Trinity’s casual workers – including many TAs and postgraduate students – could face pay cuts of almost 20 per cent for their teaching duties, The University Times has learned.
An internal memorandum circulated at Trinity’s Finance Committee, obtained by The University Times, shows some areas of casual pay may be cut by between 10 and 20 per cent.
The news will surely be met with dismay from the College’s postgraduates, many of whom rely on the pay they bring in through teaching to supplement their research stipends. It has also been condemned as “outrageous” by Shaz Oye, the president of the Graduate Students’ Union.
In an email to postgraduates this evening, Oye said: “There will be a protest tomorrow (04/02/2020) morning from 9:40 to 10:00 am to oppose cutbacks in payment for lab demonstrations for postgraduate students at House 1.”
The revised rates of pay were included in a document, approved by Finance Committee on November 18th, which states that the rates of pay have been reduced “on the premise that work carried out on a casual or occasional basis should not be remunerated at a higher rate than salaried staff carrying out similar work”.
The new rates of pay, the document states, came into effect on January 1st, 2020. It adds: “Where appropriate, there is an option available to Heads of School or Heads of Function to determine a rate for the job instead of an hourly rate. This gives a level of flexibility to apply different rates as circumstances may require.”
Casual staff delivering practical classes in labs, or “demonstrating”, appear to have their rates of pay cut from €21.02 per hour to a new bracket between €17 and €19. This, in effect, means many could lose nearly 20 per cent of their teaching pay.
The minimum hourly rate for teaching or lecturing has also been reduced – from €51.83 to €45 – while the hourly pay rate for delivering seminars or tutorials has fallen from €28.71 to €27.
By the time of publication, Trinity had not responded to a request for comment. A comment will be added to this piece when it is received. Finance Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning.
For postgraduate students, many of whom take on casual work on top of their research duties, the revised pay rates represent a big blow to a cohort whose stipends often come in at less than €19,000 annually.
This evening, speaking to The University Times, Oye described the decision as “staggering” and called for it to be reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.
She said many postgraduates, whose research stipends can amount to as little as €8 an hour, need “demonstrating work or the teaching assistant work, and the marking papers, to supplement” their stipends.
“So the idea that that would be cut by between 10 and 20 per cent – I think it’s outrageous”, she said.
She added that “there’s no rationale or basis for that decision. Because salaried staff are properly reimbursed – they have collective bargaining rights, they enjoy pensions, sick pay, holidays and all the rest. And obviously our doctoral candidates – who also work as TAs, who work as demonstrators – are not. Our members are on minimum wage”.
In an email sent to postgraduate students this evening, seen by The University Times, Oye wrote that “there will be a reduction in the demonstrating pay rate affecting PG students effective from 1st of January 2020”.
“It will be a cut from € 21.02 down to € 17 – 19 per hour (rate decided by each school individually). I attach the previous and revised rates.”
Oye, who was present at the meeting of Finance where the revised pay rates were approved, told The University Times she had missed the reduction – which was not a discussion item and only came up as an item for noting – at the meeting.
Because it came to Finance as an item for noting, members would have had to inform the College in advance if they wanted to discuss it. Otherwise, the committee’s regulations stipulate, “the Chairperson will propose that they be noted and, where appropriate, that action proposed or reported be approved as presented”.
“I want to say to all of my members who are concerned about this, I missed it – hands up, I missed it – and I apologise for that”, Oye said. “It was a handful of lines in nearly 300 pages of documentation.”
Unpublished minutes from Finance Committee, approved by Board on December 18th and seen by The University Times, state that the committee approved the rates as set out, noting “the provision for local flexibility in how rates are applied depending on specific circumstances”.
In an email statement to The University Times this evening, Trinity’s PhD Workers Rights Group – chaired by Thomas Dinneen, with Conor Reddy as secretary – wrote it was “alarmed to hear about a cut to Demonstrator Pay sanctioned by College with effect from 1st January 2020”.
“Stipends”, the statement read, “are much too low to meet the cost of living in Dublin but demonstrating work helps ease the burden slightly”.
“Demonstrator pay also includes hours of preparatory and review work outside of class time. When this is factored in and with new pay scales taken into account, some PhDs will earn less than the minimum wage for their work.”
“It is unacceptable to attack the workers who make much of the College’s research-led, quality teaching possible. Universities are in dire need of funding but the College should be pressuring the state for more money rather than targeting its workers who conduct the research and teaching that makes the College.”
Trinity’s strategic plan, details of which were revealed by The University Times last week, commits to a “major and systematic renewal of all facets of postgraduate education”.