The agreement was reached after difficult and protracted negotiations, but universities and trade unions have now managed to come to an agreement. One of the key features is that steps will be taken to deal with the high work pressure at each university.
Negotiations were at an impasse for some time. The universities offered the trade unions a small wage increase last summer, but this offer was considered inadequate. The unions preferred to see measures taken to deal with work pressure.
Earlier this year research conducted by the Dutch Trade Union Confederation (FNV) revealed that seventy percent of university employees felt work pressure was too high. The university association VSNU acknowledged the problem, but did not see a one-size-fits-all approach as a solution.
Another agreement is that female doctoral candidates will have an automatic right to a contract extension following maternity leave. The Scientists’ Union VAWO is pleased with this measure. “Many female doctoral candidates who became pregnant during their doctorate had less time for their work or had to complete their work in their own time,” said VAWO director Donald Pechler.
This arrangement does not apply to postdocs, as they have already obtained their doctorate and are subject to different employment conditions. Universities and trades unions are urging the Minister for Social Affairs to amend legislation so that this group can also benefit from the new agreement.
University employees will receive a structural wage increase of 1.4 percent with retroactive effect to 1 January. This increase is in addition to a wage increase of 0.8 percent paid by universities since September 2016.
There are also new agreements in effect pertaining to terminating employment. The new Work and Security Act offers dismissed employees only two years of unemployment benefit. The new Collective Labour Agreement contains an agreement in which employers will bear the costs of a third year of unemployment benefit. In addition, all universities will pay their employees a severance payment upon termination of employment.