Paying Teachers Less?

Jersey C.I. – There was an awkward exchange in the States chamber on Tuesday – the first ever sitting to be streamed live – when Deputy Geoff Southern suggested the Education Minister, Deputy Rod Bryans, was misleading the assembly.

It was all to do with how much newly qualified teachers get paid in the UK and after the Deputy Bailiff muttered something about serious accusations it all died down.

But it was an easy misunderstanding to arrive at and I know because embarrassingly I made a similar mistake (on-air) after an Education Department briefing on the subject a few months ago.

Is the confusion because Deputy Southern and I are simple creatures (possible) or has it something to do with the way that plans to lop £8,000 off new teachers’ starting salaries in Jersey are being pitched.

RESERVATIONS

Deputy Southern has reservations about the idea but the Council of Ministers are unmoved (see why here).

Their stated top reason for pressing ahead is that new teachers in Jersey earn up to £16,000 more than in England & Wales, where new teachers get £22,000.

And ministers say their proposals – for a £30,000 starting rate – will merely reduce the “Jersey premium” by half, to £8,000.

What’s more, they say Jersey’s 5% sales tax (compared to the UK’s 20%) makes life cheaper here AND they say the UK’s income tax rate of 25% is an awful lot more than Jersey’s 20%.

All told, the young bucks will still be quids in.

Hmm. All that seems a bit spinny, or just wrong, for a number of reasons….

  • After London, Jersey has (and not by a long way) the most expensive property market in the UK. It’s disingenuous to wave that £22,000 figure about. Salaries in Jersey are, as the ministerial comments eventually concede, far more commonly compared with London, not Merthyr Tydfil.
  • If the sales tax situation is so much better in Jersey, how come everything (apart from cigarettes) costs the same in Jersey as in the UK… or more?
  • The UK income tax rate, for this pay range, is not 25%, it’s 20%, just like… umm.. Jersey.
  • When this comes into effect, post 2018, Jersey’s tax rate won’t be 20%, it will be 21%, because of the health charge.

So let’s ignore the £22,000 nonsense, get the calculator out and see if we can put this in black and white, sans spin….

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(Look at the tax rates! And they call Jersey folk tax dodgers? Harrumph.)

(MPS stands for Main Pay Scale)

The above numbers are what you might call back-of-a-fag-packet, but the assumptions are consistent and the results accurate enough for illustrative purposes.

And they make the official fog seem unnecessary. Here’s the story in a nutshell: new teachers in Jersey have indeed been getting paid (a lot) more than their colleagues in London and will continue to do so, albeit to a much lesser extent, after the proposed salary cut.

Unions might take a different view but the current States assembly has passed far more unkind spending measures.

THINK TWICE

Luckily, the only people affected don’t know it yet. They’re still at uni.

Yet when they do come to consider living in a small island hundreds of miles and a flight away from family and friends, they might make different calculations in 2018 than would be the case today.


Indeed, in another debate this week, the Council of Ministers are opposing the lifting of the health tax cap for the wealthiest.

Their thinking? Rich folk might think twice about coming to Jersey if they have to pay 1% towards health on all their earnings rather than just on the first £164,000.

Applying that logic to cash-strapped graduates, it’s entirely possible that new teachers will view salaries of £38,000 and £30,000 differently.


In short, recruitment could become more difficult (or less easy).

Sure, ministers point out that £30,000 is still more than they’ll get in the UK, but only by 10% or so, and in Jersey we also have the easyJet tax. For most young British graduates, afterall, this place is a long way from home and their mates.

So if teacher recruitment is not to suffer, Education may have to target more adventurous sorts who prefer surfing to nights out with all their old uni mates in Brixton.

HOWEVER…

Even then, that 10% more in the pay packet might not be enough.

Turns out graduates with a relaxed attitude to distance and a penchant for surfing have other options.

New teachers in Australia get paid A$62,282 a year. That’s…

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Which is more than in the UK; will soon be more than in Jersey; and is definitely enough to set you up somewhere like this…

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A three-bed house with a double garage in the sun with plenty cash to spare for the price of a one-bed flat in Jersey.

Yikes. Time, perhaps, for Education to pitch Jersey’s truly unique selling points.

“Come and work in Jersey, an island of simple pleasures, where you can have a kebab on Mulcaster Street after a boozy day-trip to St Malo.

“Nurse the hangover in a pricey bedsit watching webcast re-runs of Deputy Geoff Southern in the States.

“(Oh, and the smokes are cheap.)”

