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“If those over sixty work less, there are more permanent jobs for young people”

Lokaal Overleg wants a generation pact at the UM

MAASTRICHT. The Lokaal Overleg (Local Negotiations between Maastricht representatives of the unions and the Executive Board) wants senior employees (60+) to be given the chance to work less for a slightly lower salary, without affecting the level of their retirement benefits. The hours that become available this way can be allocated to younger employees, who can then - with a permanent position - take the next step in their careers.

Until recently, there were all kinds of arrangements for older employees (early retirement, working one day less in a week), but almost all of these have been abolished. At the same time, pensionable age has risen to 67.

The Executive Board recently investigated whether Maastricht University, just like municipalities in the Netherlands - which suffer from a rapidly ageing workforce and a very small influx of young people - should agree on a so-called generation pact: older people working less so that there are more employment opportunities for younger ones. The UM, however, has no “influx problems, neither among support staff, nor among academic staff,” says HRM policy officer Hay Manders. “So a generation pact is not necessary. Besides, there are a lot of older employees who want to continue working, although we can see that the workload can get too much for some as they get older. That is why we are looking for a general framework within which individual solutions could be arranged.” Employees can already make use of optional retirement (i.e. early retirement), work fewer hours or use saved-up holidays, says Manders.

This sounds much nicer than it actually is, claim Huub Hamers and Paul Lemmens from Lokaal Overleg. “For many seniors, certainly if they are in a lower salary bracket, working fewer hours or taking early retirement is financially not an option.” Add to that the fact that many young employees at the UM still end up in temporary jobs, often with hardly any career perspectives, and you can see that a generation pact is quite necessary. “We want older people to be able to choose to work one or two days less, for a slightly lower salary, but with their pension rights remaining intact: 80 per cent work, 90 per cent salary, 100 per cent pension, or a variant of that: 50 per cent work, 70 per cent salary, 100 per cent pension. You kill two birds with one stone: older employees keep their pleasure in work, because there are enough recovery days, young ones get permanent jobs and can work on their skills heading towards the next step in their careers.”

Is that not very expensive? Hamers: “Just as expensive as the senior days that have just been abolished, as appeared from calculations by the Executive Board.” The LO realises that filling the days that have become available (often in different faculties and service departments, so who gets a new colleague?) will require some organisation. “That will be a challenge for the HR department, they will have to organise something across the UM. Their colleagues at MUMC managed it. About thirty medical specialists participated in a similar arrangement, as a result of which young doctors were given a chance.”

The LO is not in favour of the Executive Board option. Lemmens: “A made-to-measure arrangement would easily give rise to inequality between departments and individuals. A clever negotiator could be at an advantage. We are afraid that it may become arbitrary: if a director wants to get rid of someone because he is dysfunctional, the latter may be considered sooner than someone who works well.” The LO is pleased that questions about pensions will be included in the next Employee Survey. Lemmens: “We are calling on everyone to answer those questions, so we can see how great the need for a generation pact is.”

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