RA: First Nations Studies, Labour Studies, English
I worked on three projects simultaneously – one paid me via a grant with paid a lump sum of 1/2 my pay for the semester with a biweekly salary which paid out the other half with expectation of 30 hr/wk, one was a simple biweekly salary for 8 hr/wk for work, and the final was an hourly wage. The stress from having to navigate these uncoordinated projects with very different labour, as well as PI [Annie: what does this stand for lol] expectations, was immense. The salaries were not sufficient to pay for my rent and living expenses. Thus, I had to work 30-40 hr/wk at my hourly wage job. I spent 50-60 hours a week on campus. But in terms of mental and emotional labour, I was never not at work.
From May until August this was my schedule, and on august 20th, I got news that the funding I was relying on to pay my tuition in the fall would no longer be coming my way. on top of the obvious shock and horror at no longer being able to go to school, I learned that the jobs Iworked were contingent on grants only available to student hires. if I wasn’t able to secure a student loan in 3 weeks, I would be out of school, and unemployed.
I didn’t realize how precarious I was until I could see the bottom falling out. The union would not only have prevented this, but protected me from the predatory circumstances I fell into in the first place
- “But in terms of mental and emotional labour, I was never not at work”
- “I didn’t realize how precarious I was until I could see the bottom falling out. The union would not only have prevented this, but protected me from the predatory circumstances I fell into in the first place”
My RA story right now is okay, but I went through something immediately after my first week on the job, and there have been a few weird things in general.
I was asked to go through the research proposal in the first week and to get started with the case studies in the second week, and I did so. I was given no instruction with regards to if there is any limitation on the number of hours to read the proposal, understand the concept, and work. After I submitted my hours for the first week, my supervisor told me to not do any work before I talk to her. During our talk, she said she was very concerned with the amount of hoursI took and told me about the limited fund that she has which she cannot exceed. She said that she is not sure whether I will be able to do this work, and that I should try out a few case studies, check how much time I am taking, report back to her, and then we’ll see if this can work out.
It was an extremely stressful and anxiety prone time for me because just a week into this new job (which I thought was a sure shot thing), I was being told that I might no longer be right for the work. The stability of having a job, source of income, and the excitement of proving myself and learning so much from this position all seemed broken. The most disappointing thing was that this was happening even before my supervisor had seen my work — I was judged even before getting a chance to submit my work. Moreover, I was disheartened and surprised by the lack of understanding from the supervisor — a basic understanding of the fact there any new person entering a new work field takes a little time to grasp that work, there is a training period involved, and I was doing the same thing when I made sure to read and understand the proposal carefully so that I could gather all information I needed, to understand fully what work was being expected of me because I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to be efficient.
I was very confused by all this and it affected me a lot because my supervisor seemed like an amazing, relaxed person, and she told me how impressed they were with my previous work experience and qualifications. When all of this happened, I went through extreme stress and anxiety. I actually started doubting my work capacity thinking that maybe I am not doing it the correct way. It made me feel very low that the supervisor thought that I may just be taking up those hours unnecessarily to cash in money. Finally, after showing her my work, the data that I had collected she seemed very happy with it and asked me to continue. But the damage has been done. It is still always on my mind that I have finish each case study within half an hour. Sometimes I see myself reducing some hours from the total hours of the week when I’m submitting it at the end of the week because it lingers on my mind that I don’t want anyone to think I put in more hours due to the money, or that I am not fast or efficient enough in my work.
I was never given a contract for this position, so I have nothing to show anyone that I am an employee. My pay or any other guidelines or expectations – there is no written record of that. If something goes wrong, I cannot seek any justice because I have no proof of it in the first place. I remember requesting for a written document outlining my work for the job so that I can refer back to it when needed and especially in the start to understand and get a hang of the work because I was explained what the project was and what unemployment insurance was supposed to do verbally, which is not something reliable. But I never got any such written document.
Now everything is fine but these experiences really make me understand the importance of this goal that has been started by TSSU.
- “I actually started doubting my work capacity thinking that maybe I am not doing it the correct way. It made me feel very low that the supervisor thought that I may just be taking up those hrs unnecessarily to cash in money. “
“I was never given a contract for this position as well so I have nothing to show anyone that I am an employee […] If something goes wrong, I cannot seek any justice because I have no proof of it in the first place.”