The island’s largest teachers’ union has called for the chief minister to ‘wake up to reality’ after he hit out at it for its ‘unjustified’ strike action.
NASUWT said ‘veiled threats of legislative crackdowns’ will only prevent the union and the government from reaching a settlement.
Under the latest deal, every teacher and lecturer in the Isle of Man will receive a pay rise of between 8% and 11.9%, with the higher salaries coming into effect before Christmas.
Education Minister Julie Edge has said the department won’t be making a new offer to teachers. While the island’s four other unions have accepted the offer, members of the NASUWT rejected it and have escalated to strike action.
Chief Minister Alfred Cannan said he felt the strike action that the teachers’ union has taken in the last month has been ‘really unjustified’.
He told Manx Radio’s Mannin Line: ‘We made clear our commitments to address funding in education and, in fact, we have now raised the base starting point, base teacher salary to £36,000.
‘Over the last two or so years, teachers have had between 10 to 18% pay rises depending on their grades and we’ve made some real progress.
‘We can’t afford straight payments of 30% as demanded by the NASUWT. I’m really on side with everybody in the teaching profession that we need to improve terms and conditions.
‘But we’ve made so many steps forward that it’s just not reasonable from the NASUWT at the moment to adopt the position that they are.’
He said that if the NASUWT plans to continue with its ‘persistent, damaging, disruptive, work-to-rule type environment’ then the government would have to consider what legislation would be necessary ‘to protect the future education of our children’.
‘It’s getting very damaging after two years of Covid disruptions and ongoing industrial action when a government has made so many steps forward,’ Mr Cannan said. ‘It’s completely unreasonable.
‘I think it is important that the public knows that we haven’t just been sitting and twiddling our thumbs. Substantial progress has been made with teachers’ pay.’
He added: ‘I personally think that teachers have actually been focused on and looked after than any other body across the public sector.
‘Every single person in our community has been impacted by this disparity in terms of living costs versus wages.
‘Our job from a public sector perspective is we have to have a responsibility.
‘We also recognise that people in the private sector that we have to facilitate and look after as well, in terms of making sure we’ve got the employment opportunities and driving forward the economy, are also in exactly the same position.
‘I know some progress is being made but it’s extremely difficult in this economic environment and there has to be a sense of realism.
‘Frankly, at the moment, the NASUWT are not demonstrating that.’
In response, NASUWT’s general secretary Patrick Roach said why he felt what teachers are asking for is fair.
He told the Isle of Man Examiner: ‘Veiled threats of legislative crackdowns and the repetition of untruths about our members’ pay claim will only serve to prevent reaching a settlement in this dispute.
‘The resolution of this dispute will only come when the government recognises the depth of demoralisation within the teaching profession and that the way to solve this crisis is through genuine negotiation rather than seeking to intimidate and mislead.
‘Teachers are calling for a multi-year restorative pay award that will address more than a decade of real terms pay erosion.
‘Teachers are relying on food banks, financial support from the Salvation Army, or taking second jobs just to get by.
‘The chief minister needs to wake up to the reality of teachers who are seriously considering leaving the Isle of Man because it is financially unsustainable for them to continue teaching on island.
‘Our members do not want to be in industrial action. They would rather be working with their pupils in their classrooms, but they have been left with no choice given the actions of the government.
‘Our members want a resolution to this dispute and they expect ministers to be spending their time exploring solutions rather than stoking conflict.’
He added: ‘[Mr Cannan] was probably referring to improving our outdated trade union laws.
‘Maybe we should require a majority of members in a union to support industrial action or enable more regular updating of union membership at the registry?’
This follows UK prime minister Rishi Sunak working on new laws to protect people from strike disruption as nurses, paramedics and rail staff prepare and continue to strike this winter.
A bill has been introduced to UK Parliament that would ensure minimum service levels on transport networks during strikes but it is yet to be debated by MPs and peers.
Downing Street said the legislation would be extended to other services but hasn’t specified what these would be.
NASUWT, which staged walkouts in the Isle of Man on November 30 and December 1, plans to strike again on January 11 and 12 and February 15 and 16.
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