On Friday 5th June, UCD Anti Casualisation (UCD-AC) penned an open letter to the management of University College Dublin (UCD) requesting a meeting by the end of June. On the same day, UCD-AC suggested that the group would “move towards unionisation” of its members.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the group, which claims to represent “precarious academic workers”, said that “while the neoliberal ghouls are priming themselves to take advantage of this upcoming recession through their ‘shock doctrine’ policy” their members should not be worried as “the embryo for a broad-based Post-Graduate Workers Alliance at UCD” has been created.
The group say that they will move towards the unionisation of its members and by “advancing [their] demands through the withdrawal of [their] labour”. The College Tribune reached out to UCD-AC and asked what steps had been undertaken to officially register the proposed Union. The group said that their statement regarding unionisation “reflects an ongoing discussion and we have not taken any decision yet in terms of what is the best road to take in this respect.” The group did not give evidence that they had undertaken any of the formal steps to form a recognised union but explained: “We have had representatives of SIPTU and IFUT at some of our meetings”, and indicated that they would continue to “co-operate with” UCD Students’ Union.
The group’s open letter comes after the University Management Team accepted a request to meet the group in February following a petition and a previous open letter. The group contends that graduate workers in UCD are experiencing overwork and underpayment in teaching and marking, as well as being subjected to “unfair hiring practices”. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the meeting was postponed.
As the academic year is coming to an end, the group wishes to request a meeting before the end of June. The group says that UCD’s most recent communications regarding “the organisation of teaching and learning” for the coming trimester raise a number of issues and are asking for clarification and guarantees that the pandemic will not worsen the circumstances that graduate workers are currently operating in.
The group is demanding that academic workers will not lose pay due to the cancellation of classes as a result of the pandemic. They demand that academic staff be compensated for all extra duties “required by the circumstances”, receive paid training for engaging in e-learning and to be compensated for any pay loss incurred where “logistical issues make class cancellations and technical unemployment unavoidable”.
UCD-AC claim that [sic] “no guarantee or precision were given on sanitary measures” for students and academic staff despite assurances from UCD that “small classes” are planned to take place in the coming trimester. Further, the group stated, “our legitimate fear is that the number of ‘small classes’ will also be reduced, leading to a downsizing of the precarious academic workforce.” UCD-AC state that they are worried that the exceptional measures caused by the pandemic will slowly become the norm.
UCD is being projected to make a loss of up to €100 million this year as a result of the ongoing pandemic, however, UCD-AC stated that they will oppose any cuts to their members’ pay and instead “strongly maintain” their position that their pay must be increased.
Hugh Dooley – Reporter