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. We 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? Below you will find news on our current activities and information on how to get involved. You can also check out our frequently asked questions and find an overview of terms and related labour groups here.
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.
Meet your colleagues!
On the first Monday of each month during the academic year, we meet for lunch from 12:00 – 13:00 on the second floor of the Harmonie canteen. These are informal meet-ups to chat and get to know each other – everyone is welcome to join (including non-union members)!
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.
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
Update on Collective Bargaining
The 6th round of collective bargaining is scheduled to take place on June 1. The FNV would like to invite employees to a session updating employees on the progress of those talks (whether an agreement is concluded or not). That will be held on June 7 from 14:00 – 15:00 at the Zernike complex, in the inner garden of the Energy Academy (Greenery). The event will be catered, so the FNV asks attendees to register in advance by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solidarity Statement Following the Events of 25 April 2023
As #OrganizetheRUG, we want to express our solidarity and support for the students who occupied the Academy Building on 25 April 2023 to demand social safety and the reinstatement of Dr Susanne Täuber. We are shocked and appalled that the university board decided to call the police, who then violently dragged students out of the building, verbally abused them, and hit a staff member with a baton. We believe that it is unacceptable to use violence against students and staff at the university, and we wholeheartedly condemn it. We stand with the victims of this assault and we will continue to fight for social safety at the university.
Campaign to reinstate Susanne Täuber and Protect Social Safety and Academic Freedom at RUG ,
On March 21, 2023, Jouke de Vries, President of the University’s Executive Board, received the open letter supporting Susanne Täuber and protesting and the current threats to social safety and academic freedom at the University of Groningen (see UKrant coverage here). At present, the letter has over 3300 verified signatures. It is still available to sign and will remain archived here in English, Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
Improving the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CLA)
On 7 March, Organize the RUG handed our petition for the new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) to the AOb negotiator, Donald Pechler. Donald was visibly impressed with the 176 signatures we gathered and promised to bring this to the next negotiation meeting.
In addition to Donald and Organize the RUG, representatives from 0.7 and Casual Academy, as well as Jan Boersma from the FNV and his successor, Sander Wesdorp, were also present. The negotiators said that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the progress they are making, both in terms of negotiating higher salaries and improving the conditions for temporary lecturers. The employers seem to agree that a permanent contract should indeed be the norm for structural work, but there are still discussions on what “structural” actually means with regards to teaching and research. We also received a “sneak preview” of the controversial SoFoKleS study. The response rate was very high, and it mostly confirms what we already know: casualisation in higher education is real, and the consequences are detrimental to the quality of higher education and research. You can read our response to last year’s collective bargaining negotiations here.
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.
We continue to collect 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!
Racism and Discrimination Hotline
Members of #OrganizetheRUG have launched a Racism and Discrimination Hotline. More infos here.