Motion to withdraw mandated support for PWO group backed by supermajority of Part Time Officers

TCDSU has said that the motion is motivated by “allegations of harassment towards TCDSU volunteers during previous Postgrad elections, which are currently being brought to the Junior Dean”

The motion to withdraw mandated support for the Postgraduates Workers Organisation (PWO) was backed by a majority of Union Forum (UF).

The motion is being proposed by TCDSU Education Officer Catherine Arnold and seconded by Welfare & Equality Officer Aoife Bennett, Communications & Marketing Officer Aiesha Wong and Ents Officer Olivia Orr, as well as all of the TCDSU Part Time Officers (PTOs) with the exception of the Gender Equality Officer. 

According to a statement issued by TCDSU, two people, including Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) President László Molnárfi, voted against the motion in Union Forum.

TCDSU have issued a statement to Trinity News on the motion clarifying “some unclear information”. They have noted that “the motion mandates the removal of a preexisting motion which supports phD groups – specifically the Postgraduate Workers Organisation – from 2021”.

They noted that this “is not a withdrawal of support for Postgraduate students as TCDSU is constitutionally mandated and has always represented all students at TCD”. 

They clarified that if the motion passes: “Postgraduate student representation will remain the same as it previously has been, and they will continue to avail of the services provided by TCDSU.”

“The motion passing does not mean cutting all ties with the PWO, and the SU has met with PWO members previously, where we affirmed our willingness to work alongside them.”

They said that this motion is motivated by “allegations of harassment towards TCDSU volunteers during previous Postgrad elections, which are currently being brought to the Junior Dean”.

This was subsequently brought to Union Forum for reconsideration of TCDSU’s endorsement of the PWO. TCDSU notes that removal of this mandate does not remove support, representation and services offered by TCDSU to Postgraduate students, which TCDSU is currently providing,” it said.

They emphasised that this motion “is seconded by supermajority within Union Forum (the primary decision-making body of the Union) with only 2 individuals having dissented, these being the President and the Gender Equality Officer”.

TCDSU also noted that “the President is constitutionally mandated to second all motions passed by supermajority of Union Forum” but say that Molnárfi has “so far refused to do so”. 

They said that this refusal to second the motion is why “the motion has been proposed by the Secretary to Union Forum (Education Officer) and seconded by all members of Union Forum who voted in favour of the motion”.

TCDSU said they are “highly concerned for the wellbeing of members of Council given the circulation of unclear information surrounding the motion” and “implores all students to be respectful and remember that we are all united”.

Yesterday, Molnárfi published a statement criticising the motion and encouraging students to speak against the motion. 

He said: “We must stand up to this union busting, attempt to drive a wedge in our unity and attack on solidarity between undergraduates and postgraduates,” he said.

“Postgraduate researchers are our TAs, correct our assignments and are the backbone of our College” he continued.

“They are struggling to eat and pay rent, are overworked and lack basic workers’ rights like minimum wage and parental leave. Strike action by the PWO is on the horizon, and they need our support at this critical moment.”

The motion, which is due to be brought to TCDSU Council tonight, is “to withdraw 2021/22-23 motion to support PhD groups from Schedule 4”. 

Schedule 4 states that TCDSU must “adopt a committed stance in support of the Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation”, including active participation in the PWO campaigns and collaboration on campus-based campaigns relevant to both the PWO and the TCDSU”.

The motion notes that “the PWO have been inconsistent with their communication to TCDSU as regards to our working relationship (for example; regarding the PWO status as a capitated or non-capitated body)”. 

“Furthermore, the PWO is solely a lobbying body, and the core aspect of representation and service provision (through casework) of postgraduate students to Trinity College Dublin is being carried out predominantly by TCDSU,” it said.

The motion also notes “with concern” that “identifiable PWO members have allegedly harassed other Union members during the vote of several postgraduate committees after issues arose regarding said election’s integrity caused by their own alleged breach of election regulations”. 

The proposers note that “this was escalated with several statements being released on the PWO’s behalf to such an extent that the PWO have denied all claims of harassment” and “the withdrawal of this motion would remove the obligation to support the PWO, but this would not remove the mandate and obligation to support all postgraduate students or any possible future working relationship with the PWO”.

Council will take place in the Stanley Quek lecture theatre in the TBSI building tonight, Tuesday October 17 at 6:30pm.

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.