Postgraduates protest lab workers’ pay cuts outside finance committee meeting

Around 70 protesters gathered outside House 1 this morning

Around 70 protesters gathered outside a meeting of College’s Finance Committee in House 1 this morning, chanting “postgrad rights are workers rights” and “hey hey ho ho, pay cuts have got to go”, in response to a decision by College to cut the pay rates of casual teaching staff.

The protest was organised by Trinity’s Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) and was attended by representatives of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and Trinity PhD Workers Rights group.

As members of the Finance Committee entered House 1 the crowd shouted: “Good morning, don’t cut our pay.”

Speaking to Trinity News, Katarzyna Siewiersak, one of the organisers of the protest and a PhD student in the school of physics explained that revised pay rates for demonstrators, who guide students working in laboratories, have been cut from €21.02 down to a bracket of €19 to €17 representing a potential reduction of around 20%.

The pay cut affects anyone in College under the “demonstrators” label which includes a large number of PhD students as well as postdoc casual employees.

Shaz Oye, President of the GSU, told Trinity News that the turnout for the protests demonstrated that GSU members are “really angry” and are “agitated and agitating”. Oye noted that the pay cut “adversely affects any of the members of the GSU who are Teaching Assistants and Demonstrators”, adding that they “rely heavily” on the additional work that they get teaching to top up their PhD stipend.

Oye stated that the people who would be affected by the cut were already “the most vulnerable workers in College” and to cut their pay “is not justifiable and not understandable”.

The pay cut was introduced to bring the hourly rate of casual staff in line with that of casual staff. However, Oye stated that given the fact that casual staff “dont enjoy the same protections and salaries as permanent staff” that the hourly rate should be different.

Sara Dowling, the USI’s Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, who was in attendance at the protest alongside the union’s Deputy President and Vice President for Campaigns Michelle Byrne, said that the USI are “delighted to support the PhD community in Trinity”.

Speaking to Trinity News, Dowling said that the pay cut was “part of a wider issue” of PhD students being “neglected” within their institutions.

Also represented at the protest was TCDSU, in the form of President Laura Beston. Beston stated that it was important for the union to “stand with PhD workers”. She urged the FInance Committee to reconsider their decision, stating that it is “really impacting people’s lives”.

The GSU has organised a meeting for tomorrow evening to further discuss the issue.

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.