Analysis: for whom does the collective labor agreement of the universities intervene?

The reduction of fixed-term contracts is an important issue in the new collective bargaining agreement for universities. University teachers benefit in particular. Postdocs are left behind and shouldn’t.

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According to the trade union FNV, the new agreements on permanent work in universities indicate a “change of culture”. University employers themselves speak of “a big step”.

But soon there was criticism, because who gets permanent contracts? Arrangements were made for professors, associates, university professors and auxiliary staff. Other teachers and researchers are excluded.

8 percent of all professors are on temporary positions, just like 5 percent of associate professors. This is a very low percentage. These deals aren’t really meant for them.

The new collective bargaining agreement focuses mainly on university professors, of whom more than thirty percent five years ago had a fixed-term contract and now only 26 percent. The unions want to continue this downward trend.

So I agree, for example: whoever gets a Vidi contribution from NWO must from now on get a permanent position. This is especially important for assistants, as a Vidi is intended for more experienced researchers.

But what about other teachers and scientists? “We couldn’t actually do the same things for them,” the employer organization VSNU told de Volkskrant. This could only change if extra money came in: universities want € 1.1 billion more per year.

But why are the differences between universities so huge? In Delft, university lecturers almost all have permanent jobs, 57% of Erasmus universities in Rotterdam work on a fixed-term contract. Then you can’t use government funding as an excuse.

Such differences also exist for graduate students and other teachers. At the University of Amsterdam “only” 59 ​​percent of this group has a fixed-term contract, but at the University of Utrecht it is 90 percent.

Then there is politics. There may be good reasons for this policy, but it certainly has little to do with the 1.1 billion euros that universities will or will not receive from the next cabinet.

In fact, the current collective bargaining agreement states, for example, on post-doctorates: “These are positions which, by their nature, justify the use of fixed-term employment contracts”. Nothing changes. They can still receive a four-year contract, after which they can be offered “conditional” employment where the postdoc remains dependent on temporary money.

‘Fixed’ will be slightly less fixed in the new collective bargaining agreement. The dismissal protection term for reorganisations will be reduced from ten months to three months in 2025, in addition to the normal notice period of three or four months.

Unions and employers are now presenting the negotiator’s agreement to their supporters. Before 1 August it must be clear whether I agree.


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