The Fair Pay for GTAs campaign is focussing on the following demands for 2018/2019.
1) Essay marking
- AIM: 2,000 words per-hour
- Current rate: 4,000 words per-hour
Fair Pay for GTAs has always lobbied for for 2,000 words per hour. While the College negotiated the rate from 5,000 to 4,000 words per hour in 2016, we are contining to demand 2,000 words per hour.
Calculating a precise, fair ‘average’ for essay marking time is tricky. Some GTAs are quicker than others and essays are of variable standard, with some requiring more detailed feedback.
While we accept the difficulty of standardising pay structures for marking across a range of subjects, our recommendation of 2,000 words per-hour is a sober and reasonable figure that we feel reflects the time we put into marking – at least if we wish to do a decent job. This figure would also be in line with the National Union of Journalists’ recommended rate for proof-reading, one of the closest ‘paid-per-word’ analogues to essay marking.
2) Preparation time
- AIM: 4:1 ratio beween paid prep and teaching hours
- Current rate: 2:1 ratio between paid prep and teaching hours (excepting multiple seminars on the same module)
Currently GTAs are expected to perform all their lesson preparation in just two hours per week, including for subjects where weekly reading can be entire novels, as well as a range of secondary material. And teaching preparation isn’t just about doing the reading: planning materials and resources, and devising seminar activity takes time.
As with marking, the variety of demands on GTAs in different departments makes it difficult to calculate a standardised pay scale for prep. Our 4:1 recommendation is intended as a fair medium, accepting that for some GTAs it would be a generous provision and others less so.
All lecture attendance across all faculties must also be paid: as it stands, some faculties pay for this work, while others do not.
3) Training and development
- AIM: Paid, improved, department-based training for teaching and assessments. Paid opportunities for further College and Faculty-wide training though Skills Forge. The opportunity to work up to a King’s accredited qualification.
- Current provision: The College-wide ‘Preparing to Teach’ course, and ‘paid departmental inductions and training with a specific focus on best practice for marking and teaching’. Apparently.
The Fair Pay for GTAs campaign has worked hard to improve training provision – and secure payment for the little training that already existed. However, although the College promised improved departmental training, our surveys are showing that PhD students still feel under prepared.
The survey responses from GTAs tell us that provision is often too little – one or two hours thinking over general classroom techniques – or too late, with marking training given when the marking period has already started. We demand training that is timely, thorough, practice-based, and ongoing.
The College must make greater use of the experise that it has in teacher training to provide GTAs with not only a foundation when they begin teaching, but opportunities to develop as we teach. There are currently additional training sessions on offer to teachers at King’s, offered through the ‘Skills Forge’ staff portal, but these opportunities are unpaid. GTAs who want to improve their practice should be renumerated for their work.
Further campaign aims
Beyond our key demands around pay and training, we are working on the following areas:
While the College and Students’ Union have adopted the policy of creating two elected GTA rep positions in the King’s Post-Doctoral Forum, who would be invited to senior management meetings, in practice this system is not working.
The GTA rep positions have been poorly advertised and remain unfilled as of November 2018. Both the College and the Students’ Union must take their responsibility to reach out to GTAs seriously. The Fair Pay for GTAs campaign is working hard to make sure these structures are used. Contact us via email on on Facebook if you’d like to work on these College structures.
5) An end to outsourcing
GTA work should be brought entirely in-house as a matter of simple principle against the increasing casualisation of the higher education workforce. Casual teachers employed via direct temping are not eligible for the workplace protection that membership within the UCU affords King’s staff.
Furthermore, on a purely administrative front, being paid via direct temping can make simple matters (such as chasing up an incorrect tax code or if the university fails to submit documentation on time) into an unnecessary hassle, as direct temping will pursue the employee in the event of irregularities, resulting in more work for them. For this reason, some departments (including Geography) have already discontinued this practice.
We stand in solidarity with the Justice for Cleaners campaign as they continue to hold King’s to account for its promises to bring all cleaning staff in house. All King’s staff must be in house staff.
6) Addressing the situation of all casual staff
GTAs are not the only causalised staff members at King’s. The reality of the academic job market for most post-doctorates is up to a decade of piecemeal work, fixed-term contracts and minimal job security. This kind of work is also extremely transitory, with teaching fellows and hourly-paid lecturers forced to migrate all over the country (and beyond) at yearly, six-month and even three-month intervals in pursuit of employment.
We will continue to work with our UCU colleagues to lobby for improved conditions for staff on fixed-term contracts.
7) Reaching outside of Arts and Sciences
The Fair Pay for GTAs campaign has mostly been based in Arts and Sciences. There are practical explanations for this: the bulk of GTA labour is concentrated in Arts & Hums and the campaign began in Arts & Hums departments, meaning this was where our initial building took place.
However, we have been contacted by GTAs from a number of other faculties with horror stories about their working conditions. If this is something you can recognise, and you’d like to help bring the campaign to the Health schools, we would love to hear from you.
Contact the campaign:
Closed GTA facebook group
Support Fair Pay for GTAs
1. Undergraduate, MA, or PhD student at King’s? Sign the petition to support the campaign here.
2. Current GTA? GTA in 2017-2018? Share your experience on the GTA survey.
3. Not at King’s? Send us a note of support ❤