Trade unions seek clarity about ‘contrived contracts’

The trade unions want to know whether the RUG is using ‘contrived contracts’ to evade the ban on temporary contracts.

The unions will present this question to the University Board next week during the meeting of the local employees’ organisations, the consultative body of workers organisations and the University Board of Directors, trade union spokesman Maarten Goldberg confirms.

Goldberg does not expect a direct response from the University Board of Directors. ‘Such things are often negotiated behind the scenes in a faculty. If we find out that staff have been working under this sort of contract, there will be an uproar.’

Contrived contracts

At the start of this week, de Volkskrant reported that several universities offer instructors a combination of a permanent contact for a few hours and a temporary ‘flex’ contract, which is in breach of the Collective Labor Agreement (CAO). By doing so, universities avoid the Work and Security Law which was instated last summer. Minister Lodewijk Asscher wanted to address the improper use of temporary contracts with this law.

Golberg does not expect that the ‘contrived contracts’ are systematic at the RUG. ‘But faculties have their own policies in regards to this issue, and if they do not have a lot of funds, they sometimes want to make use of temporary contracts’, he says.

‘Good employer’

The University Board made known in a statement that the RUG wants to be ‘a good employer’, and ‘feels that the interests of staff should not be disproportionally limited in terms of job security, development and career.

The university is therefore complying with the CAO agreement to reduce the amount of temporary contracts. ‘Nationwide, the agreement has been made that the number of teachers with a temporary contract should be 22 per cent. The RUG has 18.3 per cent on a temporary contract, below the average.’

Flexible personnel

The offering of a one-off long-term contract (more than four years) has already been a policy at the RUG for some time in the Tenure Track system, the career path for researchers. This is in keeping with the CAO and the Work and Security Law, according to the University Board.

Flexible deployment of staff is still necessary due to inconsistent funding and the fluctuating number of students. ‘This can cause part-time contracts to be temporarily changed with extra hours being added, for example if there are extra tasks which need to be carried out or if someone falls ill in the department. This is always done in consultation with the employee and often occurs per initiative and request of the employee.’

Temporary contracts more expensive

In a recent newsletter from the department of Human Resources, it was stressed to the faculty boards that temporary contracts are often more expensive than a permanent position. ‘The pursuit of strictly temporary employment contracts in order to prevent offering a permanent position has negative consequences which are regularly overlooked’, warns the department.

After the period of temporary employment, public servants such as university employees are entitled to severance pay. This means that the salary of the new employee as well as the redundancy costs of the outgoing employee have to be paid. Moreover, the outgoing employee has to be helped in the search for a new job, which costs even more money.

‘A temporary contracted employee can easily cost 70 per cent more than a permanent employee’, says Goldberg.