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UCU Wales - workload matters

Workload matters

19 September 2018

Updates on UCU's campaign to address workload issues in Welsh further education.


All colleges will need to submit their Local Action Plans to the Social Partnership Workload Steering Group (SPWSG) by 31 January 2022. The group will then meet on the 14 February to discuss the reports and make decisions on next steps.

The drafting group of the Wales National Committee Further Education (WNCFE). have also been asked to look at an allocation model for workload, rather than teaching as way of managing and monitoring workload going forward. Any proposed changes to the national workload agreement as a consequence of this review will of course be put to the vote of members in Wales.


As a result of UCU running a ballot on workload which closed in March 2020, the Welsh Government arranged for a discussion among social partners of the workload issues facing lecturing staff in Wales. A partnership group was set up involved representatives for the academic trade unions, Colegau Cymru and Welsh government officials. A decision was made to bring in an independent chair.

You can find the project terms of reference here [193kb]; and the project proposal for phase one and two here [76kb].

Work has now been completed on phases one and two and a report from the independent chair on the EWC survey and the recommendations are available here [261kb]. In that report employers have been asked to share the EWC survey data with their campus unions, this has now happened. Discussions are underway to address the administrative issues faced by lecturing staff; draw up proposals, agreed with all campus unions to submit to the partnership group with fully costed information which has also been agreed by campus trade unions.

The joint trade unions (JTUs) have concerns that the current drafting of the stage three project proposal does not cover off the survey results which evidence that 16 hours are spent on prep, assessment, marking and move to blended and digital learning.  At a special Wales FE sector committee meeting on 3 July it was agreed that UCU should write to the principals indicating our concerns, a copy of UCU's letter is here [75kb].

The JTUs have also raised our concerns with the minister and a copy of the JTU letter is here [189kb].

The independent chair called a meeting in August 2021 to agree the final proposal for stage three, as things stand it is unlikely that the JTUs will sign off on the draft proposals without significant amendments being made. You can read the July 2021 briefing from the JTUs here [214kb].

UCU general secretary Jo Grady urges members to vote in the ballot. She told members 'What we're trying to achieve is an improvement to your national agreement on workload. We know from staff surveys how bad workload intensification is in your sector: lots of new admin duties, insufficient time for prep and marking, too much jumping through hoops', and reminded them that their colleagues in England don't have agreements like this, so 'are at the mercy of individual employers who can increase their workload unilaterally and on a whim. Don't take your national agreement for granted - take action to keep it as strong and effective as possible.'

The joint trade unions will be opening their ballots on industrial action soon and the next meeting of the Further Education Sector Committee will be on Saturday 21 March to discuss the ballot results and consider how to take the campaign forward.

UCU have presented a claim to ColegauCymru covering:

  • a reduction in the maximum weekly teaching hours from 24 to 21
  • a consequential reduction in the maximum annual teaching hours
  • an increase in the amount of preparation and marking time from 20 minutes to 30 minutes for every hour of teaching.

We are now planning to run a statutory ballot for strike action to allow us to move quickly to industrial action when the employers refuse to address our claim. This could be the last chance to deliver on the reductions in lecturer's workload everyone so desperately needs for their own health and well-being, in addition to maintaining the high standard of teaching across the FE sector in Wales. 

UCU Wales official Margaret Phelan has updated members on the workload campaign, and the development of  the new claim to be tabled in the second half of January 2020. At the same time as tabling the claim UCU Wales will also run an industrial action ballot in the expectation that the employers will refuse to address our claim.

The Further Education Sector Committee (FESC) met on 12 October 2019 and decided to withdraw from the current dispute on workload. A letter went to the employers [97kb] on the 14 October explaining this decision.

FESC's rationale was that ColegauCymru refused to sign a  joint letter on the workload dispute [112kb] encouraging the Welsh government to use the Barnett consequential (additional money being given to Wales as a consequence of the Johnson announcement for an extra £440m for further education in England).

Withdrawing from the current dispute allows us to register a new dispute, this time with our colleagues in the other academic unions recognised in the FE colleges in Wales.

The drafting group of the Welsh negotiating committee further education (WNCFE) met on 15 March and discussed UCU's five-part claim to amend the national workload agreement. Members from HR agreed to draft wording into a drafting group proposal to be considered by the WNCFE. The drafted proposal was not ready for the meeting on the 22 March and therefore the meeting had to be postponed to the 11 April.

In previous meetings with ColegauCymru (CC) to discuss the claim UCU submitted on workload - addressing the maximum number of weekly teaching hours, HE, tariffs for quality assurance, tariffs for course leadership roles and where new curricula is being delivered by a member of staff and - we agreed the following schedule:

  • CC have agreed to produce a paper outlining the scope for drafting group to draft changes to national workload agreement. This paper will be ready for circulation to the joint trade union (JTU) side by 5 March 2019 to allow discussion before the main meeting with CC already scheduled for 7 March. 

  • week commencing 11 March 2019: drafting group will meet to make drafting amendments to national workload agreement

  • week commencing 18 March 2019: further meeting with CC to consider, amend and agree the drafting group amendments to the national agreement

  • UCU consultative ballot on whether to accept the changes and end dispute week commencing 25 March - 5 April 2019.

  • 8 April 2019: formal communication on  outcome of ballot with CC and JTUs.

UCU members in 12 FE colleges in Wales had previously voted to take action in ballots over pay and workload. The two industrial action ballots were called after CC offered 1% in response to the joint unions' claim of a 7.5% pay increase and refused to negotiate over workoad.

Following the Welsh government's announcement of further money to ensure that pay parity with school teachers, the unions accepted a revised pay offer and planned strike action was suspended as CC then agreed to enter talks over workload.

What can you do?

  1. Keep up to date with the latest UCU pay and workload campaign newsletters and attend local branch meetings, to discuss the issues with your fellow branch members.
  2. Let your branch officer know whether you will support a campaign, including industrial action, to address the issues of workload in your college.
  3. Talk to your colleagues who are not members of UCU and encourage them to join UCU and add their voice to the campaign, they can join online at: www.ucu.org.uk/join


Managing workloads - UCU Wales information sheet [549kb]

Last updated: 10 January 2022