Yearly Recap 2023

As we step into the new year of 2024, we want to take a moment to reflect on the incredible journey we've had as a union throughout 2023 and celebrate the significant achievements we've collectively accomplished in the past year. Your dedication and activism have propelled us forward, making a lasting impact on the EUI and the lives of researchers. 

Grant Equality and Structural Reforms

Two years after our founding, we are pleased to see substantial progress in the effort to raise minimum grant levels. Countries such as Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Greece have responded to our advocacy, showcasing the power of collective action. While continuing to stress the need for a minimum grant level that reflects the cost of living in Florence, we are also pushing for long-term reform towards grant equality. 

Our engagement in the question of grant equality and structural reforms reflects our commitment to our claim of "Equal Job - Equal Pay!" We believe in championing solidarity and equality among researchers, which cannot be done without structural reforms regarding grants and researcher representation in EUI decision-making. With our intervention at the December High Council, we made our demands heard and stressed the importance of real change at EUI. Following the positive feedback to our intervention from members of the High Council, the Union Board is actively opening new channels of communication with Members of the High Council, aiming to secure better researcher representation.

We recognize the complexity of this topic and hope to continue this discussion with all researchers and EUI community members.

Achievements of Migration, Gender, Sexual Orientation and Intersectionality Working Group

We have actively contributed in the production of a survey with the Reps, addressing the role of migrant status, gender, SO and other identities on the working conditions of EUI researchers. Lots of the questions we prepared as a WG are open-ended, as we don’t want to refine or make implicit assumptions about the experiences of affected researchers. Our efforts were motivated by the need to coordinate efforts of meaningful data collection and analysis on such a serious topic, rather than have these data collected and analysed separately by different committees. 

We have been actively following the developments regarding the notorious Protocol between Italy and Albania to be applied on refugees rescued by Italian authorities in the open sea. Pursuant to the Protocol, Italy agreed with Albania to transfer and retain the refugees in ‘leased’ Albanian soil. The ‘leased’ area will be permeated by Italian law. As a WG and EUIRU, we have actively condemned the implications of the Protocol for severe human rights violations. In this respect, we have actively collaborated with FlorenceMustAct as well as joined them in a sit-in on 16th of December 2023. 

Achievements of Climate Justice Working Group

We have been in contact with the EUI administration and heads of departments regarding the climate impact of research missions. We are concerned that the important aspect of missions’ climate impact has been neglected in the mission funding guidelines. Specifically, we observed that researchers choosing sustainable alternatives to airplanes often end up covering part of the costs themselves or resorting to airplanes because they cannot afford the additional costs. It is hence socially unjust and accelerates environmental crises.

We plan to continue working together with the heads of department and the administration on a plan towards a more sustainable and just funding scheme for mission travel. Other leading universities in Europe including the University of Vienna, Sciences Po Paris, the ETH Zurich, or the University of Cambridge have developed solutions to make their employees’ mobility more sustainable. We demand that the EUI implements similar arrangements. 

Achievements of Living and Working Conditions Working Group

In March 2023 the Union's FHS Taskforce submitted a report to the Living and Working Conditions WG about the Florence Housing Service. The concerns raised in this report continue to persist and the WG would be happy for any researchers willing to continue working on this issue. This will also shape our information campaign for the incoming 2024 cohort. We are also working on a campaign for the application cycle for the 2026 cohort. 

The success of the Sexual Harassment training organized by the Union spurred us to continue pressing the EUI administration for improved training and harassment policies. The establishment of a DEI Dean is a positive step, and we look forward to active engagement and collaboration on our proposals. We continue our call for mandatory and effective sexual harassment training, especially for faculty and staff.

If anyone is interested in helping to contribute to the work of any of the WGs please feel free to reach out to the Union. 

Other Union Updates

As we look back on these accomplishments, we are filled with gratitude for your unwavering support and commitment. The strength of our union lies in the passion and dedication of each member. Besides the above outlined efforts and achievements by the WGs, the Union has also supported and worked on the following issues.

Election of the Second Board

Electing our second Board this year is a significant milestone. It is a testament to our collective commitment to building the EUIRU into an independent institution that can effectively advocate for researchers in both the short and long term. We hope to continue to carry the successes of the Union into the new year and will continue to build the union, so that it may far outlast any of our presence at the EUI.

Meeting Patrizia Nanz (new president)

The EUIRU Board and the Researcher Reps had an initial meeting with the incoming president Patrizia Nanz, where we raised again our concerns regarding grant inequality, working and living conditions, and researcher representation in decision-making. We are looking forward to working together with President Nanz in the coming year and are hopeful that with a new President certain long-standing issues and structural reform efforts may receive a new impetus. 

Spanish Grant 

The sustained pressure of researchers has not only brought the Spanish grant situation to the forefront but has also resulted in active discussions and commitments by the Spanish government to increase grant levels. This is a testament to the strength of our united voice. We are eagerly accompanying this process and offer any and all support to our spanish colleagues. Unfortunately, this has not yet lead to a satisfactory outcome, but we are committed to continue in our efforts to attain a liveable and just stipend for all researchers. 

Cigna Health Insurance Advocacy

Following the grassroots email sent out by researchers to the administration regarding the issues of reproductive and gender affirming care, we are pleased to report that the EUI administration has contacted Cigna to discuss their coverage policy. The swift response and the EUI admin's engagement with the health insurance provider showcase the impact researchers can have when we unite for a common cause. We want to thank all those researchers that wrote the initial letter to the administration and we support their efforts. While this was not a Union initiative, we completely agree with the letter and we will continue to closely monitor these developments and follow up with the EUI administration. The provision of comprehensive, inclusive healthcare for all researchers is on the forefront of our agenda this year. 

Work with local activist groups

The Union is committed to establishing more of a presence in Florence and being more connected with local activists and groups that share our values. We have created invaluable contacts with our friends at Firenze Citta Aperta, Non Una Di Meno Firenze, Colletivo GKN, and Florence Must Act. Together, we are stronger and with strong contacts to the Florence civil society we hope to build networks of solidarity.