The PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) and the Postgraduate Workers Alliance Ireland (PGWA) have announced that the two unions will act as one body known as the Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation upon completion of a merger between the two organisations.
The two groups have passed a memorandum of understanding that will align their goals in purpose, direction and approach until the merger is complete.
PCAU and PGWA have also begun a joint membership drive calling all postgraduate researchers to join the groups.
The nationwide membership drive comes after the PCAU and PGWA published their joint Fair Postgraduate Researcher Agreement (FRA) in December, which outlined the groups’ demands for postgraduate researchers including a liveable stipend, worker status under the law and an improvement in conditions and visa requirements for non-EU researchers.
The two groups have also called on postgraduate researchers to submit their experiences to the ongoing review of PhD supports currently taking place, with the aim of ensuring that “Minister Harris and his review understand the full breadth of systemic difficulties faced by PhDs all over Ireland, and to remind all stakeholders of the tangible human impacts of poor PhD conditions and lack of workers’ rights”.
In a press release on the merge and the membership drive published earlier today, PCAU President Kyle Hamilton said: “The complexity and lack of cohesion in the funding system for Postgraduate research in Ireland has led to the exploitation of postgraduate researchers at every level, from provision of stipends (or lack thereof!) to remuneration for teaching, demonstrating, and all the responsibilities that often come as a requirement of the PhD – sometimes in the form of free labour for the university”.
She continued: “As postgraduate researchers we need to come together to expose and stop these unfair practices and to ensure that each and every PGR is able to live and work in a dignified manner with a livable wage and all the benefits that accrue from employment status and union representation”.
In the same press release, Eoghan Ross, the Vice Chair of PGWA TCD, said: “Despite the vital roles that postgraduate researchers fill in universities in Ireland, they have been continuously denied access to basic workers rights, fair working conditions and a livable income”.
“Postgraduate researchers in Ireland need a union who know the issues faced and are able to fight for the changes we need”, he added.
“Formed by postgraduate researchers, the PWO is committed to seeing these changes brought about and is determined to see a fairer and more equitable future for Irish research”.
Cristina Perea del Olmo, Chair of PGWA UCD, added: “PhD researchers in Ireland play a crucial role in maintaining the level of research excellence and provide invaluable work for education at Universities”.
“In spite of this, we live in a systematically precarious situation of low pay and denial of basic rights. Numerous European countries have already acknowledged the need to recognise PhD researchers as workers and have acted accordingly.”
She finished: “With this membership drive we will be able to unite as a formal organisation of PhD researchers across Ireland to demand the necessary reform that will recognise us as workers and assure minimum standards to protect our rights”.