[Seriously?] University and Research swap labour agreements

Kooky news.

From now on, Wageningen Research (WR) staff will have the day off on Good Friday and 5 May, while Wageningen University (WU) employees will have to work on those days.

The change was initiated by new HR director Bertina Bright. When she was appointed, she was surprised to be offered a WR contract. ‘I thought that was strange: the job ad was for an HR director at a university, so you’d have expected a WU contract based on that collective labour agreement. But when we discussed the terms and conditions, I was told that all new employees without teaching duties are given a WR contract, so I agreed. Later I discovered that because I had a WR contract, I would have to work on Good Friday and 5 May while my colleagues who had been working here longer and had a WU contract would have those days off. I don’t see why I shouldn’t have those days off for free too, so I took action.’

Bright engaged a software programmer to convert the terms and conditions in all the WR contracts to the WU terms and conditions. ‘I thought that would be fine given that people are always claiming the collective labour agreements are more or less the same. But it turned out not to be possible to give all employees the WU terms and conditions — for technical reasons I can’t really go into — so we decided to migrate the people with WU contracts to the WR terms and conditions.’ She is not afraid of criticism from those employees. ‘They never complained about the difference before.’

Bright is pleased to have discovered other benefits too from swapping the employment terms and conditions. ‘I don’t just get 5 May and Good Friday off; I also get 61 extra holiday hours. OK, my working week has got two hours longer — full-time is now 38 hours rather than 36 — but I put in those hours anyway in practice.’ The year-end bonus is also more than double, at 8.3 per cent instead of 4 per cent. ‘That extra money plus those extra days leave mean I can go on an extra long holiday… fantastic! I can also use the sports allowance to buy a nice bikini, flippers and snorkelling equipment into the bargain.’

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