Trinity News has learned that PhD students in Trinity College’s department of sociology put in place a system of collective bargaining to deal with their teaching requirements. The agreement was implemented for the first time this academic year.
David Cichon, last year’s PhD representative in the department of sociology, negotiated with the department on behalf of the PhD students. Speaking to Trinity News, he expressed satisfaction with the agreement reached and was pleased that he and other PhD students enjoyed a positive working relationship with the department.
He noted that the agreement sets a definite limit for weekly teaching duties, and requires that work beyond this amount be remunerated. Most importantly, he said, a process has been put in place which allows teaching assistants to openly negotiate their work requirements on a yearly basis.
When asked for comment, head of the department of sociology Professor Richard Layte, emphasised the critical role that PhD students play in developing new research that contributes to the college’s reputation. He said that the school of social sciences and philosophy had been particularly hard-hit by dramatic cuts to government funding that have increased staff/student ratios. In this context, he said the department has “worked with PhD students to agree term and conditions acceptable to all within the resources that are available”.
Most PhD students are required to teach in order to receive university funding and the college calendar sets a maximum weekly workload of six hours of teaching and related activities. However Trinity News reported last year that many teaching assistants across college are regularly expected to work in excess of this amount.
In that piece, many teaching assistants complained that there was no process in place for them to negotiate work requirements with their school or department. Some PhD students felt unable to raise the issue of burdensome teaching duties for fear that doing so would damage their relations with more senior academics, on whom they depend for doctoral supervision, academic references and promotion.