Like other employers, universities will have to offer scholars and scientists employment contracts more quickly. Answers from Ministers Bussemaker and Asscher to questions in Parliament from VVD (political party) made clear that the Cabinet will make no exceptions for scientists.
Scholars and scientists from the Jonge Akademie recently warned that the new Flexibility and Security Act is not right for academics. In the new situation universities may retain people on temporary contracts for four years, after which a permanent contract must be offered.
For scholars and scientists, however, this often means that they have to relocate to another institute, sometimes when they’ve just managed to obtain a prestigious grant. Universities actually receive insufficient permanent funding to offer employees a permanent contract after just four years; who will pay for their salary if their grant finishes after a year?
The Cabinet is, however, not prepared to make an exception in the Act. It stated that additional funding has already been promised to universities for the coming years, which will enable “more permanent appointments to be realised”. Money from the student loan system is also expected to create more “certainty and financial muscle”.
Both Ministers furthermore made the point that a permanent contract can always be terminated again. For example via the employee insurance agency, UWV.
However, terminating a permanent contract is much more complicated than not extending a temporary contact: termination may only be for business reasons or during long-term occupational disability, and employees can always appeal.
It is a disappointing response to issues raised by scholars and scientists, responded Rianne Letschert, the Jonge Akademie Chair. “I agree in principle that universities should offer permanent contracts more quickly, but it doesn’t work like that in practice”, she said. “If someone obtains a grant, you just don’t know whether they’ll be successful again in a couple of years. And because the basic funding is insufficient, you cannot guarantee then that there will be enough money to pay someone.”
In theory, universities should be able to dissolve contracts in such cases, agreed Letschert. But in practice they won’t want to get involved in this. After all, choosing the UWV route costs additional money and time. And on top of this there is also the dismissal payment to which employees are entitled.
Letschert is afraid that in practice this will amount to scholars and scientists having to relocate from place to place more frequently. “You could say that that’s good for mobility. But I don’t agree if the relocation isn’t voluntary. What’s more, you can’t assume that someone’s partner and children will want to relocate should you have to move from Utrecht to Groningen. This did happen in the past, but it is much more complicated these days.”