UWE staff mull walkout over workloads

Staff at the University of the West of England are considering strike action in a dispute over their workloads.

May 27, 2012

According to the University and College Union, academics at the institution are concerned about a workload calculation system introduced in 2011 that it says has led to an increase in working hours and in staff forgoing annual leave.

In a survey of more than 350 UCU members at UWE, 70 per cent said the system, used to both record and allocate academic activities, had resulted in them working unreasonable hours on a regular basis.

Some 60 per cent of respondents also reported that they were unable to take their full entitlement of annual leave.

The union said staff were being asked to meet quotas of teaching and administrative work alongside research duties, increasing working hours by an average of 25 per cent above those contracted.

Ballots will be open until 6 June for UCU members at the university to vote on strike action.

“The new workload model has resulted in many staff putting in huge amounts of unpaid overtime and skipping holidays just to keep up,” said Nova Gresham, a UCU regional official.

“Forcing academics to teach more hours and perform the same demanding research duties is not a blueprint for success.

“Management has succeeded only in demoralising the workforce with this new system, which is clearly not fit for purpose. UWE members have been left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action,” he added.

According to the university, the workload model is intended to create greater consistency between academic staff and help management balance workloads with resources.

A statement posted last year on the university’s website by assistant vice-chancellor Richard O’Doherty acknowledged the union’s concerns and said the model was not a device to make people work harder or to generate redundancies.

“We are clear that where decisions are being considered to either increase or decrease staffing resources, then the workload model data will be just one of the data sets used to inform such decisions, together with information on student numbers, student recruitment, departmental budgets, planning round decisions and fit with the strategic plan,” he wrote.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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