Jeffrey Seathrún Sardina has been elected president of the Trinity Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO).
Sardina, who ran unopposed for the position, was returned with 94.4% of the vote at the organisation’s first Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Friday, September 1.
In addition to serving on the Steering Committee of the national PWO and with the Irish-language component of the organisation, Sardinia is a former Irish Language editor and Chair of the Editorial Board of the University Times. He is also a climate correspondent for RTÉ Raidío na Gaeltachta.
There were eighteen votes cast in the ballot. A single vote (5.6%) was cast to re-open nominations.
Speaking to Trinity News, Sardinia said he is “very happy” to be elected president of the PWO.
“My job now is to empower our members to win our rights,” he said. “My vision for PWO TCD is the same as that of the PWO in general: to empower a mass grass-roots movement.
“This will be a year for action. The 3-months-late government review on PhD supports made no meaningful suggestions regarding non-EU rights, disabled PhD rights, worker’s rights, working conditions, or the right to maternity/paternity leave.
“Yet that same document is now being used to slow progress on PhD rights and pay – colleges and agencies are delaying action until there is governmental action on the report, rather than taking responsibility themselves. It has become a form of legitimised apathy, rather than a guide to implementing PhD rights.”
A separate vote to approve the institution’s first constitution, put forward by Sardina, was accepted unanimously.
The new constitution aims to uphold the five main principles underlined in the PWO’s mission statement, including: basic rights and dignity, quick action, diversity, accountability, and institutional knowledge.
The PWO was formed earlier this year as a result of a merger of the PhD Collective Action Union (PCAU) and the Postgraduate Workers Alliance (PGWA).
Sardina has suggested that the use of direct action by the organisation is on the table for the forthcoming year, as it aims to see the delivery of an improvement in conditions for postgraduate students from both the government and from College.
In June, the PWO threatened strike action over the publication of a long-awaited review into supports for postgraduate researchers, which it said fell short on major key demands made during the consultative process, such as over the working status of researchers, entitlement to sick pay, and the provision of visas and immigration status to non-EU researchers.
“The review dashes the hopes of many who had hoped that their situation would improve soon. In the best case, some may be lifted just above the poverty line,” the PWO stated at the time.
“Ultimately, the review emphasises that postgraduate researchers cannot rely on the Government and Universities to fight for their best interests. They will have to organise and champion the struggle to improve their conditions themselves.”
The organisation was also responsible for a protest at an event attended by Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan in March, which led to the minister having to be escorted out of the J. M. Synge lecture theatre in the Arts Building via an emergency exit.