Trial ‘one-time teacher’ Marijn Scholte affects all teachers

Illustration: Lotte Verheul

Yesterday it was packed in the courtroom where former teacher Marijn Scholte sued Utrecht University. Several dozen teachers came to support Scholte in his fight against temporary contracts.

For four years, Marijn Scholte worked as a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Utrecht University. His contract expired in March, but there was no permanent employment, because according to the institution, research work must also be done for that.

Scholte then applied for another vacancy at the university. To his surprise, his letter was set aside because, according to the university, it would be a sign of bad employerhood if he were to get a temporary contract again. That led Scholte to decide to go to court for a permanent contract.

touches everyone
“There is a broad social discussion behind this case,” states his lawyer Twan Kersten in the courtroom, which is well filled with about fifty listeners. One of the teachers who came to court to show support for Scholte is Luzia Heu. As a university lecturer, she has been given a permanent contract in Utrecht. But according to her, everyone suffers from the many temporary contracts. “New people need to be trained again and again. It places a higher burden on all teachers, ”she says.

Teacher Jasper Steggink is also following the case closely. He says he’s in the same boat as Scholte. He has had three contracts in three years and also had to leave Utrecht University. “I knew when I started that I got a temporary contract and saw it primarily as a great opportunity. I now see what system is behind it, and I feel that this is a dead end for me, ”he says. Steggink hopes the lawsuit will bring about “structural changes.”

Unwanted system
Lawyer Kersten argues in his plea that the university is guilty of being a bad employer. “A teacher is always happy that he has a job. This is how an undesirable system is maintained. “According to him, Scholte’s temporary contract does not do justice to the building work he carried out.” In fact, it is clear: there is a permanent need for teachers, “he says.

Sophie Wierenga-Heintz, the university’s lawyer, denies that there is a bad employer. According to her, no “false expectations” have been created. In addition, she believes that a layer of temporary lecturers is part of the business operation because the university must be able to respond to fluctuating students. The institution also needs temporary replacements for permanent teachers participating in research projects.

Fill holes
The university is “not afraid” of permanent contracts, the lawyer argues, but wants to ensure that education is mainly provided by university lecturers (who combine teaching and research). According to the lawyer, other teachers are only used to fill the gaps within the fixed capacity. The university plans to expand the number of foreign ministers, she emphasizes, which will increase the number of permanent employees.

Utrecht University yesterday issued a statement saying it is “unfortunate” that a former employee has gone to court. She will “treat temp colleagues well”, but will “unfortunately certainly not be able to offer them all permanent employment”.

The judge sums up the dispute briefly and well: “Is this building work? One says ‘yes’, the other says ‘no’. The law is so simple sometimes. “The verdict follows on August 3.


© HUMLE. Source: Universities in the Netherlands, WOPI.

Professors and associate professors almost all have a permanent contract, while PhD students are all in temporary employment, as are most ‘other’ researchers, such as postdocs. But there are also big differences between universities.

Only 11 percent of the university teachers at TU Delft have a temporary employment, compared to 60 percent at Erasmus University Rotterdam. It is precisely for this group that Minister Dijkgraaf creates ‘start-up grants’ of 300,000 euros, which they receive with a fixed contract.

The spread is even greater among the group of ‘other’ teachers who do not research. Only 29 percent of them have a temporary job at Eindhoven University of Technology, compared to 90 percent at Utrecht University.

The support staff, including administrators and library staff, are doing particularly well at VU University Amsterdam (only 11 percent temporarily), while TU Delft comes out at 27 percent.

No new agreements have been entered into in the new agreement on temporary contracts. The parties will begin a joint study in September on the question of “how the teachers’ collective bargaining position can be improved in the next collective bargaining period”, it states, “especially also look at the possibility of creating more permanent contracts.”

The previous agreement contained agreements on additional permanent employment, but these caused outrage. The other teachers did not appear in it and felt abandoned. The agreement was threatened without the approval of the members, after which the unions explained how complicated the negotiations were.

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