During the next collective labour agreements negotiations, one item will be at the top of the agenda: more permanent contracts and thus more clarity and stability for employees. To let educational institutions know that the AOb is committed to the cause, the union is driving around the country this week in a ‘What the flex’ minibus. The bus is staged as a mobile rehab clinic against temporary contracts. The four union staff members on site are therefore dressed in white lab coats.

“It’s a light-hearted demonstration, but the problem is getting out of hand”, says AOb board member Douwe van der Zweep. “People are postponing things in their personal lives because they have no clarity. The workloads are high. Temporary contracts create an unsafe work environment: colleagues become competitors due to the scarcity of permanent appointments. Many of those affected are lecturers, which is a fundamentally necessary position.” In 2021, 75 percent of lecturers and 57 percent of the assistant professors at EUR had a temporary appointment. Among associate professors, this figure was 7 percent.

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The AOB members aren’t bothered by the fact that only four university employees stop by the bus. Executive Board member Ellen van Schoten is there, and that is all that matters to the union. Van der Zweep once again emphasises the importance of more stability for employees and hands Van Schoten the recommendations. She promises to read the document carefully. “We have already offered more contracts using the funds from the Coalition Agreement”, she says.

This is not the first time she has discussed the matter with the AOb. “We’re trying to find a balance, because flexibility in the organisation is necessary.” Van Schoten is looking to the government in The Hague for the financial resources required in order to offer more permanent contracts. More permanent contracts is one of the most important items on the agenda for unions during the collective labour agreement negotiations. “The negotiations will be fierce”, Van Schoten predicts.

Ana Uribe Sandoval, who represents the AOb as a member of the Erasmus Labour Council (the local consultative committee for trade unions), hopes the Executive Board will start implementing the recommendations. According to her, the quality of education will improve with more ‘quality contracts’. “That also creates impact”, she says, referring to the university’s motto.

Fierce negotiations

Raising the issue of temporary contracts has become an annual affair for the AOb. As far as AOb director Donald Pechler is concerned, promises to ‘look at the policy’ are no longer enough. “We’re done waiting. We want agreements on more permanent jobs and we will not settle for less. It’s a matter of being willing to take action. If it can be done in Maastricht, then why not here as well?” The next round of negotiations will begin on 12 April.

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