Judge assesses the legality of temporary contracts for teachers

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July 6, 2022 † Are university lecturers incorrectly employed on temporary contracts? Yes, according to Marijn Scholte, former associate professor at Utrecht University, and many agree with him. No, according to Utrecht University. Today the parties met in the Court of Appeal in Utrecht.

Interested parties during the adjournment of the meeting.

Marijn Scholte, former associate professor of interdisciplinary social sciences at UU, took the case because he was not offered a new contract after two temporary contracts of one and three years. Due to the rules, Scholte had to get a permanent contract with the third extension, something Utrecht University did not want to give. This means that the case has some comparisons with the case brought by Arnout van Ree against Leiden University, even though it concerned a unilateral adjustment of the end date of the contract.

UU always wants to connect education and research

Because UU’s personnel policy is based on teaching scientific staff also having to do research, substitute teachers, who usually have little or no space for research, are not offered an indefinite contract. In its own words, UU only wants to hand out temporary contracts to absorb fluctuations in, for example, student numbers.

The rigor with which this line is maintained is different from the faculty. For example, many teachers work with a permanent job at UU law schools, primarily for education.

European rules set a fixed contract as standard

Scholte and action groups such as 0.7 and Casual Academy defend the view that construction work should be accompanied by permanent contracts. If part of the training is carried out repeatedly and for a long time by teachers with temporary contracts, they apparently perform building work. In a long message on LinkedIn, Scholte emphasizes this with his own situation as an example: after his contract was not renewed, UU posted two vacancies for the work he performed until recently. So the work did not disappear; he does so despite good reviews.

However, the legal dispute between Scholte and UU is not about principles. Twan Kersten, the adviser who assists Scholte, has previously explained to members of Casual Leiden that the behavior of many universities is likely to be in breach of European laws and regulations. Universities often use the so-called ‘revolving door scheme’ for temporary teachers; they hire an employee for up to three times a year, then take them out of service for six months and then re-employ them on an annual basis. With the third extension of a temporary contract, this automatically changes to a contract for an indefinite period of time, something that the universities, for various reasons, want to prevent for lecturers without research employment.

But European laws and regulations say an indefinite contract is the norm; to deviate from this standard is only permitted if required by inherent business operations, Kersten quoted. Repeatedly awarding temporary contracts must be about very special matters – something that does not apply to teaching at a university, he argued. “This is not about inherent business, it’s about politics.” For example, Scholte’s second temporary employment did not specify that it was a position to absorb fluctuations in student numbers.

Permanent work on temporary contracts

Scholte and Kersten do not deny that UU is free to make its own political choices within collective agreements and agreements with the social partners. For example, this agreement allows teachers to be given temporary contracts repeatedly and in sequence, but only “if the inherent nature of the company requires this extension for a certain period. For example, in the media it may be about actors, in science it may be postdocs. ” This requirement goes far beyond a question of motivation as to why fluctuations in the number of students make this type of contract necessary. “These fluctuations do not concern the nature of business operations,” Kersten argued.

In short, a university may not be allowed to perform permanent work on the basis of temporary contracts. There is no doubt that the Scholte question is about permanent work, Kersten believes. “The fact that immediately after the expiry of the three-year contract, a new vacancy will be advertised to hire a new substitute instead of the current one, shows that there is no temporary need for additional teaching staff. That need is structural. ”

The duration of Scholte’s work is also demonstrated by teaching practice in a number of subjects he taught. For example, he held seminars for four years in a compulsory subject, which about two hundred students took. For scheduling reasons, a teacher could only provide two of the eight guidelines, which meant that in addition to the responsible Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at least three teachers with temporary employment had to be appealed back to.

‘Temporary teachers needed’

In a reply, Utrecht University regrets that a lawsuit has been filed. In addition, the university once again explains its position. “Determinations at UU are reserved for employees who combine education and research and who meet the relevant qualification requirements. This is stated in the WP FLOW III regulations. This is an elaboration of the agreement NOW, which has been established in accordance with Local Consultation – in which the trade unions are represented. ”

At the Faculty of Social Sciences, where Scholte worked, there are marked fluctuations in the enrollment of students, the university writes. “To meet that, the formation must be able to temporarily scale up and down. With a full permanent staff, the educations would be quickly reorganized if enrollment fell. After all, public funding is largely determined by the number of students enrolled and diplomas obtained. ”

The fact that the faculty is very dependent on external project funds for its research does not make things easier. This means that assistant professors or associate professors who receive a grant temporarily have less time for education. “That is why there is a need for substitute teachers. We would like to treat this category of colleagues well, but unfortunately we will certainly not be able to offer them all a permanent contract. We explained that to the judge. Now we are waiting for the verdict “, says UU.

It was also agreed during the recent collective bargaining negotiations that universities and employee organizations should investigate how the number of temporary contracts can be reduced.

The employee organizations are hoping for a push in the back

If the ruling, which is expected around 3 August, is in Scholte’s favor, it will give parties that make an effort to increase the number of permanent contracts in the academy, says FNV leader Jan Boersma to ScienceGuide. “Initially, I see this as an issue that is solely between Marijn Scholte and UU, but I expect it to become increasingly complicated not to offer teachers permanent employment.”

Boersma also has difficulty with the defensive line based on WP FLOW III. “It has been agreed, that is right, but in the local consultation with the university, I myself said several times that the practice where teachers do not get permanent contracts, should actually be dropped. I do not think it is a strong story that research via the teacher should be merged with education in, for example, a working group. Daily practice is that these lecturers without researcher employment are merely structurally committed to education. The idea of ​​UU cannot be realized. ”

In the past, adherence to the link between education and research was often argued by pointing to the necessary distinction between HBO and WO. “With the professorships and it Professional doctorate in higher vocational education, it can no longer be maintained. ” In addition, Boersma believes that it must be possible to make a career as a teacher. “Why can you not be a full-time teacher like in the youth educations, if you stay sharp in your field and incorporate it in your education? They are False discussions. As a teacher, you can be firm.

The judge has not yet made a decision, so Boersma does not want to sell the skin until the bear has been shot. In addition, there is already a lot possible within the agreement, he says. It states, for example, that a teacher must have the opportunity to carry out education-related research. “If we get a boost here, we’ll be very happy.”

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