The Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance (PGWA) Galway have released a petition calling for a reversal of the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) policy that was implemented in the University of Galway at the start of the 2022/23 academic year.
The petition, signed by staff, faculty and over 200 PhD students, was delivered to University of Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh and Deputy President and Registrar Pól Ó Dochartaigh on Friday.
In a press release explaining the petition, PGWA said: “[The GTA] unilaterally modifies the terms and conditions of teaching, including a substantial payment reduction for PhD workers. It also removes previous claimable activities such as exam correction, work relevant emails, and marking assignments”.
“The new policy raises serious concerns for our community and comes amidst a growing cost of living and housing crisis, which rapidly deteriorate our ability to have a living wage”, they added.
“Schools within the university have interpreted the policy differently, creating further confusion and pay disparity among PhDs.”
Addressing the demands outlined in the petition, PGWA stated that they want “to see the immediate reversal of the decision to reduce teaching pay” and that they “want the university to recognise [PhD students] as formal employees, guaranteeing [them] maternity leave, sick leave and holiday pay”. They also “want to see the university make a sincere effort to ensure PhD workers are paid a living wage of €28,000 per annum”.
Criodán Ó Murchú, the Postgraduate Representative of the University of Galway’s Governing Authority, agreed with PGWA’s demands. In the same press release, he said: “For too long, the university has seen PhDs as a scapegoat to complete unpaid and time-consuming work”.
“PhDs are the backbone of research and technological development in universities and deserve to be recognised as such. To be adequately remunerated for their arduous work is at the very least a fair ask, along with proper recognition as employees of the university”, he continued.
“Recently, the university scrapped the 120 hours of unpaid tutoring for PhD candidates. However, they have simultaneously cut PhD pay down to tutoring rates, regardless of preparation time and if it is lecture substitution. These unjust practices must come to an end.”
The PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) also came out in support of the petition. Matt Murtagh, the PCAU Data Officer, said: “Refusing to pay [postgraduate] researchers for teaching work disproportionately hurts non-EU PhDs, who already earn much less than EU-registered PhDs due to extra governmental and college fees they must pay”.
“To take away their pay during a rising cost of living crisis will force them and all [postgraduates] affected further into poverty and severely damage the quality of teaching they are able to deliver to undergraduate students.“