The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and SIPTU have today announced a joint charter calling for stronger workers’ rights for postgraduate students and laying out demands from higher education institutions regarding the treatment of postgraduate students.
Among the demands made by the unions are that postgraduates have the right to a living income while studying, have access to work supports and be paid for all hours worked on behalf of their institution with a written agreement in place to protect their rights as workers.
The charter also calls for postgraduates to have access to a “fair and independent” grievances procedure within their college and pay “no more than a fair and sustainable rent” for student accommodation.
Announcing the charter, USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “The Trade Union Movement and Student Movement have come together to ignite a flame for postgraduate rights, we are sick and tired of hearing the horror stories that come from postgraduates such as their conditions as workers and the lack of stability in their work.”
She added that postgraduates “need to be listened to and treated fairly with respect in their workplace” stressing that it is it “of the highest importance that HEI’s take into consideration the challenges facing students at postgraduate level and put the proper procedures in place as per the USI-SIPTU Postgraduate Charter”.
USI Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, Sara Dowling warned that the current situation leaves postgraduates in Ireland in a “dangerous grey area when it comes to their representation and rights protections”.
Dave Curran, SIPTU Assistant Industrial Organiser stated that the campaign was focused on PhD students who he said faced an income and living standards that “is of great concern to the trade union movement and the student movement”.
Curran noted that the two organisations hoped to build a “grassroots campaign” to establish their character as common practice across Ireland.
Earlier this month USI and SIPTU renewed an agreement between the two organisations that stated that they would continue to work together on joint campaigns and that USI members would be entitled to automatic membership of SIPTU.
Earlier this month, a Trinity PhD workers rights group was established to advocate for the recognition and protection of working rights of PhD students in Trinity and other Irish universities.
Among the group’s central aims are the recognition of PhD students as workers, with contracts and full employee and collective bargaining rights; an end to unpaid teaching; and PhD stipends based on the living wage.
At an initial meeting the group established working groups and made plans to create a petition and gain the Graduates Students’ Union’s (GSU) official support.