FAQ

“How do I log my hours?”

It’s easy! Just keep a record of how many hours you spend doing work for your job. For example, if you spend an hour marking papers, note it down! You can use paper, a spreadsheet, an app, or any other way you’re comfortable, as long as you keep track. We’ve assembled several tools here.

“Why is logging my hours important?”

To ensure you can get compensated if you go over the maximum number of hours set out in your contract (i.e. “overwork”)! Logging hours means you will be more likely to identify overwork ahead of time and take steps to address it. Also, it means that if you do go over hours, you will know how much additional compensation you are owed.

As an added bonus, if you log your hours throughout the semester you can enter your logbook into our Logbook Lotto cash draw! Submit your logbook at the end of the semester and at our first General Membership Meeting of the Fall 2020 semester (September 23, 4:30-6:30pm PST – check your email for a link) you could win a cash prize of $125! We will be in touch with more details on how to submit your logbook in the coming weeks.

“What counts as work?”

TSSU members’ work is often irregular so it can sometimes be difficult to know what counts as work and what does not. But it’s simpler than you think!

Put most simply, any task associated with your job counts as work. For example: emails, office hours, tutorials/labs, lecture, marking, invigilating exams, preparing tutorials/labs, meeting with your course supervisor – these are all tasks that count as work and you should log the hours you spend on them. If you’re ever unsure, ask yourself: “Would I be doing this if I didn’t have this job?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s most likely work! (Except for commuting, which does not count as work hours except in certain circumstances).

TA and TM positions are designed for student workers and are learning positions. This means you’re not expected to be an expert right off the start and you will need time to be mentored and to learn techniques as part of your job. All of this is work!

“How do I know how many hours I have on my contract?”

The work of Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Tutor-Markers (TMs) is set out in terms of Base Units (BUs). BUs determine both how much money we get and the maximum time we can be requested to expend over the course of the semester. Before starting your duties, you should have received an appointment form (sometimes referred to as a “contract”) that clearly states how many BUs you have for the semester.

Each BU represents a maximum of 42 hours of work, but 1.1 hours are dedicated for statutory holidays, so really it’s a maximum of 40.9 hours. You will not necessarily work that much, but if you are assigned and you go over this, you are entitled to be paid more. There are no hours of work associated with the extra 0.17 on your appointment. So, for example, a 4.17 BU appointment would mean a maximum of 163.6 hours of work.

“What is a Time Use Guideline (TUG)?”

A TUG is a form that your Course Supervisor completes in consultation with you during the first week of classes. The TUG breaks up your total hours into more general baskets for each of the categories of duties and responsibilities you will do during your contract as a TA or TM. In short, it’s a sheet you can reference to get a sense of how much time you should be spending on a particular task (for example, 2 hours of lecture time per week x 13 weeks of lecture = 26 hours over the course of the semester). If you don’t think the allocation will work, you are entitled to suggest alterations.

It is important to note that duties may shift from various baskets over the course of the semester and that’s OK. Don’t feel bad if your work looks different than what’s on the TUG and do feel empowered to bring up concerns you have to your Course Supervisor.

One thing about amended duties, if you are assigned additional student contact (e.g. more tutorials) that requires more pay, you should contact us if you don’t receive an amended contract! On that note, you do not have to sign your TUG but you do have to receive a copy!

If you have filled out your TUG for the Summer 2020 semester, please upload it here! It will help us advocate for fair pay for all members.

“What is a workload review? and can I have more than one review?”

A workload review is a check-in with your Course Supervisor part way through the semester to try and predict if you’re going to overwork. If it looks like you might overwork, then the “Yes” box on the form should be checked, and the workload should be adjusted or additional pay provided. The Union is notified of every “Yes” so we may confidentially get in touch to find out what’s going on.

This workload review is supposed to happen when enough of the work has been performed to get a good estimate of workload by the end of hte course. Unfortunately many departments tell Course Supervisors to complete the review by Week 5, which is often too early. A better time for the review is after the first major marking assignment or midterm, as time spent marking is highly variable.

All TAs and TMs also have the right to regularly review their workload with their Course Supervisor and can request an additional workload review by the Chair of the Department. Particularly in Summer and Fall 2020, many Course Supervisors are well aware of the additional work.

“What happens if I think I am going to go over my maximum number of hours?”

You have a few different options.

A good first step is to make sure you have all your hours logged and then let your Course Supervisor know. That should generate a conversation between the two of you and discussion options which may include: reducing your workload (e.g. fewer papers to mark), adjusting your tasks so they take less time (e.g. don’t mark all the questions), seeking additional compensation via the Department Chair, or a combination of those three.

If you can’t reach a reasonable solution with your Course Supervisor you have the option of requesting a Workload Review by the Department Chair.

You can also get in touch with your TSSU Department Steward or the Union directly at tssu@tssu.ca so we can talk through other approachers

We know from our member surveys that the vast majority of TAs and TMs have worked over their hours — the problem is the structure and not you!

“What if I went over hours and didn’t tell anyone?”

Don’t panic! This is not unusual – we can’t always predict workload (for example, a final exam might take you longer to mark than you first expected). Further, because of the shift to remote teaching due to COVID-19, we expect lots of people to go over their hours in the Fall 2020 semester. In many cases SFU Admin has not made the necessary adjustments (i.e. giving us more paid hours) to account for this increased workload.

They’re counting on you keeping quiet to save them money!

To remedy this, we would ask your Department for more compensation to make up for the extra time you put in. This is an instance where logging your hours is super important! If you have logged your hours, you will know exactly how much extra time you have put in and we can ask for appropriate pay for those hours.

“What if I’ve reached the maximum number of hours in my contract and I don’t want to keep working?”

You do not need to work beyond the hours established by your contract. Sometimes workers feel pressured to keep working, but it is your right to say no. If you are being unfairly treated because of this decision, reach out to tssu@tssu.ca as soon as you can!

“What if I’ve reached the maximum number of hours in my contract and I want to keep working?”

You should ask for a new contract that outlines the amount of hours needed for completion of your duties and the amount of money you will get for those duties. If pay for your additional work isn’t forthcoming reach out to tssu@tssu.ca as soon as you can!

“I am a Sessional Instructor. Does any of this apply to me?”

Much of the above does not apply to Sessional Instructors (SIs), as their work is organized and paid differently (through Contact Hours instead of BUs). There are no hours of work associated with an SI contract, so there are no workload reviews, TUGs, or things of that nature.

It is, however, still important for SIs to log their hours! We know that most SIs are being asked to put in extra work to bring courses online amidst COVID-19. In April 2020, TSSU and SFU signed a Letter of Agreement that requires departments to create separate contracts for SIs (and TAs/TMs) to be paid for the work of bringing courses online. In most departments this is not happening, and we have heard many stories of SIs working long (unpaid) hours to get their courses ready for remote teaching. As such, sessionals should log their hours too, so we can advocate for them to get paid fairly for that work!

“What do I do if I have a question that isn’t answered in this FAQ?”

Send an email to tssu@tssu.ca and somebody will get back to you!