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14 June 2024

Student Life
& Society

Unions head to VU to protest against high workload

The universities are still not doing enough to combat the high workload, say the trade unions. And things are not moving swiftly with regard to permanent contracts either. They are going to protest next Tuesday.

On 25 April, the unions, along with some action groups, will again hold a demonstration for permanent contracts. That will take place at VU Amsterdam. They are also demanding a higher wage.

The unions are in the midst of negotiations over a new collective labour agreement in higher education; the unions say they are not going well. The next meeting with the employers is due on 8 May.

Pay rise

Because of the high inflation the unions want a substantial pay rise. The employers are sympathetic to this, but do not know whether it is possible. At the start of this month, they sent the government a letter asking for more money.

But according to the unions the employers are not exploring all options. Another issue is how you allocate a pay rise. The unions want higher salaries for employees in the lower pay scales in particular, says trade union FNV director Jan Boersma.

Permanent contracts are a sticking point as well. Postdocs and ordinary lecturers in particular often have flexible contracts. But there are huge differences from one university to another: at Erasmus University Rotterdam as many as 60 percent of the assistant professors have a temporary contract, against only 16 percent at Delft University of Technology.


In addition to pay rises and permanent contracts, workload is a major issue for the unions. FNV has carried out a random survey among a few hundred employees; it emerges that few, if any, of the arrangements about ‘genuine job requirements’ in previous collective labour agreements have been honoured. 

Do employees have enough time to perform all their tasks? Around 80 percent of the lecturers and researchers say they do not. And more than half of the support staff indicate they have too little time. Contrary to the arrangements, in many cases no policy has yet been set. 

It is no coincidence that the survey has been made public at this time. Universities must abide by the collective labour agreement, says Boersma. “But the workload is still ridiculously high and little has been done about it up to now. That’s why we now want firmer arrangements.”

It remains to be seen whether the collective labour agreement can be finalised soon, mainly because the ‘margin for pay rises’ is not yet known. In the Spring Memorandum (no later than 1 June) the government will announce how much extra money the educational institutions will get to cover the rise in prices.

Translation: Taalcentrum-VU


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