You don't have to be self-hating and desperate to work here, but it helps!

Posted by September Blue Thursday, 13 March 2008

HR think I'm special! Really! Special! They said so to my boss: I'm 'a special case'! Oh, this is so exciting. I feel like I just got a HR hug!

Of course, what they mean by 'special' is 'exempt from equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation'. But, you know. I try not to draw the dusty blinds of reality against the glowing panoramic landscapes of beautiful delusion.

So, yes, I'm currently on the losing end of a pay dispute with one of my jobs, the details of which would make even the world's geekiest employment lawyer seize clumps of his own hair in twitching, mottled fists and scream "Oh dear God, can the sum total of all human endeavour really be ground down to this?" The only part that's entirely clear to me is the part where there's nothing I can do about this, what with all the legal protections I don't have. My university's HR department is what happened when Wolfram & Hart branched out into the higher education sector.

(As an aside, this would be one of the reasons I'm so pessimistic about the academic job market. This university is prepared to fight me to the bitter end over a 50p-per-hour raise, and yet somewhere out there I should believe there's institutions willing to cough up 20-something thousand a year for a junior lecturer?)

Anyway, I was annoyed enough with HR's latest verdict that I thought about turning this blog into a witty and revealing tell-all take on what the university as an institution looks like from the bottom of the pay-and-prestige ladder. It would be full of intrigue and scandal, and net me forty thousand new readers and a book contract by the time my anonymity was inevitably revealed. I do five different jobs for this university, after all - imagine the material! But then I realised that I don't have anything interesting to say about any of them, so there went that plan.

But this would be best illustrated with an example of the most thrilling thing that happened today. The secretary who's in charge of processing some of my timesheets and pay called me aside to let me know that I'd worked 44 hours last week. This isn't bad, you understand, but, haha, 44 hours, that's a lot more than I'm contracted for! Isn't it! That's the kind of thing that some people might be expecting overtime for! Which, haha, I know I'm not getting, right? But I also know that if that kind of timesheet was going to HR every week, they might start asking questions, right? Because there's supposed to be a cap on my working hours, what with me being part-time and all? Anyway! Just saying! Bet I'm tired!

And I said, yes, yes I am tired.

And I thought, heh. Little do you know that the pay system thinks I'm three separate people, and you don't get to see the timesheets from two of my other jobs! That was actually a sixty-four hour week! Haha!

And then I thought, my God. I counted that as a triumph.


  1. Autumn Song Says:
  2. I'd be inclined to ask the lawyer at the student union how 'special' you are. I mean the university - all universities - manage to get away with exploiting PG TAs by claiming it's more valuable to the TAs as experience than in money. But your other jobs don't have that excuse. Make sure no one asks you to pretend you've worked fewer hours just to make the time sheets add up. I've heard of it happening elsewhere...

  3. Laz Says:
  4. I feel quite certain I'm missing something here because I'm pretty certain you HAVE to get paid for the job you do in this country. How can they get out of it? Did you work those extra hours just for a laugh? I rather suspect not.

    I'd be dropping in to see the SUSA lawyer asap. Alright, I understand they've been pretty usless over the years when we've contacted them before, but seventeenth time's the charm, right?

  5. Thanks, both of you! There's annoyingly little I can do about it because of the nature of my contract - if I complain too much they can just take half of my hours away, and I'd have no recourse whatsoever. (I would if they fired me, but they won't fire me. Unless they discover I'm grumbling about them on a work computer? Hi, HR! Over here!)

  6. Laz Says:
  7. Hmm... You complain they're not paying you for the hours you worked, they cut your hours in response, you quit and claim constructive dismissal.

    Or, when you divide your pay for the week by the number of hours worked on your timesheet and it doesn't add up to minimum wage, you report them to the government. There's a hotline, I think... 0800 C-H-E-A-P S-H-I-T-S, I think.

    Finally, I could just kneecap the entire HR department for you. I could get a gun on eBay or something, right?