Dutch universities - including the UvA - have a new collective labor agreement (in Dutch:cao) as of this month. But according to columnist Han van der Maas, the university collective agreement has made any flexibility at the universities impossible, leaving everyone with their hands in their pockets. “We are forcibly handing out far too many permanent jobs, and within a few years - if the economy is once again disappointing or English is banned as a language of academic instruction - massive reorganizations await.”
I am a manager and then also one of the lowest status: I (co-)manage a program group, the smallest administrative unit at the UvA. Of all the administrative tasks I have had, this is the nicest but the main tasks don't immediately appeal to one’s imagination. What did I do today: arrange an extra work room, argue over an fte. in the budget, convince faculty to admit extra students in a course, call a sick employee and most importantly: fill gaps in teaching. Because of grants, illness, sabbaticals, parental leaves, and varying student enrollment, it is constantly shifting gears.
Over the past 15 years, we had a range of tools for this, from temporary UDs, to easy-to-implement student assistantships, to external hiring. In practice, this was a win-win situation. Talented PhD students could take part in a round of Venis, postdocs gained teaching experience, and we didn't immediately end up in a reorganization if the income from fellowships was disappointing or if suddenly no one had a child. We literally never had a complaint about that.
But those times are over. The collective labor agreement has made any flexibility impossible and we are at a loss. We are forcibly handing out far too many permanent jobs, and within a few years, if the economy is once again in trouble or English is banned as the language of science, awaits massive reorganizations. These are painful for everyone, very costly and completely unnecessary.
I would still like to make an attempt to turn the tide and put a new idea on the table for this. Let us pay for temporariness, that is: I present a teacher or university lecturer with the choice, permanent at the normal rate or a one-year contract with an 8.3% mark-up (one month salary). If both parties want to continue after a year the same consideration is made again: permanent or temporary with a mark-up.
This costs me money as an employer but it is really worth it. What I also like is that we approach the employee as a mature person and not as someone who can not yet save his own vacation money.
A lot of teachers 4 will probably choose this. They do not aspire to a teaching career at all and will be happy with such a raise. But temporary positions as management assistant, UD or professor are also possible.
By the way, this is already somewhat the practice because of the transition allowance, but I would like to replace it with this better arrangement. If someone chooses a temporary contract year after year because the employer does not dare to offer a permanent job, then the raise applies every year. It strikes a good balance between employer and employee interests and prevents reorganizations that are bound to happen with the unions’ current plans.
And when this time comes, it will be the managers on the work floor, i.e. me, who get to hold the bad-news talks.
Han van der Maas is professor of psychological methods and columnist of Folia.