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Could teachers strike?

Could teachers strike?

Monday 06 March 2023

Could teachers strike?

Monday 06 March 2023

Guernsey's Industrial Disputes Officer has reminded teachers that taking industrial action could put them in breach of their job contracts - something that could leave them open to legal action, which teachers in the UK are protected from.

Stephen Naftel confirmed on Friday that he has referred the ongoing dispute between teachers and Policy and Resources to a Tribunal after deciding that there is "no prospect of a negotiated settlement" between the two sides.

Teachers have repeatedly rejected their three-year pay offer, with members of the NASUWT recently being balloted over a potential strike.

Mr Naftel said that as a Tribunal will impose a binding agreement on P&R and the employees then there is no need for industrial action.

He also confirmed that in Guernsey, unlike in the UK, "industrial action may constitute a breach of an individual's contract of employment for which there is no statutory immunity".

This could mean that anyone - in any profession - taking industrial action such as a strike, could be liable to legal action by anyone affected or disadvantaged by it.


Pictured: The pay offer, which a majority of teachers in Guernsey have rejected.

The pay offer open to teachers is a three year deal covering 2022, 23 and 24. 

The offer (detailed above) was rejected at ballots by various unions last year, while the NASUWT recently asked its members about taking industrial action.

56% of NASUWT members voted - with 76% saying they wanted to strike, while 86% said they supported 'action short of strike action'.

Deputy Dave Mahoney, who is the lead P&R member for employees pay, said this represents a very small number.

“We’re disappointed that the NASUWT continues to push for industrial action," he said. "They have advised us that only 116 members took part in the ballot, meaning just 88 people supported strike action. There are more than 600 teachers working across education in Guernsey."

Deputy Mahoney also sought to remind teachers that striking is illegal in Guernsey, as the IDO has.

"Our law for this kind of dispute sets out a clear pathway to reaching a resolution without the need for industrial action, and the disruption and uncertainty that comes with it.

"That pathway is through the Industrial Disputes Officer, which is where the matter currently sits. Instead of escalating tensions, I’d strongly encourage the union to work with that process, and to have confidence in the IDO and the process," said Deputy Mahoney.


Pictured: (inset) Deputy Dave Mahoney is representing the States in pay negotiations with teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers.

Guernsey's Industrial Disputes Law affords workers no 'statutory right' to strike, with local rules differing significantly from the UK where teachers have recently taken industrial action in their own dispute over pay and conditions.

Healthcare workers including ambulance drivers, nurses and others have also taken strike action this winter.

Locally, members of the Agenda for Change group, which includes nurses and other health staff, have threatened to strike over recent years with their pay disputes dating back to before-covid.


Pictured: There is no Guernsey legislative equivalent to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act 1992 (image of part of the UK law).

While local unions often follow UK procedures in the UK, the message from P&R and the IDO over the past 48 hours has been clear - there is no statutory immunity for any worker who chooses to strike in the island and taking industrial action of that nature may put the employee in breach of their own contract.

Instead, locally there are three stages for resolving employment issues through the island's Industrial Disputes Law:

(1)  by agreement with the assistance of the independent IDO

(2) by reference to voluntary arbitration (agreed to by all parties and binding by agreement)

(3) by reference of the dispute to an independent Industrial Tribunal which will make a legally binding award

The IDO said on Friday that the teachers' pay dispute has been referred to a Tribunal which will set a binding award, rendering industrial action not only illegal but unnecessary in his view.


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