(This article is translated from Dutch)
In April, the staff of the International Studies programme sent an urgent letter to the university board, demanding more permanent contracts for the so-called tutors: staff that does teaching work only, and doesn't perform research.
Dutch law requires employers to give permanent positions after a couple of years, and in order to prevent that, the tutors are swapped for new employees every once in a while. Of course, they take their built up experience with them, and according to the teaching staff this is damaging to the stability and quality of education. It creates more work for the people who do have permanent positions, because they've got to show the ropes to new people all the time. It creates even more work pressure for the tutors themselves, who feel they are in some sort of competition with their colleagues, in the hopes of being able to stay. Back in April, 71 people signed the letter, but now there over three hundred signatures, including students.
The board now writes that several things have been done to increase the number of permanent contracts. The number of temporary positions ahs been lowered from 35.1 percent (in 2015) to 22.6 percent last year.
Assistant professor Judith Naeff says these numbers distort the real image. "They are about the entirety of academic staff: it includes full professors too, and almost all of them have permanent contracts. If we look only at the staff that doesn't do research, then 70 percent at the Humanities faculty has a temporary position. It's 90 percent at some other faculties.
The board also indicates that four teachers did get a permanent position, after the faculty board had urgently requested it. This is against the university guideline that says only teachers who also do research can be considered for permanent contracts. By making an exception to this, the board wants to meet the staff of International Studies halfway.
"We're happy about the permanent contracts", Naeff says, "but it's not a structural solution for the problem. The policy itself is not changed, and that's what we were asking." She thinks the rule is bad employership. "It would make sense, in a way, if the tutors were doing a temporary job. But these are mostly structural positions, and a structural part of the study programme. It means that people who've worked here for years, are functioning well and have built up years of experience, are fired, while their job is still there after the summer - and now has to be done by somebody else."
This summer, for instance, four tutors will not get a new contract. "They are being sent away, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, while the work is still there. This policy is not okay."
The university board also writes that they want to offer more temporary contracts with a longer duration - up to four years. At least 25 percent of the newly hired tutors should get such contracts.
This concession is "not a structural solution", Naeff says. "Now we're sending away even more experienced tutors than before." It can lead to a "revolving door-type construction", where staff leaves the university for the minimum amount of time required to prevent them from getting a permanent contract, and then enter employment again. "The board is not enthousiastic about this, and neither are we. As far as we're concerned, permament positions are the only true solution here." In a new letter, the people of International Studies once again urge for more permanent contracts and more career opportunities for tutors,
Naeff: "Permanent contracts alone are not enough. Tutors should be able to get more salary increases, for instance when they get a more responsible role. We want to de-normalize the situation where an entire group of people can - by definition - not get a permanent contract. We hope the university board comes to realize that things will have to change."
(the correspondence between the IS staff and the board can be found here)