Organizing together in the AOb union for better working conditions at the University of Groningen.

We are employees at every rank and in every corner of the University of Groningen, from lecturers to PhD candidates to full professors to support staff, who are organizing to build union power to achieve better working conditions, end structural overwork, casualization, and precarious contracts, and advocate for more democracy in our institution. We are organizing as part of the AOb trade union.

Interested? We have answered some frequently asked questions. You can also find an overview of terms and related labour groups here.

Image by Erekle K from Wikimedia Commons

Image by Erekle K from Wikimedia Commons

Join our mailing list!

You’ll hear about ways to connect with your colleagues and get involved in improving our working conditions. Sign up for our mailing list here.

Join the AOb!

The AOb (Algemene Onderwijsbond) is the trade union for all education workers in the Netherlands – from primary school teachers to university professors – and part of the trade union federation FNV. The AOb offers collective representation and individual support to all university employees. Join here.

Why should you join?

You care tremendously about the quality of your students’ education. You value the richness of the conversations you have with your colleagues. You want to devote time to producing original and important research. But you and your colleagues are overworked, employed on precarious contracts, burdened by senseless bureaucracy, and demoralized by toxic work cultures. It’s clear that something needs to change, but it’s not clear how, when attempts to speak up on your own are just ignored, or worse.

We all feel this way; together, with the union, we can do something about it.
Here’s how:

1. Lock in better working conditions at the sectoral level.
Everybody who works at a Dutch university is covered by a collective labor agreement (cao), which locks in certain benefits and protections. For example, over 800 academic staff will be given a permanent contract this year thanks to the latest cao. These agreements are negotiated by the unions, which represent the employees, and the VSNU, which represents the employers. The problem is that very few employees at Dutch universities are actually union members. This makes for a weak negotiating position compared with other sectors, such as primary schools. But it also means there is limited input from us about what goes on in our workplace and what needs to change. More members mean more power to extract substantial concessions from the university administration and the government. But it also means YOU have a say in what issues are on the table at these negotiations, and whether or not the agreement is actually accepted.

2. Stand up for all employees with the Board of the University.
Once a month, union representatives meet with the Board of the University (College van Bestuur) at a meeting called the Local Consultation (Lokaal Overleg). They discuss serious and/or systematic problems that have arisen across the university, and advocate for improvements to employees’ working conditions. For example, they made sure PhD students got needed extensions during the COVID-19 crisis. Organizing within the university ensures that your concerns, and those of your vulnerable colleagues, are at the top of the agenda. And voicing concerns together means that no individual gets targeted for speaking out.

3. Get the individual advice and legal representation you need.
We’ve all heard stories of colleagues accepting bad contracts after misleading conversations with HR and managers. And then there are the troubling reports of harassment, bullying, intimidation, and other hostile workplace conditions. Unions employ people to support you, whether you need advice about contractual and workplace issues, or someone to accompany you to a difficult meeting. They also employ lawyers who provide free legal representation to all members. As a union staffer recently said to us, “The union is your HR!”

News and events:

Casualisation in Dutch Academia: Testimonials from the Margins

As part of Casual Academy, members of #OrganizetheRUG have contributed to a report on casualisation in Dutch Academia. This report highlights the poor working conditions and unacceptable burden placed on university employees on temporary contracts. Precarious contracts are a great cause for anxiety and therefore affect employees’ stress, health and well-being. The report includes a list of demands and recommendations. We hope that the stories shared here increase the sense of urgency among stakeholders in higher education to stop casualisation now.

Union Lunches on the 1st Monday of each month

Now that we have eased back into the academic year, we can finally resume our monthly union lunches. These will take place every first Monday of the month 12.00-13.00 at the Harmonie Building. These are very informal meet-ups to get to know one another and talk about how things are going at work: what we want, what we need, and how to get it. Everyone is welcome to join (including non-union members) – so bring a curious colleague!
Please mark your calendars for the first two Monday lunch editions:

  • 3 October (next week!)
  • 7 November
  • 5 December

Racism and Discrimination Hotline

Members of #OrganizetheRUG have launched a Racism and Discrimination Hotline. More infos here.

Response to the CLA proposal

Union members are asked to vote on the recent proposal for a new collective labor agreement (CLA). We have published a statement that lays out why we think the CLA is unsatisfactory and why we ask our colleagues to reject it.

Testimonials by colleagues in precarious positions

We are collecting testimonials from colleagues who are facing insecure or precarious working conditions, structural overwork and other sources of distress on the work floor. The information is collected in collaboration with Casual Academy and 0.7 to create awareness for how precarious contracts and casualization affect individuals, their careers, and their professional development. You can remain anonymous if you wish! It would be great if you would fill in this form yourself and/or share with colleagues who might be interested!