In my Department, since more and more staff are woefully underpaid provisional part-time associate teachers, there are fewer and fewer of us, tenured teachers, who can do the inevitable admin work. This is why I could not reject my appointment as Coordinator of our English Studies BA-style degree. For two years, possibly three, which would be the usual term.

It’s not one of those tasks you undertake for money but yesterday was quite funny in that regard, for in the morning I attended a UAB meeting in which we were told that Coordinators are crucial for the survival of the degrees and in the afternoon I got my first monthly payment: it turns out my university values this ‘crucial’ job at roughly 200 net euros a month (271 before taxes, 25%…).

We were told, of course, in that meeting how sorry the heavily bankrupt UAB is that we cannot be paid more, and having been Head of Department (2005-8) I know that the top position in that kind of unit is valued roughly at around 350 (after taxes). A basic fee for a plenary speaker at a conference is about 300 (a.t.) running up to 1,000; seminars are usually paid about 150 an hour (a.t.). I know, I know: I also get a teaching reduction (25% of my annual workload) and this extra money is on top of my monthly salary. As happens, though, with the recent pay cuts and the tax rate increase (more to come soon), my new salary, with the 200 euros addition, is just back to 2008 levels. Ergo: I’m now Coordinating for free…

I have promised myself to spend this money on extras, whether they are books or handbags, we’ll see. This may sound a bit naughty in the middle of the current crisis but somehow I need to get rid of that money fast or I’ll start thinking that I’ve got myself a considerable workload on top of my classes and research for money, which will make me feel exploited or, even worse, cheap. How heavy the added workload is going to be I don’t know yet, as the first months learning the ropes in admin positions are always the hardest ones. What I need to brace myself for are the many days lost to research because I must attend a very urgent meeting that is hardly ever truly urgent.

Am I complaining, cheeky me, being as I am a privileged worker unthreatened by unemployment (more or less)? Um, if you think about it, the key question here is that being a Coordinator was already badly paid in the good old days of the fat cows, pre-2007. If you ask me, I’d rather be paid less or even nothing but be given more time by doing less teaching –that’s the only way to save my research. Of course, in that case the UAB would have to hire a more expensive teaching replacement for me and that sums it up: it’s 200 euros and that’s final. And be grateful for small mercies (I am, I am…at least, I don’t work for Spanair…)

Here’s a final thought: the funny thing is that admin positions are not advertised as ways of earning extra income. It’s not done. I don’t know, there might be teachers up to their neck with mortgage payments who need the extra money sorely… It’s also inelegant to ask how much you’re going to be paid for extra jobs like this. As if we were above materialism… Odd, very odd.

PS: I’m writing this note on 23 February, when I already know that because of the UAB budget adjustments the extra money for admin tasks has been reduced to 50%… Yes, I’ll get the grand total of 100 euros!!!