These are massive job openings, the two announcements that the Media Studies department of the University of Amsterdam published earlier this week. The department is looking for fifteen to twenty additional professors for the upcoming school year. These teachers must be able to teach several courses, supervise students, develop teaching and supervise theses. They will be appointed on an interim basis for two years, for a maximum of 27 hours per week. Welcome to the world of the part-time teacher, the employee who sustains higher education in the humanities and social sciences in exchange for, let’s say, very little, at least not a permanent contract or a full-time position.
The hope was that the position of these temporary teachers would be improved in the new collective labor agreement. Unfortunately. Unions and the umbrella organization of universities in the Netherlands reached a bargaining agreement for the new collective bargaining agreement last week, and their agreements on temporary teachers are disappointing. Although it is “recognized that there is a need for a clear career path for lecturers that does justice to their contribution to the academic sector”, this recognition leads nowhere. Anyway, nothing, there’s going to be an investigation. Unions and employers will together examine the possibilities of having more open-ended contracts. They do this on the basis of “data analysis” (the data of which is not mentioned) and they include the results in the next negotiations of the collective labor agreement.
With a lot of goodwill, you might see this as a step in the right direction, just as you might admiringly label erasing government communications as you see fit as “real-time archiving.” With less good will, but perhaps more realism, one would say: reluctance.
Dutch universities use temporary contracts more often
Do your research if you need more information. But we have enough information about temporary teachers. We know how many there are and where they are. The Rathenau Institute published a fact sheet on this late last year. This showed that the share of temporary lecturers varies considerably from one university to another. In some universities, 30% of people with a full-time teaching contract have a temporary job, in others 90%. In general, the following applies: Dutch universities use temporary contracts more often than foreign universities.
We know that this large number of temporary contracts is detrimental to the well-being of the employees themselves, to the quality of education, to social security and to the workload of temporary workers and permanent workers alike. If the negotiators didn’t have this knowledge, they could have asked for help from the Rathenau Institute, or the action groups Casual Academy and 0.7, who would no doubt have lovingly helped. More research adds little; it just slows down.
The UvA wants to adopt a new policy before the summer
Geert ten Dam, chairman of the board of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), agrees. Earlier this week he said the collective bargaining agreement was inadequate. The UvA wants to adopt a new policy before the summer to improve the situation of temporary lecturers more quickly. Lecturers should get a permanent contract sooner, and temporary contracts should have a longer duration and a broader scope – so not appointment for three days a week for two years, but four years (almost ) full time.
Good news for the rift of temporary teachers who will appoint Ten Dam’s subordinates in media studies, I think. Thanks to these plans, they could well get a CDI at the end of their two-year contract.
At other universities too, promising developments can be discerned here and there – there are indeed administrators who realize that things can no longer be like this. It would therefore be an excellent moment for the umbrella organization of universities in the Netherlands to show leadership and include in the collective labor agreement that structural work in all universities includes a permanent contract. Instead, they go no further than: more research. If I sat down at the collective bargaining table on behalf of the universities in the Netherlands, I would be ashamed of myself.
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