UK’s college teachers shut down schools over poor pay in face of inflation

College staff from Lewisham college form a picket line outside the building PHOTO Credit: UCU.

Staff of two colleges in the United Kingdom have declared industrial action over poor pay by their employers in the face of inflation.

The British colleges – Lewisham and Southwark – were demanding that their employers make a 10 per cent pay offer that reflects the soaring costs they currently face and is in line with inflation.

According to reports, since 2009 pay in further education in the country has fallen behind inflation by 35 per cent and the pay gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9,000.

Peter Bicknell, a librarian at Lewisham College, said he was going on strike because wages had been frozen for too long, and his finances were worsening.

“Going into my overdraft is frequent for me now,” told a local media, South London Press; he said. “The energy price increases and cost of food has made it so difficult.

“Enough is enough. We’ve seen [pay] freeze after freeze after freeze. It’s been building for months, some of my colleagues are in a much worse position than me. Hopefully this will have an impact.”

A report by the nation’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) claimed unqualified college teachers earn as little as £21,000 whilst qualified teachers earn as little as £26,000.

In June, employer representative the Association of Colleges made a pay recommendation of 2.5 per cent, while RPI inflation is now at 12.3 per cent.

Speaking, the UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Strike action on this scale in further education is unprecedented. But our members have been left with no other option, they are being pushed into poverty by college bosses who refuse to raise pay to help them meet the cost-of-living crisis.

“College staff deliver excellent education but over the last twelve years their pay has fallen behind inflation by 35 per cent and now thousands are skipping meals, restricting energy use and considering leaving the sector altogether.

“This strike action will continue for 10 days unless college bosses wake up to this crisis, stop dining off the goodwill of their workforce and make a serious pay offer.”

Responding to the development, the college teachers employer, NCG said: “We understand the financial pressures that our colleagues are facing at the moment and that is why we have offered both a consolidated and non-consolidated award to provide them with immediate support.

“Our offer is a 3.5 per cent increase on last year’s wages, made up of a 2.5 per cent increase this year and a 1% increase already built in from last year’s pay award. In addition, we have offered a £500 pro-rata one off payment to all colleagues in October’s pay. This offer is aligned to what we know we are able to afford, and we are continuing to review the situation in line with the mini-budget.

“After years of continued cuts to the FE sector, we continue to lobby for additional funding that will help us to reward our colleagues fairly. It is our hope that the unions recognise the position we are in and utilise their time in helping us to lobby for this.”

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