The young researchers of the CSIC mobilize

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There are nearly 1,500 young researchers, and although they have not yet submitted their theses, they defend being the backbone of the CSIC, the most prestigious state scientific institution in Spain. However, they denounce that this body He owes them more than 300,000 euros for not having updated their salaries and it denies them labor rights enjoyed by other types of workers.

For this reason, scientists from different centers of the organization prepare several grouped lawsuits against the Higher Council for Scientific Research. The Spanish investigation “is supported by the work force of temporary and precarious personnel”, who “are denied compensation for this effort, despite the fact that without them it would be directly doomed to collapse”tells RTVE.es Alejandro Sánchez Berrocal, predoctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and one of the promoters of the mobilization.

At the Center for Human and Social Sciences, where he works, the Network of Doctoral Students to which he belongs has calculated that the predoctoral staff (those who are in the process of writing their thesis) has made 50% of the contribution to academic performance, despite being only a small part of the entire workforce. “And we have never received any remuneration for it,” he denounces, despite the fact that permanent workers do receive a supplement for productivity. It is because, he clarifies, that these temporary investigators are excluded from the general agreement of the General Administration of the State and therefore cannot receive supplements like this and others such as seniority.

Sánchez denounces the “paradoxical” situation of the CSIC, since at the same time that its recognition has grown after the pandemic, it “invisible and ignores” young researchers, who “support science in Spain,” he says. But the problem is not limited to this institution, he points out. “Both in research centers and in universities we are the last monkeys. Although we are one of the groups that produce the most, we are treated like second-rate researchers”assures Olaya Dorado, a geologist at Geosciences Barcelona-CSIC and also part of the mobilization.

Both in research centers and universities we are the last monkeys. Although we are one of the groups that produce the most, we are treated as second-class researchers

“The CSIC is paying less than the minimum that corresponds to us”

The long struggle of predoctoral researchers to enjoy rights similar to those of other workers experienced an important victory in 2019, with the approval of the Statute of Predoctoral Research Staff in Training (EPIPF). This forced the CSIC to update the salaries they charge -between 56% and 75% of that of a State Administration official- based on the latest agreement.

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“And yet ever since the CSIC never applied it and was illegally paying less than the minimum of what corresponded to us”Sanchez points out. The debts range from 50 to 820 euros. In his case, there are more than 600. The researchers recall that their salaries barely exceed one thousand euros per month in the first three years of the contract, so it might seem like a small amount, for them it represents a significant percentage of their salaries.

Dorado calls it “outrageous.” “We are not charging the minimum set by law, but if you live in cities like Barcelona, ​​that minimum is not even enough to live comfortably. I arrive with many problems at the end of the month”, it states.

We are not charging the minimum set by law, but if you live in cities like Barcelona that minimum is not even enough to live comfortably. I arrive with many problems at the end of the month

After the start of the mobilization and the meeting of the first assembly, just two weeks ago, the CSIC promised to update the salaries with respect to the agreement and to pay the arrears “at a later stage”, according to an internal email to which RTVE.es has had access. “I was waiting for that salary increase, but I see the payroll and my net income has dropped. It seems that they are playing a joke on you,” says Álvaro de la Gándara, from the Margarita Salas-CSIC Biological Research Center. They owe him more than 500 euros.

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CSIC: “The new predoctoral contracts will be included in the agreement”

From the institution they respond to RTVE.es that, based on the new science law, the new predoctoral contracts will be included in the agreementbut the situation of researchers with contracts currently in force will not change. Regarding salaries, they point out that “As soon as possible and within the possibilities of management” the arrears will be entered caused by not having updated the salary to the current agreement. In another internal email, they acknowledge that they do not know “when or how they will be paid”.

For the investigators, the fact that the new hires are included but not them in the agreement supposes a “comparative grievance”, for which they will continue with the complaints. They are working on several grouped demands to the provincial instances where the centers where the affected people work are located, and his intention is to present them before the summer.

Doomed to go abroad or to private enterprise

All the scientists interviewed agree in assessing the advances of recent years. Until 2011, their contracts were considered scholarships and they did not have the right to contribute, and it was not until just two months ago that the Termination of contract compensation for predoctoral students, another of its historical claims. “It was a super basic thing that you already had the right to in any other job. We are going little by little, but obviously there is still a lot to do,” says Samara Martín, from the Center for Molecular Biology-CSIC.

The problem, he says, is that “it seems that because we have chosen a vocational career we cannot have rights of any kind.” Precariousness pushes many young people like Martín abroad. “It makes me sad because many people ask me if I am going to try to stay here and the answer is directly no. Here there are good people who work a lot, but there is no money to do good research projects,” he laments.

Dorado is in a similar situation, and he will finish his thesis here, but he plans to emigrate later due to the “brutal precarious and unstable conditions” in which he lives. A drama, says Da la Gándara, since these researchers are “the quarry” of Spanish research. “We are people with a tremendous vocation, who have chosen this career ahead of others that are much more economically profitable, but in the end, by saving two dollars, they are turning us into people who are disgusted and want to go to a pharmaceutical company or to another country. They are destroying Spain’s pool of scientists,” judgment.

“In the end, by saving two pesos they are turning us into people who are disgusted and want to go to a pharmaceutical company or to another country”

Before this panorama, in recent years something has begun to move in Spanish science. In 2020, the FPU Investiga collective was created, which brings together the researchers who have received this prestigious contract -University Teacher Training- and who have fought against delays in aid or in the resolution of contracts and for the extension of extensions for the pandemic.

Now, the recent mobilization at the CSIC has brought together many researchers from different centers and cities who had not previously organized among themselves. An incipient Network of Doctoral Students has been born that brings them together and they have already achieved some victories, such as the commitment to update salaries, although they want more. “If the lawsuit is filed, it will be quite a collective thing, because this affects absolutely all of us”concludes Martin.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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