Redundancy comment was crass

FOR decades the States was broadly an employers’ forum. Populated by retired and semi-retired businessmen it took a lop-sided view of issues such as employee rights. Businesses thrived but at times government looked uncaring and elitist.

FOR decades the States was broadly an employers’ forum. Populated by retired and semi-retired businessmen it took a lop-sided view of issues such as employee rights. Businesses thrived but at times government looked uncaring and elitist.

One of the reasons put forward for paying States deputies was that it would rid the island’s government of the ‘employers’ tag by encouraging men and women from all walks of life to stand for election.

The initiative proved so successful that at the last election there was a concerted push for more business people to come forward to redress the balance.

One of those who did so was former radio chief executive Kevin Stewart, who was promptly elected Commerce and Employment minister.

Tomorrow, Deputy Stewart will sit down with his board to discuss statutory redundancy payments, an area where Guernsey is out of step with both the UK and Jersey.

The debate will inevitably be coloured by the minister’s harsh words last week when he doubted whether it was worth the States investing £300,000 to bring in a law to help people made jobless ‘if it only happens occasionally’.

It was a crass and thoughtless statement in such difficult times and one which he should already be regretting.

It was offensive for those workers caught up in the closure of Huelin-Renouf and Warrys but also for the scores of people laid off every year through no fault of their own.

Unsure of their job prospects and many with families to support it will be no comfort that the minister questions the value of spending almost £200,000 less than his department spends each year on trade and media relations.

With several board members open to the idea of statutory redundancy payments, tomorrow’s discussion will hopefully be more measured and more considerate of how it must feel suddenly to have no job and no hope of compensation while colleagues from Jersey and the UK are being helped out.

Dismissing such inequalities without due consideration will reinforce the view that the States is still an employers’ forum.