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Cut red tape, demand unions

Long hours and paperwork overload have joined pay as top concerns for college staff

MINISTERS FACE increased pressure to reduce red tape as unions raise the issue of members who they say are tackling an increased burden of paperwork.

It is the first time in nearly 10 years that red tape has become as important as pay to those negotiating on behalf of FE lecturers and administrative staff.

Barry Lovejoy, national head of further education for the University and College Union, and joint representative for the unions in negotiations with colleges, said workload is expected to become increasingly important.

He said his union, recently formed by the merger of Natfhe and the AUT, has made steady progress towards pay parity between lecturers and their counterparts in schools. But workload - and the pressure on lecturers to work longer hours to complete paperwork - is rapidly taking its place alongside pay as the big issue.

"We don't blame college management for this. It's to do with assessment and the demand for data. It's really the first time since about 1998 that workload has been this important," he said.

Moves to reduce red tape are failing to make an impact according to the UCU, as lecturers are submerged in increasing volumes of paperwork.

After several years of work to reduce bureaucracy in further education, new evidence suggests the burden has actually increased for the majority of staff. A study, carried out for the UCU and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers by Ruskin College in Oxford, paints a picture of increased stress and longer working hours - all caused, at least in part, by admin work.

The research looked at responses from 1,350 FE members of the two unions, of whom 82 per cent said their workload had increased, compared with 2 per cent who said it had decreased.

Of those who claimed an increase, 88 per cent blamed "more administration", 46 per cent "more students", 39 per cent "more teaching" and 21 per cent claimed they had to do more research.

Earlier research by the Associ-ation for College Management showed over 50 per cent of lecturers work more than 48 hours a week and one in seven had been prescribed medicine for what they regarded as stress-related illness.J The UCU wants a maximum 35-hour working week and an agreement on work-life balance - as well as continued narrowing of the pay gap with school teachers, estimated at around 10 per cent.

There is also a call for a minimum of 30 days' leave for support staff, excluding bank holidays.

The workload survey comes after Sir George Sweeney - who had lead plans for colleges to move towards self-regulation - claimed bureaucracy was on the decrease. He chairs the self-regulation implementation grup, which includes the Associ-ation of Colleges and the UCU and is principal of Knowsley College in Merseyside.

Responding to the survey, Sir George said: "It comes from the level of regulation in our system. When we can bring in a system which places more responsibility, accountability and trust, that will be the key thing that makes the difference." His report on self-regulation is currently with ministers and is expected to be made public shortly.

The other unions in national negotiatons are Unison, the TGWU, the ACM, the GMB and the ATL.

Have your say: How can red tape be reduced?


What makes lecturers stressed?

Deadlines and targets: 80 per cent

Long working hours: 78 per cent

Increased workload: 71 per cent

Timetable changes: 70 per cent

Administration: 69 per cent

Source: Ruskin College

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