By Seán McKillen
Welcome to Week 9 of the semester. I just have a few quick notifications to start off. The Childcare Bursary applications have now closed. They will reopen in January 2016. The Student Assistance Fund application process is still open. It is an online application this year, and all details can be found on the UL Access Office website and in the emails I have already sent out. The Research Induction Day is taking place on Thursday 12 November in the Castletroy Park Hotel. This is for all new postgraduate researchers. You should have received notification at this stage from the Graduate School. If you haven’t, then you should contact Anne O’Dwyer in the admissions office.
In October 2014 I got involved in a group called Workplace Watch. This was a group of individuals from all parts of the University; students, admin staff, lecturing staff that came together to publicise the issue of precarious employment at Ireland’s universities. We organised a well-attended one day seminar back in December which featured speakers such as Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly and representatives from Third Level Workplace Watch. Slowly the issue of precarious employment is being talked about more and more across the campus. Whether this was a result of our activities, or the increasing prevalence of JobBridge type work being forced upon new applicants to this sector, we can’t say. The good news is that UL Workplace Watch is back after a brief hiatus and we will continue our work from last year.
People are waking up to the problems in Ireland’s university system. Postgraduate researchers in particular are taking on more teaching work than ever. The remuneration for these duties is decreasing every semester, and now many are being coerced into teaching for little or no pay. This is not right, and this will not be tolerated any further. We are now working in a system where people are at the mercy of a decent supervisor or Head of Department if they want to get paid. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of decent people who are doing their best to make sure that their students are not exploited in this increasingly perverse system. Some staff now feel that showing their managers that they can cut budgets down to the bone and still maintain a quality service is their only way of climbing the ladder. This is patently false. This will only lead to declining standards which will have a knock on effect across the university. I hope you will all consider joining the pushback against this culture of casualisation of labour.