With this message we would like to take the opportunity to ask you to become a member of a labor union (of the AOB, CNV, FNV). Your membership is urgently needed, right now!
WHY JOIN TODAY? This year (2022 - 2023), the executive boards of the Dutch Universities and the unions will be negotiating a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA). The unions are representing us, the employees, in this negotiation for better working conditions. If you are a member of the union, you will have a right to vote for or against the negotiated proposal for the CLA (you will receive an email to vote).
Increasing our salaries has been an important point of negotiation for the unions and needs urgent attention in times of accelerating economic inflation. However, we, and many other university workers with us, think that other issues are also crucial to the new agreement.
Temporary contracts (the so-called "flexibele schil") are being used to maintain unfair working conditions and overwork, both for temporary and permanent staff members. We need a hard formulation, in the CLA to decrease the number of temporary staff members. Structural work needs permanent contracts.
Changes in pension agreements sorely need more oversight from those that are most affected by these changes - which means you! As the experience of our colleagues in the UK shows, universities and pensions managers will use every weapon at their disposal - including your inaction.
Our new Collective Labour Agreement needs to ensure good working conditions, for all!
We would like to ask colleagues with permanent contracts to show their solidarity with colleagues on temporary contracts. If the negotiated CAO proposal is inadequate or vague, we need to massively reject it and send our executive boards back to the negotiation table.
Time’s up, get ready for action. Become a union member, today.
Extra information and links:
(Membership too expensive? Keep in mind that part of your membership costs, around 40%, will be reimbursed to you at the end of each calendar year by your university, which means total costs will be between 8 and 12 euro per month)
Become a member of the AOB:
Become a member of the CNV:
Become a member of the FNV:
Starting in 2019, anti-casualization initiatives in the Netherlands, together with the action group WOinActie, have been organizing meetings and demonstrations to effect change regarding the issue of casualisation (handing out temporary contracts for structural work). You can find more information on the work of “Casual Academy” and “Zero Point Seven” by following these links.
Casual Academy: https://casualacademy.nl/
Zero point seven: https://zeropointseven.nl/
Becoming a union member, because:
1. Lock in better working conditions at the sectoral level.
Everybody who works at a Dutch university is covered by a collective labor agreement (cao), which locks in certain benefits and protections. For example, over 800 academic staff will be given a permanent contract this year thanks to the latest cao. These agreements are negotiated by the unions, which represent the employees, and the VSNU, which represents the employers. The problem is that very few employees at Dutch universities are actually union members. This makes for a weak negotiating position compared with other sectors, such as primary schools. But it also means there is limited input from us about what goes on in our workplace and what needs to change. More members mean more power to extract substantial concessions from the university administration and the government. But it also means YOU have a say in what issues are on the table at these negotiations, and whether or not the agreement is actually accepted.
2. Stand up for all employees with the Board of the University.
Once a month, union representatives meet with the Board of the University (College van Bestuur) at a meeting called the Local Consultation (Lokaal Overleg). They discuss serious and/or systematic problems that have arisen across the university, and advocate for improvements to employees’ working conditions. For example, they made sure PhD students got needed extensions during the COVID-19 crisis. Organizing within the university ensures that your concerns, and those of your vulnerable colleagues, are at the top of the agenda. And voicing concerns together means that no individual gets targeted for speaking out.
3. Get the individual advice and legal representation you need.
We’ve all heard stories of colleagues accepting bad contracts after misleading conversations with HR and managers. And then there are the troubling reports of harassment, bullying, intimidation, and other hostile workplace conditions. Unions employ people to support you, whether you need advice about contractual and workplace issues, or someone to accompany you to a difficult meeting. They also employ lawyers who provide free legal representation to all members. However, you have to be a member for 9 months if you want to receive legal backing, so please make sure you are legally protected by joining a union. Do not wait until you are in a conflict. As a union staffer recently said to us, “The union is your HR!”.
4. Action, organizing and unionizing are a shared civil responsibility.
It's important to realize that often, employees have opposite interests to employers. The notion that employers and unions are ‘working together’ towards a better university, or that employers organisations can speak for employees, is a fairly recent one, primarily pushed by non-workers. We have to re-familiarize ourselves with the idea that our labour rights are our own concern, not those of our employers. All the labour rights we have today have been hard fought, not in the least by the unions. But these unions have been shrinking for decades. Currently they are relatively toothless, and it’s become so bad that they are in danger of being excluded as a negotiation partner for the CAO. Currently, the risk of strikes is relatively small, since the unions are so small and hardly consist of academic staff. We, the university employees, seem to have forgotten that unions will not automatically take care of us: the responsibility for workers’ rights is on ourselves! We are the union and the union is us. It always has been. Action, organizing, and unionizing are a shared civil responsibility. We have neglected our responsibilities, and it shows. If we don’t fight for our own rights, we will lose them. Period.