Letter to JEP from Ray McCredie.
It is a sad situation when our nurses are forced to demonstrate in an attempt to obtain a decent wage in keeping with the cost of living in Jersey.
It is no secret that the States of Jersey have been unable to attract nursing staff to work in Jersey on account of the fact that the wages offered do not equate to the expensive costs of living in Jersey. This should actually be a major embarrassment to our government. However, it does not affect them in the least, even though this is in fact a very wealthy Island.
Senator Philip Ozouf was willing to provide millions of pounds to purchase Pontins holiday camp to appease a handful of dog-walkers, money was available to give our politicians an £800 wage increase, leading to a weekly wage of over £900 - although some did not accept this rise, many did. One in particular said 'he was worth it.' Oh yeah. That, I think, is a matter of conjecture.
Thousands of pounds were paid to a disgraced Magistrate after his suspension, even since his imprisonment. On retirement, many of our overpaid civil servants are gifted life-changing sums of money, exactly what for is a mystery.
I could go on, but the point has been made. I would respectfully suggest to our paymasters that those who deserve a proper wage in balance with their skills actually receive it. Who could argue that there is no one more deserving than a trained nurse.
I think this was a good letter regarding nurses pay. It is shocking that nurses pay has not kept up with inflation, and there is in fact a recruitment problem at the moment.
I was chatting to someone the other day, and they were telling me that Steven Izatt, the former MD of the Waterfront Enterprise Board was "very able", and you had to offer high salaries to get the best people for the top jobs - Chief Officers, that is. But if there is a shortage of nursing staff - as appears to be the case, shouldn't the same logic apply there? Of course, it never does, because it is in fact not logic, but a rationalisation of the status quo.
Was Steven Izzat that "able", given his record for never making any returns to the States from WEB? This was despite the fact that the States were paying Connex for the lease on Liberation Station, which went to WEB and from then was consumed by overheads, including Mr Izzat's salary. Then there was the abortive La Folie Inn proposals, and the idea of moving the main harbour to the reclamation site, past the fuel farm. Mr Izzat gave the impression of someone chasing desperately around for schemes to justify his enormous salary. But at that price, if you wanted someone "able", you would have been better off with Barack Obama.
It is a wonderful word - "able" - and conjures up for me the Duke of Chester in G.K. Chesterton's short story "The Queer Feet", where the Duke is described as follows: "When he thought of a joke he made it, and was called brilliant. When he could not think of a joke he said that this was no time for trifling, and was called able." It rather sums up the grandiose Masterplans of the Izzat era.
I was also told that Bill Ogley was not to blame for taking what he was legally entitled to in terms of a golden handshake. And that is true, but it is not the whole story.
There's a strange area where legal entitlement is assumed to be the same as morally justified. It seems to be quite a widespread assumption, brought out to excuse this kind of practice. Former Acting Magistrate Ian Christmas was legally entitled to his pay. And of course, notably, the same kind of argument came up when Fred Goodwin departed with a huge pension pot.
It is perhaps worth restating a few home truths, of the kind that we were taught in the nursery. Just because it is legal doesn't mean that it is right. When Shylock demands his pound of flesh, he isn't doing anything illegal. But of course Shakespeare was well aware of the distinction between the legal and the moral, and how they could drift apart. We are not meant to admire Shylock; we are meant to despise him. And yet there I was, listening to someone telling me that not only had Mr Ogley only taken what he was legally entitled to, he was to be praised for securing such a clause in his contract! What a clever man he was!
I could not help thinking that if they had written "The Merchant of Venice", then it would have ended with the death of Antonio, and a speech where Shylock proclaimed: "Hath not a Jew eyes to see his best advantage? Have not a Jew hands to sign and seal the deed whereby they receive their legal recompense? The villainy you speak of me, forsooth it is not villainy at all, but in truth mine legal right; I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction and walk away with my rightful prize."
And when the mother of the two ugly sisters has Cinderella working her fingers to the bone in the kitchen, while she and her daughters are enjoying the good life, they are also not doing anything illegal. And that's the nursery tale here, isn't it? The States members have a pay rise, and Chief Officers and higher levels of management can probably manage very nicely on £80,000 or higher even without an increase in wages. They can enjoy the good life. But nursing is the Cinderella profession, hard work, and wholly inadequate remuneration. It is still seen too often as a low-status, "doctor's little helper" job, with the added disadvantage of antisocial hours.
To paraphrase a recent quote from Radio 4: my image of an administrator is an overweight man behind a desk. My image of a nurse is an overworked woman who works night shifts and is constantly on her feet. And the responsibility of a nurse - human life - seems to be given less value than that of an administrator in terms of remuneration. That caricature is not wholly true; there are hardworking administrators. But should they really be paid so much more for their rather lesser expertise than the nurses in their charge?
According to a Royal College of Nursing report, "it takes approximately four years between the decision being made to fund a place for a student nurse and that nurse being eligible to register and practise". It involves considerable training in the sort of skills that an administrator would probably be particularly inept.
And to be honest, unless they have a special golden handshake like Bill Ogley, most upper and middle management administrators are not fleeing from the States, where they have pretty good job security, and a rather nice final salary pension. It may not be quite as much pay as the private sector, but against that are those often overlooked factors. I have known some of the middle management in the past, and they mostly clocked off around 5 pm, unlike some of those under them, and were completely inaccessible to the general public after they had gone home.
Nurses, on the other hand, are leaving the profession, and replacements are hard to come by. And they are certainly very "able", more able than the average middle manager. They have to be - as with doctors, a wrong decision could have life threatening consequences. That element of responsibility just does not seem to factor into the equation of pay. We need to look again at intrinsic worth, not just market value.
I'm pleased to see the Chief Minister is going to look at nurses pay again. Perhaps that wonderful contingency fund (that magically appeared for Plemont) of Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf can be used in these circumstances. Let's hope that this time Cinderella can afford to go to the ball.
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