Guernsey's Christmas Scrooges

The island employers who cheat their staff
and rip off the public purse

by Parochial Pete

If you work in an office or shop or at any other job where a suit is required apparel, Christmas was probably just a short holiday, and you returned to work as though nothing much had happened. The holiday pay came in on time, you may well have had a Christmas bonus, and your familiar desk was waiting for you to pick up where you left off.

If, however, you work in the building trades, certain factories, or as a gardener you probably spent Christmas and the New Year holiday on the Parish. Why should that be?

It is a common and disturbing practice in these industries to lay off staff just prior to Christmas, and re-employ them again in the New Year. No holiday pay, no Christmas bonus, no social security contributions.

At a time of year when every penny counts - those Christmas bonuses aren't to be sneezed at if you can get them - the island's manual workers are more likely to find themselves short. Hard as it is on the employees, this practice also puts a financial burden on the States and the Parish system. That's the tax and ratepayers of the island in reality. When you are laid off the Social Security Authority pay your contributions, and if you qualify, unemployment benefit may come in 3-4 weeks later. For those that don't qualify, then the Parish has to help out. For a single man, the Parish can provide 60 per week, and married men get around 110 depending on circumstances.

Better than nothing, no doubt, but a long way short of your accustomed income for the rest of the year. Being at home all day leaves you with extra heating and other bills to come out of that, not to mention the cost of Christmas.

Meanwhile, what do the employers do? Obviously reduce their costs. Some even fly off to the Caribbean for a while. Cold comfort for those left behind. This iniquitous practice means that the public purse is subsidizing these employers to maintain unfair employment conditions, and to mistreat people who have worked loyally for the other 50 weeks of the year.

That some employers manage to keep their staff on the books over the holiday period, and maintain their regular payments, indicates that it isn't a matter of necessity. It's time this Dickensian practice was stopped, but what do we hear from States members? Resistance at every step of the way each time employee rights are suggested. This is no way to treat the island's workforce, and it is no way to spend the island's tax revenue. We often hear how the States needs to look after business. What about looking after the workers who are being cheated by these Christmas Scrooges?

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