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Research: Teaching assistants ‘paid below the Living Wage’

Tom King, BA Politics

Research published by the Fractionals for Fair Play campaign has revealed “shocking” findings about the working conditions of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and Senior Teaching Fellows (STFs).

The campaign conducted a survey of SOAS 94 staff working on fractional contracts and compared the number of hours they are paid to work in their contract with how many it is necessary to work in order to complete their jobs.

The results showed that, while GTAs are paid for an extra 1.5 hours work for every hour they teach, they are actually working an additional 6 hours for every hour taught as well as 1.5 hours a week answering emails and other course admin. They also spend 26 hours a term marking essays.

As a result of working considerably more than their contracted hours, for which they are paid just over £18, the average wage for GTAs based on the hours they actually work is below the London Living Wage of £8.85 at barely £8 an hour. Despite STFs being responsible for setting exams and sometimes convening courses, the research suggests they are paid only 30p an hour more than GTAs.

The research also found that a quarter of GTAs are actually paid below £6 an hour and one respondent to the survey said they were paid just £2 an hour when all their hours worked were taken into account.

Almost 60% of the hours worked by STFs currently go unpaid, according to the campaign.

A meeting between fractional staff and the School’s Human Resources Department took place yesterday to discuss their concerns about their contracts. The campaign is calling for fractional contracts to reflect the hours they need to work.

Responding to the research, a spokesperson for SOAS said “Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) are employed by SOAS as part of a programme to provide SOAS research students with training opportunities and teaching work experience to help further their academic careers.” “At SOAS, the rate of pay for GTAs starts at a Grade 6 salary of £26,423 per annum…The plain-time hourly rates and the multiplied hourly rates are above the London Living Wage.” “However, the School has been made aware that some GTAs are concerned about workload and length of time spent on additional duties. A meeting was held on Monday 10 March 2014 with SOAS, UCU and a group of SOAS GTAs to discuss concerns over their current contracts and working conditions. SOAS is working closely with all the respective parties on this issue and an update will be provided in due course.”

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