PSA Early Career Network 2 February 2023

This month, thousands of staff throughout higher and further education are exercising their right to take industrial action. The Political Studies Association Early Career Network (PSA ECN) recognises that they have not taken the decision lightly, and they do so in extraordinary times in which the costs of living have skyrocketed. We echo the stance of the wider PSA in expressing our full support and solidarity to ECN members, PSA members, and other colleagues across our own and other sectors who will be taking industrial action.  

The vibrancy and diversity of our profession is threatened by multiple challenges. Anaemic wage growth and soaring inflation has left staff facing real-terms pay cuts. Employment contracts are increasingly precarious, and workloads are expanding leading to the very real threat of burnout. For colleagues from minority groups, these unsustainable conditions are often more harshly pronounced as inequalities continue to structure the university as a workplace. 

Many early career researchers (ECRs) face extreme difficulties in choosing whether and how to take strike action. Precarity can make it difficult and costly to speak out and take action, particularly as we experience a cost-of-living crisis. We emphasise our compassion, support and solidarity with those that would like to join colleagues in taking industrial action but whose existing precarious working conditions mean they cannot afford to do so.  

Additionally, we emphasise our continued support and solidarity with all ECN members who are not part of a trade union or not employed in colleges or universities. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive environment for all members, no matter their professional or personal backgrounds or circumstances. 

We will postpone some ECN activities out of respect for those on strike and to enable them to get involved in the future. Any changes to our programming will be communicated through the usual channels. 

The ECN Committee further recognises the fundamental challenges to workers from different sectors, including teachers, nurses and other public sector workers who feel they have no choice but to take action. We extend our solidarity to those workers, too. 

Our Chair, Taylor Borowetz, adds: 

The ECN’s mission is to support early career researchers. To me, the category “early career researcher” exists because it signifies a shared mode of labouring within a career stage foundationally defined by material precarity. The ECN cannot meaningfully alleviate these circumstances; I encourage our members to make their voices heard, whether taking action contiguous with workers’ struggle or other modes of praxis, to enact a more just, creative, and life-affirming higher education.
Taylor Borowetz, PSA ECN Chair