I have been following threads on this website for a few months now. However it's my first time posting. I am a postdoctoral researcher from a Western European country who has done reasonably well since my PhD a few years ago in terms of attracting funding, publishing, teaching etc. My professional situation for the next 2-3 years is secure (I have won a competitive European grant) and I am very happy with what I am doing research-wise. To be clear, this is not a rant & it isn't about me specifically.
I have recently completed a three-year postdoc in Austria in a humanities subject. What I have witnessed there has greatly upset me: I saw careers being shattered, research being stifled or appropriated, young researchers being exploited with promises of jobs that never came or work conditions that were so bad that they never finished their degrees, students 'bound' to their supervisors in ways that I would not have imagined possible in the 21st century, etc. In short, an incredible waste of talent and resources...
Now I am moving to another European country but I still feel very strongly about my experience in Austria and I wish I could do something about it. I know that what I have witnessed isn't unique to Austria, although things are perhaps worse there than anywhere else in Europe. In Austria I felt a sense of hopelessness I had never experienced before - people were just afraid to speak out and lose their jobs; in fact it was so bad that several co-workers turned to me for advice and support, despite my own situation being precarious.
At the time I realized that we had no-one to turn to for help. Works' committees were mostly for people with permanent jobs in the institute - not for students or people like me on short-term contracts. So here is my question: do you know any young researchers' professional associations or unions, perhaps at European level, with whom I could share my concerns? Surely the sort of problems described here are common in academia and there must be structures to represent us?