Postgraduate Research students are celebrating having won ‘worker’ status from the University.
Students taking on teaching roles will now be entitled to paid holidays, and be paid for the time they spend preparing teaching.
This news comes after years of campaigning by students and the Union on fair pay for postgraduate teachers.
Dr. Bert Russell, who was actively involved in the campaign, explained their motivation: “There was big discrepancy between departments. In some departments, they were threatening to cut all forms of preparation pay.”
He told Leeds Student: “Postgraduates are encouraged to think that even if this work was unpaid, it would be something worth doing for their CV. So they’re doing unpaid labour to make themselves more marketable when they leave. Departments are aware of this, and it’s unacceptable.”
He continued: “The University relies on exploiting the cheap labour of postgraduates, and couldn’t fulfil its teaching commitment without them.” “The cutting of preparation time means that PG labour is cheaper […] so you have more PGs getting paid less to do more work. That’s the way I see it, and it’s an explicit management strategy for running the University.”
This paper has also learned that some departments have cut the pay of their postgraduate teachers by almost 50 per cent, as recently as August.
A spokesperson for the University confirmed that unpaid work for postgraduate research students will not be allowed under the new Code of Practice. “We value highly the input our postgraduate research students make to our teaching,” said Paul Harrison, Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies. “Naturally, they are all research-active members of our community and work hard on behalf of our University to provide a vital contribution to our philosophy of research-led teaching.”
However, Dr. Russell explained that there is still a long way to go in the fight for fair pay, describing the ‘worker’ status as a ‘tool’: “The status allows post graduates to unionise. [Fair pay] can now be recognised as a formal labour dispute, which is something that until this point, wouldn’t have been possible.”
Rebecca Bowd of ‘Postgrads4Fairpay’, told Leeds Student: ‘Postgrads4Fairpay are delighted that postgraduate research students who engage in teaching at the University of Leeds have now been granted worker status. We appreciate the hard work and effort of the University and the Union in coming to this agreement.”
Image: University of Leeds (Postgraduate students from the Faculty of Engineering on graduation day)