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Gateshead College lecturers to strike over unfeasible hike in working hours

9 October 2012

Lecturers will take strike action on 10 October in response to Gateshead College's bid to increase their working week, potentially taking them above the recommended legal limit on hours.

Members of UCU are taking their second day of action after the college introduced new contracts for this academic year which could see lecturers working up to 50 hours a week.

Gateshead has increased the number of teaching hours - direct contact with students - a lecturer works in a week. UCU has had reports from its members at Gateshead who are now doing up to 33 teaching hours a week. In the past, the college has worked on the assumption that every hour spent teaching requires thirty minutes of support work, so 33 hours of teaching would require another 17 hours of associated duties, bringing the total working week very close to 50 hours.

Those associated duties include lesson preparation and marking, but teachers have a myriad of other tasks such as providing advice and guidance to students, maintaining student records, monitoring attendance and progress, writing reports, dealing with general course enquiries, and undertaking quality reviews.

The recommended legal working week, as set out in the European Union Working Time Directive, is 48 hours but the new Gateshead contract includes a clause which means teachers have to opt out of it. Employees can voluntarily opt out of the 48-hour week but it must not be a condition of employment.

UCU National President, Kathy Taylor, will join the picket line at the Baltic campus tomorrow. She said: 'This college is creating a ticking timebomb where staff who are pushed to their limits will eventually suffer the serious health problems that go hand in hand with being overworked and overstressed.'

UCU regional official, Iain Owens, said: 'If you want to bring the workforce to its knees, this is the way to do it. Lecturers who teach for 33 hours will end up working a 50-hour week - it is unfeasible and it goes against EU health and safety directives. These contracts have removed any meaningful protection for our members and can only lead to widespread stress and sickness.

'But make no mistake, this dispute is as much about students as it is about staff as ultimately, their quality of education will suffer. We urge the college to reconsider this contract.'

Last updated: 11 December 2015