News - August 26, 2010

Taking action


Letter to the editor. Magazine #1 26 August 2010
The Dutch government aims to be among the top five knowledge economies of Europe. Yet, we have fallen from the 8th to the 10th position last year. While surrounding countries are investing more in education and research, The Hague is putting the brakes on investing in the universities.

In April, the Veerman Committee has already set down the challenges in the years ahead in its package of recommendations titled 'Threefold differentiation'. Ambitious youths are going to find themselves tied to study loans more and more and for longer periods. It wouldn't be practical then to expect the quality of education to go up as budgets are adjusted downwards. But politicians aren't the only ones who have stepped on the brakes. The directors of the institutions involved also have a major part in this. The Veerman Committee has also said specifically that the standard of education is made or broken by the quality of the lecturer and the recognition he or she gets. Since February, we have been negotiating with the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands) about a new collective labour agreement for university employees. The VSNU has opted for a 0 percent wage increase. It won't commit itself either to maintaining the status quo in the employment situation. Every university is given one budget and it is free to spend this as it deems fit. There are, however, no provisions in the budget for extra salaries for employees. With a finger pointed towards The Hague, the universities hope to shrug off their own responsibilities. This way out is too simplistic. Together with other labour unions, we are going to clamour for investments in employees and a decent CAO which maintains spending power and guarantees employment. We call on universities to stand up for their employees, and policy makers to turn their charming words into reality./ Marieke van den Berg, director of Abvakabo FNV