Trade unions VAWO and FNV are warning at the opening of the academic year that something has to be done about the heavy workload at universities. “Overtime is the rule rather than the exception.”

The VAWO has calculated what it would cost the universities if they had to actually pay their staff for their overtime. They calculated it would be around 295 million euros. Twenty percent of all the work is done at the weekends or in the evening, according to the VAWO.

This afternoon, the trade union and associations representing graduates and postdocs are holding a ‘sympathetic protest’ at Radboud University Nijmegen, where Minister Bussemaker will be speaking. They plan to give a comic presentation of how heavy the workload can be.

Act fast

Government and universities must act fast, says VAWO president Marijtje Jongsma. “If the universities want to fulfil their primary task, i.e. providing academic education and doing academic research, there must be sufficient funding to do so.”

Trade union FNV is also focusing on this subject today. The trade union has written to all the university boards. According to the trade union, money is still available and increasing numbers of international students are also filling the coffers. So use that money.

Six out of ten

At the beginning of the year, the trade union published an investigation into workload. This showed that six out of ten members of staff at universities are so busy that they suffer from physical and mental problems. They continue to work when they are ill and often in their free time too.

For that reason, the trade union says that universities must take on extra support staff and offer temporary teaching staff a permanent contract. And they must invest more in refresher training for teaching staff.

“The limit has long been passed for many university staff,” says Jan Boersma, FNV member for Education and Research. “The workload must be reduced fast to an acceptable level.”