THE NETHERLANDS/MAASTRICHT. It was not an easy task, but unions and universities have reached a new collective labour contract. One of the most important agreements is that the workload will be addressed. The UM has already invested millions, but the University Council thinks that this is not enough.
Negotiations were at a total deadlock for a long time. The universities reached out to the unions last summer by offering a small salary increase, but the unions felt it was not enough. They claimed that something should be done about the heavy workload.
At the beginning of this year, research by the FNV union showed that 70 per cent of employees felt that the workload was too heavy. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands, VSNU, acknowledged the problem, but was not optimistic about a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. That is why every university will now write its own plan to tackle the problem, to be completed before the end of this year.
Since 2014, the UM has already spent millions on the improvement of the quality of education, with special attention for the workload. Partly because of this, 130 jobs have been created. The University Council, however, is not impressed and still sees signs of a heavy workload, some of which is caused by education innovations. That is why a taskforce has been set up, with University Council members, deans and faculty representatives. Its findings will be published before the summer; on basis of these findings, the UM will decide whether a new plan is required.
As of 1 January, so with retroactive effect, university employees will receive a salary increase of 1.4 per cent. This is on top of the salary increase of 0.8 per cent that the universities have been paying since September 2016.
New agreements also apply to the termination of employment. The new Work and Security Law offers dismissed employees only two years of unemployment benefits. The new collective labour agreement states that employers will pay a third year of unemployment benefits. In addition, all universities will grant their employees severance pay upon termination of their employment.
Another agreement is that female PhD graduates will have an automatic right to an extension of their contract after pregnancy/maternity leave. The ruling does not apply to postdocs: they have already obtained their doctoral degree and have different terms of employment.
The new collective labour agreement will be valid from 2 July 2016 until 30 June 2017. Some fifty thousand employees are covered by the collective labour agreement for universities. VSNU and the unions still have to submit the agreement to their members for approval.