Shifting Terrain
Recent Developments and the Future of Casual Labor in Higher Education

Shifting Terrain
Thursday, 8 July 2021 15:00-16:30

Some important, possibly groundbreaking, developments have taken place in the last few weeks: 1) a new CAO agreement (Nieuwe CAO 2021); and 2) a verdict against Leiden University’s misuse of temporary contracts (van Ree vs. Leiden University). While the first seems to disregard the demands of docenten in its campaign for more permanent contracts, the second has the potential of providing temporary members of staff with the legal support and recognition they need to successfully mobilize against current hiring practices. In the meantime, Casual Leiden has completed a report based on the survey that was circulated between February and April, and is about to send it to the CvB with a list of demands.

On July 8, we came together on Zoom to discuss these issues with the following presenters.

Lieke Smits briefly presented the Casual Leiden report and letter to the CvB;

Mr. Twan Kersten (van As advocaten) gave us updates on the lawsuit;

Tim Winkel of 0.7 discussed the new CAO agreement and ways ahead.

Below you will find a short video presentation of Casual Leiden with which we opened the meeting, a report of the meeting and the Power Point slides of our speakers.

For more views on the new CAO please check the collected media articles and two views of Casual Leiden members here.

Read our Report of the meeting here

Casual Leiden’s report ‘Casualization and Overwork at Leiden University: A call for dignified labour conditions for all’

Our report was prompted by the situation at Leiden University: the percentage of temporary contracts has increased from 2019-2020, and is above the average of Dutch universities. This is mainly caused by the large number of Docenten (lecturers without research time) on fixed-term contracts (77.7% of Docenten, in fte). We continue the call for more permanent contracts by OrganizingBAIS, and support the Position Paper by the Young Academy Leiden, which argues that all teaching staff should have research time, and that if the university has to rely structurally on teaching-only staff, they should have a right to career growth and a permanent position.

Our report qualifies some of the findings of previous national reports by looking at the particular challenges faced by staff at Leiden University. We encountered challenges around splinter contracts, lack of transparency around issues like changes in contract size and workload calculations, structural overwork, lack of research time, lack of encouragement to apply for grants, problems with the university's willingness to guarantee embedding, and a lack of discussions of career development in the annual ROG.

Based on our findings, we call on the Executive Board (CvB) to commit to the following 3 goals for the academic year 2021-2022:

  1. End Casualization

Where the new CAO agreement demands that the flexible layer “should not be larger than necessary and explainable,” we insist on a limited reading of the “objective grounds” that allow for a temporary contract. Moreover, larger programmes should be facilitated to create a larger pool of permanent staff based upon an informed prognosis of recurrent replacement needs.

  1. Career paths and professional growth for all

We also call upon the CvB to invest time and resources in professional growth for temporary and permanent staff as per the new CAO agreement. In particular, we call for more effective job market orientation for PhDs, tenure possibilities for postdocs, career perspective for Docent-4 lecturers in the form of dual PhD/Docent tracks and senior Docent positions, and more opportunities to move from UD to UHD positions.

  1. End structural overwork

We call upon the CvB to provide full transparency about workload calculations and take concrete steps against structural overwork. The CvB should also speak out against underfunding nationally more publicly.

Endorse our demands here.

0.7’s view on the CAO

0.7 is an action group set up by lecturers at Utrecht University but with national ambition. 0.7 refers to the typical contract size for teaching-only positions which can hardly be combined with another job and are de facto seriously underpaid. The collective emerged out of frustration with the treatment of PhD and casual staff and the realization that existing organizations such as unions and co-participation bodies haven’t been able to effectively counter the exploitation of temporary docenten. 0.7 has now launched a national network to organize temporary staff members and demand better working conditions.

Tim de Winkel first praises the benefits negotiated by the unions: the salary raise, the increased contract security for UDs, the minimum wage of 14 euros per hour. However, he is very concerned that the CAO will lead to more teaching-only positions with shorter temporary contracts. In other words, this further exacerbates casualization and increases incentives for employers to give no research time to docenten.

The way forward is to build our own networks like Casual Leiden, the Casual Academy, and 0.7, but also join our unions --FNV and AoB-- to energize them and make sure they represent our demands. 0.7 is also encouraging casual staff members to take positions in local committees, to participate in negotiations, understand how local structures work, and represent casual voices.

Twan Kersten on the verdict against Leiden University

Mr. Twan Kersten, who represented Arnout van Ree, discusses the verdict against Leiden University, leading to Van Ree receiving a permanent contract. He notes that the case has a very specific element; Van Ree was first offered a fourth extension, which was later retracted and replaced by a later end date of his third extension. However, there are also some more general elements to the case, which can be of interest to other temporary employees.

It should be kept in mind that an objection to a decision has to be lodged within 6 weeks, but if not the judge can consider ‘excusable delay’.

Furthermore, it is important to know which CAO applies to your contract. There is the CAO 2017-2019, and the CAO 2020, which are more or less the same. The CAO stipulated that fixed-term contracts are only permissible when ‘necessary’. The judge does not find student numbers and educational developments objective grounds for fixed-term extensions.

Kersten also mentions the negotiating agreement for the CAO 2021. The new regulations that are supposed to increase job security count only for those who already have more job security.

Aside from the CAO, contracts should also be in line with European law, according to which a fixed-term extension is only permitted when there is an objective reason: only for some individual, incidental jobs or tasks. The judge argued that the university relies structurally on fixed-term extensions, because of financial problems. This is not permitted according to European law.

What the University claimed in the court case is that fixed-term extensions are used to protect employees because the University would have to fire the good ones immediately otherwise. The judge, however, stated that this “protection” is against the will of the employees themselves, and the University is only doing so because of financial problems.

Kersten adds that these financial problems are now only solved using the most precarious employees, while it would be fairer to share the burden. Kersten also notes that the CAO does not seem to be in accordance with European law.

presentatie Twan Kersten.pptx
Casualization and Overwork at Leiden University.pptx