A study carried out by the FNV trade union shows that 80 percent of academics find their workload at their universities high or very high. The same is true for half of support staff members.

In addition, the workload has been steadily increasing over the last few years, members of staff said in a survey. Academics are not getting enough time for their teaching duties, see more students than they used to, and are under constant pressure to publish articles.

Over 2,500 respondents completed the survey on their workload. Half of them were members of the trade unions. In addition, flyers were distributed to request staff’s attention for the survey.

Working when sick

Three quarters of respondents indicated that they worked on weekends or at night and that they were unable to make up for this overtime later. Seventy percent of academics continue working during holidays – some a few days per year, others ten or more days per year.

Nearly half of all employees go on working when ill due to their high workload. This is true for six in ten academics and for three in ten members of support staff. As a result, some 60 percent of employees suffer physical and psychological symptoms.

‘Between a rock and a hard place’

According to FNV trade union representative Jan Boersma, employees are ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’. They are paying the price for the good lectures and good support they provide and for conducting proper research. ‘Employers really must start easing their employees’ workload by budgeting a realistic number of hours for such tasks.’

Moreover, the union feels universities should offer more permanent contracts. Many members of staff face an insecure future, particularly those who are on a temporary contract. Boersma feels universities are skimping too much on permanent contracts.

Disagreement about collective agreement

The unions and the Dutch universities have been arguing about a new collective agreement for months now. Negotiations have been stuck since May 2016. The unions wish to enter into agreements on higher wahttps://www.erasmusmagazine.nl/2016/06/28/hoger-loon-aan-universiteiten-maar-nog-altijd-een-cao-conflict/ges, permanent contracts and a reduced workload. The universities have received some money from the government to allow for a pay rise, which they granted a while ago.

The universities are aware that their employees have a heavy workload, said spokesperson Bastiaan Verweij. ‘Unfortunately, an immediate solution through a one-size-fits-all approach is not an option.’ The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) wishes to meet FNV this week to discuss the survey results, among other things. ‘And of course they will be discussed in the negotiations regarding the collective agreement.’