PRISON education staff at jails across the region are staging a strike today in a row over terms and conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are taking action against Manchester College, which runs courses throughout the country, in protest against the introduction of new contracts.

The row centres on claims by the union that the new contracts will increase working hours and lead to cuts in holiday and sickness entitlement, with some staff losing up to £7,000 a year.

Union president Alan Whittaker said: "Our members don't want to take strike action but they have been left with no choice."

A Manchester College spokesman said it was disappointed at the strike but it had contingency plans in place at every establishment.

A Department for Business spokesman said it had urged all parties to resolve the dispute at the earliest opportunity but it would be inappropriate for Government to intervene in the staffing decisions of autonomous institutions.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for Durham City, called for the dispute to be resolved as soon as possible.