Postgraduate workers get organised against extreme precarity and low pay

By Daragh King

The Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO) is the newly formed workers union for postgraduate researchers (PGRs1) in Ireland. The union was formed in early 2023 from the merger of the Postgraduate Workers Alliance of Ireland (PGWAI) and the Postgraduate Collective Action Union (PCAU). Today the union numbers over 1,200 members – approximately 13% of all PGRs in Ireland.

The key argument underlying the work of the PWO is that all PGRs should be recognised as workers under Irish law. Currently, PGRs carry out their roles in an ambiguous space where they’re treated as students but expected to fulfil the duties of full-time researchers. This predicament leaves PGRs wide open to exploitation.

Lack of meaningful rights 

  • At best, a PGR is paid only €7.88 an hour (based on a 40-hour work week). This is 22% below the minimum wage!
  • PGRs aren’t entitled to any form of protective leave such as sick leave.
  • PGRs aren’t afforded the protection of having a maximum average work week of 48 hours. PGRs often work 60+ hours a week, including overnight work.
  • For non-EU researchers, their time in Ireland as a PGR doesn’t count towards the pursuit of citizenship.
  • Additionally for non-EU PGRs, they’re forced to renew their residence permits each year at a personal cost.

The above is only a brief glimpse into the unjust treatment of this section of workers in Ireland. Time and again PGRs are made to suffer so that universities and colleges can gain from a system of super-exploitation. 

Despite the gloomy picture, the PWO has been actively fighting back. Over the past year the PWO and its predecessors have organised a number of successful protests, forcing the government to review the status and conditions of PGRs in Ireland. Although (as one would expect from the current government) this review has yet to be produced and is long past overdue.

Get organised today! 

Speaking as the Publicity Officer for the PWO, we are building towards large-scale industrial action later this year. In doing so we’re seeking to build alliances and solidarity with other worker-led movements and movements concerning oppressed and marginalised groups. Our demands are not going to be glossed over – the government and funding bodies will have to hear us! Capitalism is forcing us all to the brink, but together we can stand and throw our oppressors over the edge instead.

If you would like to reach out to the PWO please send us an email at All of our links and socials can be found here

1 Postgraduate (PG) researcher – A postgraduate (PG) researcher is any postgraduate whose main programme output is original research, including but not limited to PhDs and those on a Masters by Research programme.

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