Deadline for universities to meet ultimatum passed: time for action

On 20 december, an ultimatum directed at the universities passed. Temporary contracts and high work pressure have not been adequately addressed, the protesters say. Now what?

During the opening of the academic year in September, Rens Bod from WOinAction presented the minister with his so-called ‘alternative budget’. (Photo: HOP)

Action group 0.7 had three demands which were supported by WOinActie and Casual Academy: fewer temporary contracts, an end to “structural overwork” by scrapping a third of the assigned duties, and a “safe working environment” with zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct.

Perhaps it was short notice for the universities, because the ultimatum only landed on their plates in September. But the problems have been known for years, Professor Remco Breuker of WOinActie asserts.

After the ultimatum deadline had passed, 0.7 issued a statement saying that not enough had been done to meet their demands. There had been discussions with university administrators, but these have not lead to the desired results everywhere, not by a long shot.

The action group received the most compliant response from Utrecht University. They have “taken giant steps”, according to the action group, and have launched a financial plan (in Dutch) to relieve workload pressure and tackle problems around temporary contracts.

Valentine’s Day will see the launch of the campaign ‘University love is not reciprocal’.

Radboud University Nijmegen is still conducting discussions about social safety, but this has not yet led to any real changes. “If Utrecht can come up with a plan to systematically tackle the sky-high workload pressure and temporary contracts, why can’t Radboud do it?”, the action group asked themselves.

On Friday, Leiden University posted its own statement online. It states that lecturers who perform structural work should get a permanent contract. But that’s not enough, as far as 0.7 is concerned. “In the same statement they say that shorter contracts will remain an option in some cases.”

Maastricht University, University of Groningen and University of Amsterdam have not reacted yet to the demands, the activists say. The other universities are not mentioned by 0.7.

More pressure
he action group has concluded that more action and pressure is needed to get the problems solved. They will be organising protests, including online protests, in the coming months. Valentine’s Day will see the launch of the campaign ‘University love is not reciprocal’.

The unions are not preparing any protests yet. They are concentrating their energy on the new collective labour agreement (CLA). Although the General Union of Education is keeping the door ajar. “We are sympathetic to these protests. We also stood shoulder to shoulder at the opening of the academic year. There are already strong agreements in the current CLA about tackling workload pressure and flexible contracts. For now, we will be closely following how these agreements are implemented and where necessary taking action”, Marijtje Jongsma of the General Union of Education says.

The FNV is watching the protests from the side-lines and waiting for the new CLA negotiations. “One thing we noticed is that a few places have shown a lack of urgency about making work of the agreements in the current CLA, such as writing up realistic job descriptions for university employees. That’s a shame”, says executive member Jan Boersma. The CLA expires at the end of March and new negotiations will begin. The FNV will be pushing for more permanent contracts for lecturers in the new CLA.

HOP, Josefine van Enk
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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