Casual Teaching Staff in Trinity College Dublin are raising questions about the legality of their employment as talks to possible pay cuts are underway.
Several Teaching Assistants, who are employed by Colleges to give seminars, lab demonstrations and the occasional lecture have expressed how they feel ‘exploited’ and undervalued’ in how they are treated by the college.
On average most teaching assistants earn less than €10,000 per year, resulting in many seeking part-time employment.
On February 4th, around 70 protesters gathered outside a meeting of the College’s Finance Committee, chanting “hey hey ho ho, pay cuts have got to go,” after the college announced they would be making pay cuts to its causal teaching staff.
Trinity’s Graduate Student Union (GSU) organised the protest and was supported by representatives of Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU), Trinity PhD Workers Rights group and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
Katarzyna Siewiersak, PhD student in the School of Physics from Trinity College explained to Trinity News 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 per cent.
This pay cut will affect the number of PhD students as well as casual employees and was introduced to bring the hourly rate of casual staff in line with that of permanent staff.
The revised rates of pay were included in a document that said the rates of pay were reduced “on the premise that work carried out on a casual or occasional basis should not be remunerated at a higher rate than salaried staff carrying out similar work.”
Sara Dowling, the USI’s Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs expressed how the USI is “delighted to support the PhD community in Trinity.”
Laura Beston, President of TCDSU, attended the protest and stated how important it is for the union to “stand with PhD workers” and encouraged the finance Committee to reconsider their decision.
The following day, another meeting was held in the Maxwell theatre in Trinity’s Hamilton building where PhD students continued to express their anger at the college’s finance committee to cut the pay of causal staff who work as lab demonstrators.
Trinity has since postponed its decision to cut the pay. However, the matter is set to be discussed again at the next Finance Committee meeting.
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