On October 5th, the Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO) met at 9:30 in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin to protest unfair working conditions.
The protest began in Trinity College and the group of approximately one hundred postgraduate researchers (PGRs) walked up towards the Dáil to demand a living wage from the government,
The majority of PhD stipend in Ireland is 22% below minimum wage. In addition, postgraduate researchers currently have no right to maternity leave or sick days with postgraduate workers from outside the EU facing additional barriers.
The group carried flags and placards that read ‘Simon Antoinette – let them eat cake’, ‘My back hurts from carrying my whole department’ and ‘Top 100 [university] for research, last for living standards’ and chanted “Pay hike or we’re going on strike”.
The group braved the rain to stand outside of the Dáil for an hour to listen to key speakers.
Speakers included Richard Boyd Barrett, TD for People Before Profit, who said that it was “absolutely unacceptable that postgrad researchers should be expected to live on what is in effect less than minimum wage.”
Speaking to the College Tribune, Rory Burke, Vice-President of PWO Ireland and a postgraduate worker at UCD said that the protest was important as “we are severely underpaid.”
“We also do not have worker status so we do not get sick leave or parental leave, we don’t have PRSI contributions, and it also means that if you are a postgraduate researcher from outside the EU you are subject to sever visa laws.”
Burke continued by saying that most postgraduate workers are “involved in teaching undergraduates in some way” as part of their programme and that “these are roles that are almost always obligatory, but they are not always paid.”
He continued by saying that “there is absolutely no way that universities could carry out their current teaching schedules if there were not PhD researchers there to prop them up” and threatened to take industrial action if the PWO’s demands were not met in the upcoming budget.
The Postgraduate Workers Organisation is a new union formed out of the old PGWA and a number of other Postgraduate unions, reflecting this, Mr. Burke said, “Over the next few months we need to continue to grow our union, across all of the universities in Ireland to make sure that whatever comes out of the budgets they know it’s not enough…”
“This is an ongoing fight.”
Emma Hanrahan & Hugh Dooley – Co-Editors