New collective labour agreement: only part of teachers benefits

University lecturers benefit. Postdocs lose out. An analysis.
Photo Guy Ackermans

In the new collective labour agreement (CAO), reducing the number of temporary contracts is a major theme. According to the FNV union, the new deal is a complete change. University employers call it “a wonderful step”. But, who is going to get the permanent contracts?

Temporary contracts at the universities

The agreement applies to professors, associate professors, assistant professors and support staff. Only 8 per cent of all the professors have a temporary contract, as do 5 per cent of the associate professors—an extraordinarily low percentage. The deal hardly applies to them.

The new CAO focuses mainly on assistant professors and supporting staff. In this category, 30 per cent had a temporary contract five years ago. This percentage has now been lowered to 26 per cent. The unions aim for this decline to continue.

But, what about other teachers and scientists? In this new agreement, they are left behind. ‘We were unable to do the same for them’, says employers’ organisation VSNU (the Association of Dutch Universities) in the Volkskrant national newspaper. Only if extra funds are made available -the university wants an additional annual 1.1 billion in government funding- this may change.

Huge differences

There are enormous differences between the universities. In Delft, almost all the assistant professors have permanent positions. In Rotterdam, at the Erasmus University, 57 per cent has a temporary contract. Wageningen is right in the middle with 26 per cent.

Temporary contacts assistant professors

Similar differences occur among postdocs and other teachers. At the University of Amsterdam, 59 per cent has a temporary contract, while this percentage is 89 at Utrecht University. With 74 per cent, Wageningen is in line with the national average.

Other teachers and supporting staff

These differences are the result of policy but have very little to do with the 1.1 billion euros the universities will or will not be granted by a new cabinet. Indeed, the new CAO sees postdocs as positions that ‘justify temporary contracts by the nature of the work’. Postdocs may still be given a four-year contract.

Less permanent

Permanent positions are to become a little less permanent in the new CAO. Rather than the current ten-month protection from discharge in cases of reorganisation, this period will be three months in the new agreement from 2025, to which the normal termination period of three or four months is added.

The unions and employers will no put the agreement before their constituents. Their reaction is expected before 1 August. The negotiations on the new labour agreement for Wageningen Research are still underway.

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