On Monday, a few Lewisham College employees in the UK staged a protest and shut down the school to voice their unhappiness with the low wages in the industry.
In a widely shared video that reporters got, teachers were heard lamenting that their reduced income no longer allowed them to pay their bills, which was negatively affecting their emotional and mental health.
The south-east London borough of Lewisham is home to Lewisham College, a higher education institution. It was founded in 1990 after operating under the Inner London Education Authority from the early 1970s and going by the name SELTEC (South East London College of Technology). There are two campuses for the college: the main one is in Brockley on Lewisham Way, and the other is on Church Street.
The salary gap between teachers in schools and colleges currently stands at almost £9,000 since 2009. Pay in higher education has also lagged behind inflation by 35% since 2009.
The College’s librarian, Peter Bicknell, announced he was going on strike because his finances had gotten worse and his pay had been locked for too long.
He declared, “I frequently go into overdraft these days. It has become extremely challenging because of rising energy and food prices.
“I’ve had enough. Following freeze after freeze, [pay] has been frozen. Some of my coworkers are in a lot worse situation than me, and it has been developing for months. I’m hoping this will make a difference.
“Unqualified college teachers can make as little as £21,000 per year, according to UCU, while qualified teachers can make as little as £26,000.
“While RPI inflation is currently at 12.3%, the Association of Colleges, the employer representative, recommended a wage increase of 2.5% in June.
The educational company NCG employs personnel as well as Lewisham College.
Georgi Bochevski, one of the teachers, said: “When you can’t pay the rent, your transport, you have to find the solution to start doing any extra work. And if you don’t have time for extra work then you can take credit cards or overdrafts. And when you can’t meet these basic needs, you start to struggle mentally.”
Portia Tertullian, a different teacher, said she is concerned because she doesn’t know how long the situation would persist without a solution.
During the protest, the students could also be seen standing beside their teachers. For instance, Millicent Zwane, a student, stated: “I support it 100% because it is not fair on the teachers. Because I came this morning to study and I found out there is a strike because they are not being paid enough.”