Wednesday 9 September 2015

Another Tory 'achievement' - breaking the 48 hour Working Time Directive

TUC research released today reveals that "the number of people working excessive hours (more than 48 hours per week) has risen by 15 per cent since 2010".

As the TUC explains:  "Regularly working more than 48 hours per week is linked to a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes. Illnesses caused by excessive working time put extra strain on the health service and the benefits system, as well as impacting on co-workers, friends and relatives. Many people are working unpaid overtime and at least a million report that they want to cut their excessive hours".

There is an alarming rise in the numbers working these excessive hours in a number of professions - including teaching. The TUC reports that many employees report that they feel pressured to ‘opt-out’ from the 48 hour limit ( legislated for under the "EU Working Time Directive" ) - as individual opt-outs are currently allowed by law. However, for teachers, there is no such contractual opt-out - the Working Time Directive is included in the Schoolteachers' Pay and Conditions Document. It's just that schools are ignoring the law!

As I wrote on this blog earlier this month, "Perhaps in the past, teachers have felt wary about complaining when they know that the issue of ‘teachers’ long holidays’ will be thrown back at us. However, even assuming (completely wrongly) that teachers only work during term-time (and never in their holidays) then a 60-hour week for 39 weeks a year amounts to 2340 annualised hours. Someone in a different job working as much as 40 hours for 46 weeks a year still works only 1840 annualised hours. That’s broadly equivalent to teachers working the supposed ‘legal maximum’ 48-hour week for all 39 weeks of term-time. If the worker was contracted for a more reasonable 37 hours a week for 45 weeks a year, that would come out as 1665 hours – equivalent to a teacher working 43 hours over 39 weeks ... The issue is complicated by the Regulations stating that workers have to calculate their average hours over a 17-week ‘reference’ period, which would then include holiday periods. However, even including holidays, surely most schools are breaching the Working Time Regulations in the demands they are putting on teachers over all but the summer break?"

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, responded in the TES that the TUC figures were “alarming” and that “so much of teachers’ extra work is unproductive ... the work is done to feed the accountability machine, not to help children grow intellectually. That makes it all the more outrageous.” Kevin adds that "schools faced a “quadruple whammy” of teacher-supply problems: rising pupil numbers, rising numbers of teachers leaving the profession, fewer people entering the profession and a growing economy that would make other jobs more attractive to potential teachers. Teachers’ heavy workload would worsen the problem".

Of course, these figures will be of no surprise to teachers. They only continue a trend of increasing workload that has been continuing now for years. The question is, what action can teacher unions take to stop it?

The NUT's 8-point action programme called on Nicky Morgan to "adopt an immediate target for a reduction in teacher working hours across England and Wales and begin the phased introduction of binding limits on teacher working time". She failed to introduce any such limit and, as today's TUC figures show, the problem is getting worse, not better.

Nobody can teach to their best when they are working 60 hours a week - yet even Government figures concede that this is typical for many teachers. To protect our working conditions - and children's learning conditions - we have to start taking action - whether at a school, employer-wide or national level -  to start to make that demand a reality.

How can we build the action needed? Come and join the discussion at the next LANAC Steering Commitee on Saturday Oct 3, 12 to 4pm, Jack Jones House (Unite the Union building), 2 Churchill Way, Liverpool L3 8EF. Even better, stay overnight and join the Lobby of the Tory Party Conference in Manchester the following day!

Read and download the latest LANAC bulletin here 

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