At a meeting on the 9th of October, the UCD Students’ Union decided to hold a Consultative Referendum to poll a section of its membership on their views in relation to the supports offered to PhD Researchers and potential collective action.
The polling date for the referendum was set for the 24th of October, and polling was to take place online.
This decision was taken by the Union Executive on delegated authority from Union Council, outlined in section 9.1 of the UCDSU Constitution, to coincide with the ballots taking place across other Students’ Unions in the country to maximise engagement.
On October 16th, at the first Student Council of the 2023/2024 academic year, Union Council voted to ratify the Executive’s decision to put forward this referendum. 242 postgraduate researchers at UCD took part in the referendum. The total valid poll was 225, only 14.5% of the postgraduate researchers who are currently working at UCD.
There were only five questions included in the referendum, each gauging the attitudes of postgraduate researchers on the results of the recent budget and the possibility of collective action.
The results of the referendum show that 88% of postgraduate researchers who voted were not satisfied with the outcomes from the recent government review of state supports for PhDs. 82% of postgraduate researchers indicated that they would be willing to partake in collective action such as a full withdrawal of labour, and 89% indicated that they would partake in a partial withdrawal of labour.
Speaking to The College Tribune and on social media, a large number of eligible voters described issues voting in the referendum, specifying that their votes either did not process, accidentally only entered their vote for question 1, or had their ballot enter without allowing them to vote in some questions on the ballot.
Daryl Horan, UCSU Returning Officer, spoke to the College Tribune on the issue saying; “UCD Students’ Union used the same MSL voting system as was used since May 2020. But the Returning Office & UCD Students’ Union has been in the process of moving to an alternative voting system prior to this referendum.”
The Students’ Union has had issues with the MSL electronic voting system since it was adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A source with knowledge of the Union’s planning told The College Tribune that the Union is looking to move away from relying on the electronic voting system.
The Returning Officer continued “Nineteen students contacted the Union reporting issues with voting. By the close of voting the vast majority of these had been resolved.”
The Returning Officer concluded by saying “The issues raised undoubtedly had an impact on the ability of students to vote. Where students contacted the Returning Office, these were resolved in the vast majority of cases but in cases where they didn’t reach out. There is always the possibility of students being turned away without contacting the Returning Office.”
UCD Students’ Union have a mandate, which was passed in April 2023, to support and platform the work of the Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO).
Emma Hanrahan and Hugh Dooley – Co-Editors