Glasgow University underpays teaching assistants after delay

Published

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Rachel Wood

Holly Sloey
News Editor

A large number of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) based in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow have been subject to delays in the payment of their wages, it has been alleged.

Unexpected difficulties in generating the contracts of a number of GTAs from the School within the payroll system have resulted in a situation where many did not receive their first payment of the semester on Tuesday 31 October as was planned.

The University’s Central HR Recruitment Team was late in issuing employment contracts for the GTAs in the School this year. The contracts were issued on 2 October 2017, despite the University’s 2017/18 timetable for GTA Recruitment & Selection Arrangements providing that contracts would be distributed on 1 September 2017, meaning that they began working at the University without having a formal contract of employment. This mistake appears to be what has caused the payroll issues.

It is believed that 40 out of 54 GTAs working in the School have been at risk of late payment due to a failure to process their records. The affected GTAs were not informed of the problems until oneraised a query with the University.

Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences Professor Michele Burman sent an email on Thursday 26 October to all affected staff apologising for the mistake. She assured them that despite the School’s lack of fault in the matter, both they and the Central HR Recruitment Team were working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

The email suggested that it may take around two weeks to fully resolve the problems, but also stated that: “Payroll have agreed to run BACS payment outside of the normal monthly payroll run if needed to facilitate payment as soon as the records can be processed”. In the meantime, Burman claimed that she would continue reviewing the Central HR Recruitment Team’s progress and encouraging an expedited solution.

One GTA from the School of Social and Political Sciences told The Glasgow Guardian on 26 October that they were considering taking action if all GTAs were indeed not paid by 31 October.

They said: “No action has yet been decided on – the University has until Tuesday (payday) to sort this, but it’s not looking good, especially taking Prof Burman’s email’s contents into account. We have been in touch with [the University and College Union] and are also taking advice from them.”

The affected GTAs include those teaching on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

A number of GTAs cancelled their classes on 31 October after failing to receive wages as a result of the “significant impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing”. It is unclear as yet whether any industrial action will be taken.

Burman sent a second email on 30 October with a progress update. It stated that 23 GTA records had been fully approved so far and that a further 28 were expected to be complete that day. She mentioned that HR have estimated that all GTAs will be paid by 3 November. It is alleged that the former figure of 23 includes the 14 GTA records that had already been processed prior to the payment issues, meaning that only nine new records had been processed at the time the email was sent.

A number of GTAs did not get paid on Friday 3 November but were instead informed by the University that they would be paid by 6 November at the latest. At the time of publication, two GTAs are allegedly still awaiting payment.

Most of those who have been paid were reportedly underpaid between approximately 25-50%, and did not receive payslips.

Rhi, another GTA within the school, commented: “The university is failing students and staff. It’s failing the GTAs that won’t be paid for their work this month and it’s failing the hundreds of undergraduates and postgraduates we collectively teach.

“How can we possibly give our students the learning experience they deserve when we’re worrying about how we will pay rent this month? I can’t call Scottish Power and say ‘actually I won’t be paying my gas bill this month’. They won’t stand for it. Why should we? I have rent and bills to pay. Those commitments can’t just be put on hold until the university pays us.”

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “There have been some issues relating to the salary payment of some members of staff. This relates to the annual engagement of Graduate Teaching Assistants who would previously have been treated as casual workers but, following a commitment by the University, are now appropriately engaged on part-time employment contracts.

“Unfortunately there have been delays in issuing a number of these contracts and establishing staff on the University HR payroll system. We regret this and have taken actions to address it to ensure that all payments due are fully made. Special payment runs have been made for some staff where the October Payroll was missed and all affected staff will receive detailed payslips when the November payroll is processed. We would like to apologise to any member of staff who has been affected by this and to assure colleagues that we are working as quickly as possible to fully rectify the situation.”

Lauren McDougall, Vice President for Student Support, speaking to The Glasgow Guardian: “For many of these postgraduate students teaching provides their sole source of income. It is a priority that these students are paid immediately in order to lessen the considerable pressures they are currently facing, especially in light of the increased reporting of mental health conditions amongst the postgraduate community. The continued uncertainty over contracts and wages owed will only be adding to these difficulties. It is of paramount importance that the university also provides payslips and contracts to the graduate teaching assistants affected, as we are aware that, of those who have been paid, many have not been paid in full for the hours they have worked. The SRC have also written to the Director of Human Resources at the University in support of these students and to seek an immediate resolution.”