'North East workers clock up nearly £730m of free overtime per year'

Union boss Beth Farhat is concerned by the findings.

Union boss Beth Farhat is concerned by the findings.

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North East workers gave their employers £729million of free labour in unpaid overtime last year, says the TUC

The union organisation says 151,311 people in the North East put in an average of 6.6 hours a week in unpaid overtime during 2016, worth £4,818 a year on the average wage.

Friday was the TUC’s 13th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day – the day on which the average person doing unpaid overtime has effectively worked the year so far for free.

The TUC is warning workers that Brexit may threaten their working time protections.

Currently guaranteed by EU law, the organisation says rights could be weakened by future governments following the UK’s departure from the EU.

TUC Regional Secretary for the North East Beth Farhat said that while everyone recognised the importance to be flexible where required, management should not take workers’ good will for granted.

“Few of us mind putting in some extra time when it’s needed,” she said.

“But if it happens all the time and gets taken for granted, that’s a problem.

“Anyone worried about the long-hours culture in their workplace should get together with workmates and join a union.

“That way you can get your voices heard and get the support you need to make sure your boss doesn’t break the rules.

“The Government still doesn’t have a water-tight plan to stop working time protections getting weaker when we leave the EU. The Prime Minister should promise to put a guarantee into our future trade deals with Europe that British workers will have a level playing field with EU workers.”

The TUC has designed a calculator at www.tuc.org.uk/unpaidovertime for workers to find out how much more they would get paid each year if their unpaid overtime was paid at their usual rate.