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Can my assistantship amount be changed after I signed a contract?


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I signed a contract (stipend amount, hours, tuition remission) for my assistantship in the spring. I received an email, this week (4 months since the original contract was signed) stating there was an error on my contract and that I would receive a new contract.  The new contract states that my stipend is cut in half. Am I obligated to sign this contract or do they have to honor the original? Any thoughts are welcome on how to handle keeping my original contract.


Thank you.

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I feel like we may be at the same school, as we too got a "pay cut" recently (when, in reality, we got an email with a raise that turned into a smaller raise months later). Contact your grad union

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This is complicated. It really depends on the terms of the contract. Is this contracted union work? Is the grad union a labour union, or like a grad student government type of organization. If it's a labour union and the contracted work is covered under the collective bargaining agreement, then you should certainly go to the grad union for help. Do not try to address this on your own, because the union and the University have an agreed-upon grievance resolution procedure that you should follow. I mean, it's fine to get advice from  the legal clinic if you'd like and/or talk to your advisor if you think it will be a comfortable topic but ultimately if the above conditions hold, this is something the union has to work out with the University.

As for whether or not they have to pay you the original listed rates, one big criteria is the wording of the contract and the collective bargaining agreement. When I was at a unionized school, our contracts referred to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for pay rates, with a number specified in the contract only as a reference (so if there was a typo there, we would still be paid at the Collective Bargaining Agreement rate). Similarly, if a new Agreement is signed and the rates change, then our pay would also change (although it's rare that a new Agreement would result in changes for contracts already in effect). 

And finally, another condition is how "final" the contract you signed 4 months ago. Because things can change so often, when I was on contracted work for grad school, we only ever signed contracts within 2 weeks of the job start date. This is because for TA contracts, if the course gets cancelled for whatever reason (under-enrollment, professor illness, professor strike, etc.), the school is obligated to still pay us once we have a contract signed. So, it's rare to see any contracts until the school is certain the course will run. I guess it is strange to me that the school will have you sign a contract 4 months ago! (Which made me question whether or not that thing 4 months ago was a finalized contract that stipulated X dollars for Y hours of work in time period Z, or just "here is your financial offer, at $W per year". Also, one thing I just thought of was whether the thing you signed before was just the financial offer for the entire year and this thing you're signing now is the actual work contract for the first semester only?)

Edited by TakeruK
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I am almost certain the contracted work is covered under the collective bargaining agreement, but I am not sure about the labor union. I will look into that.

I do believe that the contract I signed 4 months ago was final. As a matter of fact, I believe this was an administrative mistake of some sort (although I do not have proof of that). 

I do not like to make assumptions but I truly believe it was a clerical error that was caught way too late. I am pretty sure the new amount is representative of the full year. This is my second year receiving funding so I am familiar with most of the contract details. I don't know if this additional background information is helpful, but I will plan on looking into the collective bargaining agreement.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! 

I was already poor, now I'm even poorer.



*Update* It was in fact a clerical error. Long story short...they are supposed to send me two separate contracts which will total the amount of my original contract. It appears the second one is delayed in processing. At least it's figured out! I just might not get my first pay check due to the delay. 


Thanks everyone.

Edited by almosttherebutnotreally
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