Student Life Opinion

Dignity of Employment; better working conditions, contracts and status within the community

On May 10th, the TA community mobilised to mark a day of solidarity, action, and visibility.

By Suhana Sehrawat

TAs at the Institute are among the lowest paid in Geneva as well as in Switzerland as a whole. For multiple years now, TAs have been rallying for fair wages and better contracts.

On May 10th, the TA community took another large step to hold a day of action, solidarity, and visibility as a result of the direction’s continued refusal to meet their demands for better contracts, fair pay, and working conditions. The IHEID Assistants’ Association (ADA) believes their demands to be reasonable and ask that TAs receive a wage that allows them to live comfortably in Geneva.

The day started at 10 AM with a press conference on the steps of the Institute where members from the Syndicat interprofessionnel de travailleuses et travailleurs (SIT) union, ADA, and GISA spoke. The TAs shared a petition with a complete set of the ADA’s demands and held a bake sale and picnic outside of campus. Throughout the day, there were a considerable number of PhD and Masters students in attendance. On the day, 219 people, 125 of whom were MA students, signed the petition, showing their support for TAs. Many TAs were pleased by the large turnout of support from MA students and hope to see more in the future. While the issue of TA contracts pertains primarily to the TAs, it affects all students at the Institute.

Given the vital work TAs do to support the courses offered at the Institute, there was a noted and disappointing lack of faculty presence on the day.

A key component of the ADA’s demands is for uniformity across positions and departments. The number of PhD students from each department varied at the event. Also in attendance at the event were TAs working on the MINT ARP programme as tutors. ARP tutors face significantly worse remuneration.

The event was a fervent call for action against the Direction’s refusal to acknowledge the work of TAs, non-commitment to financial transparency, and understatement of their thesis work, while suggesting future cuts in TA positions. The sentiment in the TA community during the day was forward-looking and clear on making sure these basic demands are met. Only 3.49% of the Institute budget is allocated toward TA wages (based on 2021 figures), with the ADA asking for an additional 1.2% to cover 80 TAs, including ARP TAs.

The May 10th Day of Action fits into a larger process the ADA is working through to highlight their importance to the Institute community, and pressure Direction into meeting their demands.

Photo Credits: Suhana Sehrawat and Ellie Winslow

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