Failing that, as seems likely, Education will just have to keep on paying top whack for the teachers it really needs.

The USS Liberation

Jersey, C.I. – So an aluminium triple-hulled ship built by Austal has been having trouble again. Nope. Not that one.

If you think Condor’s been having headaches with the Liberation (above), spare a thought for the US Navy.

It signed up to buy twelve similar ships from the same ship-builder and hasn’t had much luck either.

This CNN story about the latest breakdown aboard an eerily familiar-looking Independence-class warship actually appeared online the same day (August 30) that the Liberation suffered its latest problem.

So where do the similarities begin and end?

WELL…

The Liberation and the first Independence-class ship were both built years ago by an Australian company called Austal.

(Although the Liberation entered service in Jersey in 2015 – billed as a brand-new ship – it was actually built seven years ago, in 2009. Austal just couldn’t find a commercial customer. Global financial crisis, etc.)

Around the time the Liberation was built – a year earlier in fact – Austal also launched a similar-looking triple-hulled warship called the USS Independence. It did have a buyer: the US Navy.

And it was supposed to be the first of dozens.

Suffice to say, Uncle Sam no longer wants quite so many.

LESS WELL ARMED

They’re not identical to the Liberation – which is less well armed – but from the “waist down”, you can see the similarities.

The Liberation and the USS Indpendence are based on the same aluminium hull – an Austal speciality -with that distinctive large main hull supported by two smaller mini-hulls. The American frigates are a little longer and wider than the Liberation.

condorbehind
Not the same, but… (click on the image for more background)

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Both have engines which appear to be causing problems for both Condor and the US Navy.

The Liberation has three Rolls Royce diesels. The American warship has two of those same diesel engines (which are the ones that cause the headaches) plus two gas-powered engines made by General Electric.

Both have the same water thrusters to propel them along.

The US Navy has so far taken delivery of two Independence-class LCS2 frigates and has had a multitude of problems.

Many of these problems are to do with military stuff Condor doesn’t have to deal with – radar, guns and so on – but like Condor, they’ve also had big problems with the engines and the steering.

They’ve also had a lot longer to deal with these niggles yet the problems keep happening (see the CNN link above… and many, many others).

Remember, although the first of these warships and the Liberation were both built seven-ish years ago, the Liberation and its problems sat idle until Condor bought them. The US Navy, meanwhile, has been testing the USS Independence and its ilk the whole time.

SO WHAT GIVES?

Condor is increasingly open about the problems with the Liberation but rarely provides a full engineering report. The US Navy is a public agency so has to publicly report its problems. Well, some of them.

That job goes to a man called Dr Michael Gilmore.

He’s appointed directly by the President of the USA to oversee military equipment testing.

Late last year, he was asked to report on how the US Navy was getting on with its new LCS frigates, to a Congressional Defence Committee.

Dr Gilmore’s report makes for uncomfortable and fascinating reading, especially around page 237.

Apparently the USS Independence is armed with all sorts of clever electronic machine guns that don’t talk to each other, and can be out-foxed by terrorists in fishing boats.

Fortunately, Condor doesn’t face those sorts of risks on a daily basis.

But remember it has the same engines and thrusters.

The upshot is that SIX YEARS after the USS Independence entered service, Dr Gilmore describes it as STILL unreliable.

The latest news coverage from CNN supports his view.

TEETHING PROBLEMS

After six years, how can they still be having teething problems? Afterall, that’s what Condor is alway saying is what the Liberation is having.

They’ve been asking the same question in America for the past six years.

Mere observers can’t be sure the problems are identical but military failings aside, the similarities are striking.

Here’s what Dr Gilmore told Congress about a five-month test only last year:

  • The crew had difficulty keeping the ship operational as it suffered repeated failures of the ship’s diesel generators, water jets, and air conditioning units
  • It spent 45 days over a period of 113 days without all 4 engines and steerable water jets operational
  • This includes a 19-day period when 3 of the 4 engines were degraded or non-functional
  • During the five-month evaluation period, seaframe failures caused the ship to return to port, or remain in port for repairs on seven occasions
  • During one part of the test, the ship was unable to launch its remote-controlled mine-sweeping submarine on 15 out of the 58 days because of 4 separate failures involving diesel engines, the water jets, and associated hydraulic systems

And they’ve had six years to sort this out.

Thank heavens Condor didn’t pay $700 million for its boat, although you wonder if management had access to Google before spending £50 million on the Liberation.

Either way, hopefully Jersey won’t still be experiencing the Liberation’s teething problems six years from now.