A winter of discontent is looming as unions across the island continue to dispute their pay.

With one teachers’ union threatening strike, two public sector unions having rejected multiple pay offers, and a nursing union indicating industrial action, a Manx Labour Party member has said the island is experiencing a set of ‘unprecedented circumstances’.

Member Joney Faragher MHK called the situation ‘worrying’.

This comes after the political party this week backed teachers who are fighting for better pay and working conditions.

Ms Faragher told the Isle of Man Courier: ‘The cost of living crisis sees most people cutting back and trimming things from their lives to varying degrees. With no way to tell when the multiple crunch points of rising inflation, soaring energy bills and the impacts of Brexit and the war in Ukraine on food prices, people are naturally concerned about the future.

‘We need to be honest about what is going on, so that we can start tangibly addressing the real issues here. Without tackling this at its roots, we are limited to firefighting.’

The Douglas East MHK felt it stemmed from ‘soaring inequality’ and how ‘some people are making huge profits from the misery others are experiencing’.

‘This over arching picture may seem abstract but is actually the only way to find a solution,’ Ms Faragher added. ‘We are in an inequality crisis and a fossil fuels crisis.

‘We need a systemic approach that is top-down, looking at who owns essential services and whether that model actually works for most people.

‘To bring this down to meaningful level, community owned renewable energy projects would be a good example of how we can remove an unsustainable profit margin and bring lower energy bills.

‘We can de-fang energy bills by insulating homes, and making energy home-grown and publicly owned. We can explore significantly boosting on-island food production. We can tackle wealth inequality using the taxation system.

‘I really want to push forward with this and see tangible action that meaningfully tackles the inequality and fossil fuels crises, and moves us forwards together as a nation.’

Prospect Trade Union and Unite the Union both met with the Public Services Commission on Wednesday after they rejected its latest pay offer of four percent.

The meeting itself was an annual pay negotiation. However, both unions are calling for increased pay and better terms for people working in the public sector.

Prospect said it was ‘disappointed’ that progress has been ‘extremely slow’.

Negotiations officer Mick Hewer (pictured) said: ‘There has been little or no real progress made in securing improvements which would see our members take home pay keep up with the effects of inflation.

‘It is completely unacceptable at a time when many of our members are struggling to make ends meet.’

At the meeting, the employer made a revised offer of six percent effective from April 1, 2022 after negotiations which were, at times, ‘fraught’, according to Prospect.

‘Empty promises and below inflation pay offers don’t pay for heating, food, or fuel, all of which are increasing at alarming rates with no real prospect on the horizon of price decreases any time soon,’ said Mr Hewer.

‘It simply isn’t acceptable any longer for our members to see their take home pay eroded by the effects of inflation.

‘I am concerned that we are already seeing the ground being set for below inflation pay awards next year while we have been negotiating a settlement for this financial year.

‘The fact is, every year inflation remains above any salary increase, our members are on the end of a pay cut.

Treasury really need to find the money to support pay increases in line with inflation.’

Mr Hewer explained that members ‘overwhelmingly rejected’ the four percent offer and he ‘wasn’t confident’ the 6% would be enough to secure a different result.

He added: ‘At a time when various unions are balloting on different pay offers, I cannot see how we are going to avoid the possibility of industrial action more widely across the public sector in the coming months.

‘Treasury need to make plans for above inflation increases to salaries next year, anything less will be seen as a pay cut which is exactly what below inflation pay rises are.’

This follows teachers’ union NASUWT voting in favour of a strike if the government continues to not meet its needs.

The Department of Education, Sport and Culture said last week that it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the NASUWT had chosen to escalate its action.

NASUWT members have been undertaking action short of strike action since late April, withdrawing from a range of activities which do not directly relate to teaching and learning.

School year groups were sent home this week as a result of the pay dispute, with government adding that it was worried for the safety of students.

St Ninian’s High School and Ballakermeen High School were both forced to make plans for year groups to work from home over the coming weeks.

Ballakermeen headteacher Graeme Corrin wrote to parents this week to inform them the school could not ‘operate safely’ throughout the whole school day.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has indicated a similar appetite for action.

In August, a majority of Isle of Man nurses said they would be willing to take industrial action over their pay, in a formal ballot conducted with RCN members working for Manx Care.

Just over 75% of the RCN’s membership employed by Manx Care, took part in the ballot between July 7 and 26, which asked members about the most recent pay offer and whether they would be willing to take industrial action.

Of those who took part, 83.1% of respondents voted that the four percent pay award for 2021/22 and four percent pay offer for 2022/23 were unacceptable.

In August Chief Constable Gary Roberts warned in his final annual report that officers had faced a real terms pay cut of close to 20% over the last decade, and that in particular young officers have ‘little disposable income and few chances of establishing themselves on the housing ladder’.

The lowest-paid officers were later offered an 8% pay rise.