By Sarah Boesveld
Too much paperwork and overworked system blamed as over one hundred TAs go without pay.
Teaching assistant Evelyn Gere couldn’t pay her rent on time last month because she was waiting for a paycheque from Ryerson that was overdue – since mid-September.
Gere said she relies on the paycheque from her two graduate teaching assistant jobs “100 per cent” to pay her bills, so she ended up paying her rent with her high-interest credit card.
“This isn’t our hobby, this is our job,” she said.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing TAs, has said that 157 assistants at Ryerson have their pay on hold while waiting for their contracts to be processed.
The TAs have been working since the start of the semester and were supposed to be paid in mid-September. Some employees have filed official grievances with the union.
Convoluted processes, overworked department employees and lack of communication between departments and TAs are being blamed for the delay.
Department heads are responsible for hiring teaching assistants, and making sure they get paid.
Sociology program chair Terry Gillin said that processing TA contracts this fall has been an “extraordinarily complex process.”
“It’s too simple to say that there’s a paper back-up. We are actively talking about what is possible to improve the process,” Gillin said.
Linda Grayson, vice-president administration and student affairs, said the school is trying to find a solution.
Due to the sheer volume of paperwork that must be processed, she said Ryerson is aiming to use an automated system in the future.
“Instead of having people fill in forms, (the solution) is to have a very seamless way of getting the information,” she said.
“Will it be done by next year? No. In the meantime, we have to work very hard,” Grayson added.
In the meantime, bills are piling up for TAs.
Sociology TA Tara Evans said she had finally been paid for the current pay period last Friday but still hadn’t seen her back pay yet. She had been holding off bill payments.
“Luckily I was able to contact family and borrow money,” she said.
Gere had gone to administration with her complaint and was offered an emergency cheque.
“They told me that if I’m basically going to be kicked out of my apartment building, they would give me an emergency cheque,” Gere said.
She does not believe many other TAs know emergency cheques are even an option.
Another TA, Huria Jalazai, feels Ryerson should be pulling up its socks and try other means of communicating contract issues to TAs.
“We did get one apology e-mail – considering it’s been two months without compensation, it doesn’t seem like they see the scale of this,” she said.
Jalalzai thinks Ryerson administration could have held a meeting to explain the issue. Gere and Evans are also upset with the lack of communication between TAs and administration.
“There’s been too much red tape and too much bureaucracy involved,” Evans said.
“I just wish there was one person to go and talk to,” said Gere, noting that miscommunication is an inherent part of the problem.
However, some TAs have not been too heavily affected by the payment delay.
Politics TA Bobby Won was waiting to get paid, but was not too troubled by the delay. He said he has another primary source of income.
CUPE has been aware of the issue and has been filing official grievances with the university on behalf of TAs.
“We have been telling TAs to come in and we’ll file official grievances,” said Angela Ross, the staff representative for CUPE at Ryerson. She said the problem surrounding payment of TAs has been around for the past two years.
“We’re definitely going to rant and rave and say that this paperwork needs to be done faster.”