End casual employment at UCD: support fair teaching and working conditions!

End casual employment at UCD: support fair teaching and working conditions!

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UCD Anti-Casualisation started this petition to University College Dublin and

Petition: Seven demands for fair teaching and working conditions at UCD 

PhD students, Post-docs and hourly paid workers play a fundamental role in the education students receive at UCD, as well as in the university’s research community. These workers perform crucial activities such as lecturing, tutoring and marking, as well as a variety of administrative tasks, yet their working conditions are often extremely precarious. 

In many cases, workers carry out these tasks as part of their scholarship or post-doc duties. Their scholarship agreement or contract may include a requirement to teach/do other tasks for a certain number of hours per week. However, in practice the hours performed often exceed the amount agreed, as activities such as office hours or answering emails from students are not properly accounted for. As a result, PhDs, postdocs and hourly paid workers often perform several hours of unpaid work per week. 

Even when precarious workers are paid for teaching and tutoring, the compensation for their job is extremely low. Demonstrator rates range from €9.80 (equivalent to the national minimum wage) to € 19.75 per hour. Tutors are currently paid € 27.99 per hour. All these rates were cut by 10 per cent at the end of 2010 as part of the austerity measures implemented by the Irish government in the context of the recession. Yet, despite years of economic recovery and sharp increases in the cost of living, and even though pay is being restored for public sector employees at large (and rightly so), hourly rates for tutors and demonstrators in UCD have not increased since 2011 

While media and policymakers worry about the implications of the ‘gig economy’ for working conditions in the future, there is no mention of the existing gig economy for marking exams. Instead of an hourly rate, examiners are usually paid per script marked and receive €4.50 for grading a 2-hour script. Marking rates were cut in 2012, as an austerity measure, and never restored. Low rates mean examiners must grade papers at a high pace to make even minimum wage, which impacts the quality of grading. 

Precarious working conditions have severe consequences for our quality of life. Underpaying and overworking PhD students, postdocs and hourly paid workers also undermines the quality of education and research at UCD. Improving the working conditions of a significant segment of UCD workforce would have positive effects on students’ learning environment as well as making UCD a fairer, more inclusive university. We thus propose the following 7 demands: 

1) Increase the rates for hourly teaching - These rates were cut during the recession and do not reflect significant increases in the cost of living in recent years.

2) End the ‘gig economy’ for marking assignments and exams - The rates for marking do not reflect the time it takes to properly assess exams and assignments and the university should switch from piecemeal payment to an hourly rate

3) Hourly-paid teachers must be paid for every hour worked - Pay is often limited to hours of teaching, meaning teachers are not remunerated for essential tasks such as lesson preparation and office hours

4) Pay parity across different departments - Some departments pay lower rates to PhDs, postdocs and hourly paid workers than other departments, though the work they do is the same or similar. We demand those departments paying less bring compensation to parity.

5) Fair remuneration for precarious academics - Many PhD students do not receive a scholarship. Others subsist on a stipend well below the minimum wage. All UCD departments should offer scholarships which at the very least match the conditions of IRC scholarships

6) Compulsory additional work as a condition for scholarships must be abolished - Imposing additional working hours on PhD students as a condition of their scholarships or to cover their fees is exploitative and impacts the quality of education at UCD and the quality of the work that PhD students can provide. 

7) End discrimination against non-EU students - Non-EU students’ fees are significantly higher than EU student fees and PhD students from non-EU countries are often asked to work for free to cover the difference. This discrimination must end. 

We the undersigned urge the university leadership and national policymakers to act on the above seven demands!

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