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TAs now have simplified pay system, members to receive retroactive payment

Montreal (NUWire)—Since the fall of 2014, the union representing Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) has been complaining about wage disparity amongst its members.

After two years of negotiation—which included internal union drama, alleged pay-cut offers, negotiation walk-outs, and a demonstration outside the university president’s office—TRAC executives announced that Concordia agreed to increased, more uniformed pay grades at a Sept. 14 general assembly.

The union finally came to an agreement with the administration to remove the disparity between the pay of teaching assistants (TAs), regardless of their level of study or faculty. The agreement, made in June, also includes a retroactive payment for TRAC members from the past academic year.

After a secret ballot count during the Sept. 14 assembly, members voted in favour of the agreement, according to a post on TRAC’s Facebook page.

“You need to make sure it’s implemented well and fairly,” said TRAC president Nader Jafari Nodoushan about the agreement. “It’s a great victory but our members need to make sure to keep track that their hours are not affected.”

Only TAs are affected by the new agreement. Research assistants (RAs) have a different payment system, which won’t be up for negotiation until May 1, 2017, according to Jerome Messier, one of the main negotiators for TRAC.

Now, there are only two different classifications: TAs and markers. A marker only grades assignments and exams while a TA does “anything other than marking.” The new agreement says that TAs will make $24.93 per hour while markers will make $20.21, regardless of faculty or level of education.

Previously, pay-rates differed by one’s level of study, job title, and faculty. For example, a tutorial leader in the Engineering Faculty was paid $24.68 per hour while a laboratory demonstrator received $18.53 per hour.

And in the other faculties—Arts and Science, John Molson School of Business, and Fine Arts—a tutorial leader and laboratory demonstrator made $24.68 per hour. Within these faculties, more wage disparity occurred as positions became differentiated between “grade one” and “grade two.”

And for grade two tutorial leaders or laboratory demonstrators, their pay further differed by level of education—PHD, master’s, or undergraduate.

On top of the changes in pay grades, all TAs and RAs will receive one per cent of their earnings from May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016 as compensation for the year of disparity and negotiations.

“We were asking more at the beginning but it was hard to go higher than that,” Messier said about the retroactive payment. “It’s not fair because it’s not at the living wage costs.”

He added that they were asking the university for approximately 2.5 per cent of earnings as compensation for last year.

A spokesperson from the university could not be reached by the time of publication.