadays when it comes to holders of public office, certainly by the media and especially in respect of a certain couple that had the temerity to take one of them, the JEP in their case, to court for defamation. 

Much has been said already about whether the decision to take on Broadlands and Pravda was indeed a wise one, but less has been said about the gap that will now be left in the States Chamber, and for the constituents who voted Deputies Pitman into office in the first place. 

Deputy Shona Pitman was first elected in 2005, when she topped the poll, and her husband, Trevor was elected twice in St Helier no.1, in 2008 and again in 2011. Both had different styles of politics. It is fair to say that Trevor relished question time, was quick on his feet when it came to holding Ministers to account and did not stand for any nonsense. Shona tended to be a politician of fewer words, but was equally diligent, and stood up for social justice and fairness, even when doing so upset the middle-class complacency of the Old Boys Network (which I am told has now started admitting girls too - of a certain breeding, you understand).

I know from speaking to fellow States members, that they worked hard  - even with bankruptcy looming, ongoing casework for abuse survivors, (whose claims were not being recognised and paperwork destroyed) and other housing and social security cases. They regularly took on cases for those who did not live in their constituencies, but such is the fate of St Helier Deputies, since most Country Deputies or Constables are indifferent.

Answers need to be given - and it has been put to PPC - as to what is the rationale between being bankrupt and not being able to hold political office. That is an issue for another day (see HERE). In the meantime, a hole has opened up in the States. The loss of the Pitmans will certainly be felt by the many individuals who they helped over the years. 

More tangibly, their presence will be missed this coming Wednesday, when the States debate the fate of Deputy Duhamel. It is tipped as being 'very close'.

Senator Gorst already starts with a two vote advantage. Deputies Pitman would have certainly voted against the Chief Minister's spurious proposition, which the politically literate see as having the hallmarks of the Machiavellian Ozouf, who wins either way. All the risk is being borne by the naive Chief Minister. If its Heads, then Prince Ozouf slots his compliant protegé into office, consolidating power. Tails, and Deputy Duhamel stays in post - Gorst is severely weakened, and despite his bluff, would surely no longer be able to stay in office as Chief Minister.

So next time you hear the usual cynical comment - all these politicians are a waste of time, make sure you understand, that things will only change when there are more politicians in there with the back-bone and moral compass of the Pitmans.

I wish them well. I am sure their political days are not over. In the meantime, I trust that the electorate of Districts 1 and 2 will find worthy successors to fill their shoes and carry on the good work.


Friday, 17 January 2014

Trouble on the buses – White v C.T. Plus trading as Liberty Bus - Understanding the frustrations of drivers and staff

“An unsocial job with unsocial hours”
Senior Manager C.T. Plus on being a bus driver

Last year there was nearly a strike at Jersey’s Bus Company. The reasons were far from clear. It appeared that an intransigent management was asserting its authority over its employees with a new more rigorous regime and meeting resistance. There was talk of attempts to break the Union.

Yesterday the Jersey Employment Tribunal began hearing a claim for constructive unfair dismissal by a bus driver against her employer C.T. Plus, better known to commuters as Liberty Bus.

The previous provider of bus transport in Jersey, Connex, ran the service on a cost plus basis. They charged the States of Jersey the cost plus a fee for their efforts. The new contract imposed by the States of Jersey, through the TTS Minister appears to set a budget out of which the provider must make a profit.  The profit will, naturally, be made at the expense of employees; the ones who do the work. This new dynamic in the business lends to a more ruthless management approach.

Split shifts

The nub of discontent would appear to be split shifts. There are busses active from 5am until 1pm and someone is going to be driving them. Under Connex, drivers had the same shift for the entirety of the week, making it easier to plan life outside work. Everyone had Sunday off. The new CT Plus regime is more onerous with different shifts every day.

The Senior Manager of CT Plus described split shifts as “a fact of life of the bus industry”. In other words it’s about speed up. The wheels of the factory mill will turn for longer, with fewer staff, doing more work. The driver when she sought to complain was continually told by management that “split shifts are here to stay”

Interesting evidence came out as how drivers do have very little turnaround time to bring the bus into the station, unload, move on to stand inside the station, load and depart. So short is the time allotted that drivers are unable to even take a “comfort break” – going to the toilet as you and I know this bodily function.

The driver had a number of customer complaints against her of which the “external HR” representing the employer, made much. This was perhaps inevitable given the tight new timetables. 

The No7 bus to Port du Rocher - the “Last Straw Incident” – resignation 10th May 2013

We heard evidence where confusion over the correct route to follow around Rozel and error on the route instruction, led to a heated radio argument between driver and control. The driver was intent on getting her 18 passengers into town in time for work, whilst the controller wanted her to go back and pick up passengers at St Martin Parish Hall. The instructions, received as she was on a stop at Five Oaks opposite the JEP building, would have meant an additional 40 minutes to the journey. The busses simply could not turn easily and had to take circuitous routes to get back to any particular point. We heard that the new busses were unable to negotiate all the way around the five oaks roundabout!

The Union

Although Unite the union had provided a lawyer from Viberts, the Union lawyers, there was a slight hint of the disconnect between Union members and the bureaucracy. The driver repeatedly said that she did not know the details of negotiations that were then underway between representatives of the Union and the members over hours and shifts. When she wanted help over a grievance procedure she went to JACS not the Union representatives.[***Having spoken to officials of Unite, they confirm that full support was given to the driver. Members frequently go to JACS for advice and then back to the Union to confirm their position.]

Partly because of Connex obstruction, the new CT Plus management seems to have had little opportunity to have contact with the workforce of drivers before the start day. Little in the way of training was provided as to how to work the touch screen ticket machines. The company handbook was handed out without further explanation.

It is the employees case that the CT Plus management is a litany of disorganization. There were disciplinaries for minor matters, including broken wing mirrors on the buses. The management style is one of rule by disciplinary. No wonder employee morale is low.