A better deal for Graduate Teaching Assistants at Essex University
Back in summer 2015 the University set up a working group to look at the pay and other terms and conditions of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) at the University.
This was driven by concern regarding a number of issues including:
- Lack of consistency in how GTA were recruited and paid;
- the use of multipliers that did not adequately reflect all hours worked – including inadequate provision for preparation;
- lack of transparency;
- Lack of involvement of the module lecturer, lack of feedback, lack of involvement in module design;
- Lack of payment for training.
Many of these concerns had been raised by UCU who had sought to engage with the GTAs and raise their concerns with management. In fact, GTAs were quite unhappy in the autumn and came to UCU independently, which resulted in the branch approaching management and discovering the already-ongoing reform process.
As a result UCU were invited to work with the group to develop solutions to the issues raised. As a result of that work and the UCU input into it:
- Jobs for GTAs were properly evaluated and graded with a resultant increase in the hourly rate of pay;
- Multipliers will no longer be used – instead GTAs will be paid for all hours they work (agreed in advance);
- Recruitment will follow normal University practices;
- There will be clear information about the activities to be undertaken and the time they will take to be available when posts advertised;
- Management and supervision will be improved;
- Regular payment for work;
- A new contract has been developed that includes clarity on pay and hours of work, access to USS, sick leave, annual leave etc.
In general UCU are happy with the elements that we were consulted on but there do remain outstanding issues relating to academic freedom for students who teach.
Moreover, although the status of GLAs (lab assistants) and GDs (demonstrators) especially in the sciences was also reformed, this was not done in consultation with UCU and the branch have ongoing concerns about their situation.
The branch will continue to work with our members to ensure fairness for all.