UvA teachers stop grading to draw attention to temporary contracts

Temporary contracts, many companies and institutions work with it. By law, employers may offer a temporary contract up to three times, after which they are required to switch to a permanent contract. At universities, it happens too little, say teachers, unions and action groups.

Teaching and research

This problem is less of a problem for professors and lecturers: they often have a fixed contract. However, after a maximum of three temporary contracts, most youth teachers have to give way to new youth teachers who have to do exactly the same work. At some universities, as many as 90 percent of youth teachers have temporary employment, figures from the Rathenau Institute show. And that while doing construction work.

In order to obtain a permanent employment, teachers must, in addition to teaching, also carry out (PhD) research. The universities receive their financial support from the public sector, among other things on the basis of research time. But in recent years, the number of college students has risen sharply. As a result, financial support for research lagged behind the number of students.

Growth studies

Junior lecturer Paula Vermuë started teaching at UvA in February 2020. She is currently teaching several courses from the bachelor’s program Cultural Anthropology and Development Cooperation and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (ISW). Anthropology has also been offered in English for a few years now, which has attracted many more international students. “In a few years, enrollment in anthropology went from 80 to 250 students,” says Paula. “In the beginning, only two younger teachers were needed. When I started, there were seven, in September last year even twelve. ”

ISW has also grown significantly because this, together with Human Geography, is the only non-bilingual study within the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UvA. Dutch students find this attractive.

No career opportunities

Paula’s contract was extended by one year each time. Officially, she does not know if she still has a job in September, but she thinks she has. “It would be my last year. I can not develop further and I have no growth opportunities. It is quite demotivating. I would prefer to take a PhD, but there are few vacancies.”

Paula has already seen many colleagues forced to leave. It also happens that employees are asked to take unpaid leave, in order to later apply for the same temporary job again. Or they jump from university to university. A political science teacher told Het Parool that he had switched to VU, where he was immediately given a four-year contract.

Unpaid overtime

The temporary contracts provide stress and uncertainty. Junior teachers work overtime, burn out or struggle to make ends meet. buy a house? It is already difficult in Amsterdam and without a permanent contract at all. Junior teachers from abroad also have problems with their visas if they do not have a permanent contract. The action group Casual UvA has for a long time pointed this out to the university board. Paula: “The university recognizes that things need to change. But it is quickly said, ‘Yes, that’s just the system.’

She even worked a lot of overtime, especially the first year. Some weeks she worked six days, while she only got paid for three and a half days. »And then we give lectures on equal opportunities and Karl Marx. The university does not behave like that … ”

For example, younger teachers are not paid to attend lectures. While they have to give practical lectures on it. If you teach three courses a week with two lectures a week, that’s twelve unpaid hours. “That’s why I do not see the lectures anymore,” Paula admits.

Young teachers also do not get paid to answer emails. Paula: “What frustrates me the most is that UvA keeps saying, ‘Yes, you work overtime, but it’s an investment in your future.’ An investment in what? In my third year? The quality of education suffers “Temporary contracts. As a younger teacher, you can not start long-term projects and build nothing. After three years, your place will be taken over by a new teacher without experience. A lot of knowledge is lost in this way.”

Demonstration and check strike

Time for action, thought many younger teachers from multiple educations. On Thursday, March 31, Paula and her colleagues announced that they would protest. On Friday, April 1, they held a demonstration at Maagdenhuis, where historical protests had previously taken place. The requirements: more permanent contracts, openness about the workload and room for professional development. “We want dignity, respect and proper payments to all,” Casual UvA wrote in a letter to management.

The action group also announced a check-in strike. They first assess student assignments at the end of the semester. The training continues as usual. Until now, lecturers from the programs Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, ISW, Human Geography, Future Planet Studies, Beta-gamma and Communication Science have participated. Paula expects more investigations to follow.

Student solidarity

Teachers with a fixed contract also show solidarity. Like many students. That surprised Paula positively. “I thought a lot of students lived for their grades, but they’re all super understanding.” The activists informed their students about the check strike and the reason for it via email and at seminars.

“In anthropology we talk about the weapons of the weak, ”Explains Paula. »We are at the bottom of the university ladder. What are our weapons? Teaching and grading. We are good teachers and we do not want education to suffer, so we continue to teach. But we can refrain from giving figures for the time being to increase the pressure on the board. ” How long does the check strike last? “Until the management provides an answer that we are happy with,” says Paula.

Management response

Executive Board spokeswoman Yasha Lange responds with understanding to the check strike. “We share the concerns of youth teachers and have also been in conversations with Casual UvA for a long time. We will work on a new teacher policy with a better balance between temporary and permanent employment. Education is actually a structural task at the university and a structural employment is appropriate. It is still missing in the agreement. “

Collective bargaining is currently in full swing. Yasha hopes there will be more clarity before summer. He adds that temporary contracts are not just an issue at UvA. He also stresses the importance of more research funding from the public sector.

Positive development

“Those are beautiful words,” Paula says. “But they remain empty promises. Where are the concrete plans? When will something really change?” Nevertheless, the junior teacher is sure of a good result. “Skjernen’s strike has already triggered many good talks. Solidarity has also been built up again between colleagues and between teachers and students. This is a positive development. for steps’.

By: National Education Guide / Bente Schreurs

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