By Ananda Patrasco
The Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO) is holding nationwide protests on 5 October. These protests are taking place to advocate for just pay and conditions and express dissatisfaction with the recent National Review into State supports for PhD researchers.
What are the protests about?
The PWO has, time and time again when entering the National Review, consistently highlighted their Fair Researcher Agreement as a possible basis for the reform of Doctoral training in Ireland. This document covers the need for universal stipend increases to ensure all undertaking PhDs in Ireland have a minimum income and for a change from student to worker status.
The highest stipend increase proposed by the National Review Report to €25,000 is still €3,000 under the recently announced 2023 National Living Wage.
Maia Purdue, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Galway, said: “Essentially what we are looking for is workers status because what we do is work.
They are happy to keep us as cheap labour without actually recognising our right to workers’ status and the protections that it would afford us.”
This protest is supported by the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The National Review Report
The PWO raise concerns about how the National Review has failed to sufficiently address the lack of access to sick and parental leave for researchers during and after their PhDs, non-EU visa reform and the difficulties faced by disabled Postgraduate researchers.
PWO Ireland President Conor Reddy said: “The government and the National Review they have conducted has totally failed to address the issues faced by PhD researchers across Ireland.
We are essential contributors to the delivery of higher education and the performance of research in this country, but the government are trying to short-change us, ignoring the issue of our status as workers, the urgent calls for a universal living income and the demand for visa reform for the sizeable proportion of researchers coming from non-EU countries.”
The PWO will start a consultative ballot of all Postgraduate Researchers in Ireland to plan future collective action, possibly including strikes, disruptive direct action and withdrawal of labour in specific roles.