USI and SIPTU launch postgrad charter

Anja Zauers

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and SIPTU have partnered up together to create a Postgraduate Working Rights Charter highlighting and protecting the working rights of postgraduate students in third-level education.

The charter, which was issued on Wednesday, 30th October, was launched to encourage colleges and universities to ensure postgraduates are being paid for their work.

At the launch, SIPTU and USI representatives called for an end to precarious working conditions for postgraduate students.

USI Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, Sara Dowling explained how the charter is ‘incredibly important as it bridges the gap on the grey area that many Postgraduates (particularly PhDs) experience – falling somewhere between a student and an employee on behalf of the Institute.’

The 14 point charter includes points relating to proper access to work supports and research facilities, advocation for the Living Wage for all hours worked, access to affordable and sustainable accommodation, and proper representation by Students Unions’ or Trade Unions where appropriate. It also recognises that a postgraduate student should be paid for hours worked as part of their degree and that they are entitled to receive a statement of their terms of work.

Ms Dowling also added that ‘Postgraduates who complete their courses while engaging in working capacities are severely underrepresented when it comes to their rights, often facing neglect and isolation as a result, as well as major personal, academic and financial pressures’.

The charter was developed in response to a survey carried out last year for postgraduate students which highlighted their precarious working environments and lays out what the trade Union Movement along with the Student Movement in Ireland expect from HEI’s.

In a statement SIPTU Sector Organiser, Karl Byrne shared how ‘postgraduates are doing precarious work to earn their degree and are not being recognised by their institutions as workers. Because of this, these postgraduates are given no stability of wage, leading to a serious crisis in their standard of living. ’

USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick shared her disgust at how postgraduate students are treated, ‘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 employment.” and added that these students need to be ‘treated fairly with respect in their workplace.’

The introduction of the charter hopes to highlight and better support students working in a professional capacity as part of or in line with the completion of their degree.

Anja Zauers

Image Credit: USI