The university doesn’t love you, even though you give it your whole life. That’s the message protesting UG employees are using on Monday, Valentine’s Day, in an effort to end temporary contracts and to stop structural overtime and a lack of social safety.
‘Love us back, cut us some slack’, the protesters in front of the Academy building chanted. United under the flag of #OrganizetheRUG, the employees were protesting as part of the national campaign ‘The university won’t love you back’ that was taking place in Leiden. ‘Like the rest of the country, the UG is having issues’, says union representative Nasser Kalantar. ‘But the university will only acknowledge the pressure we’re under if we get together and take a stand.’
Organising and protesting genuinely help, he says, referring to last year’s negotiations on the collective agreement. After repeated protests against temporary contracts and the lack of permanent positions, an agreement was reached that said that associate professors doing a good job will be entitled to a permanent contract after a year.
‘It’s a good start, but it’s not enough’, says Kalantar. ‘We want lecturers and young researchers to also have a shot at a permanent position, without having to drift from temporary contract to temporary contract.’ If there’s one thing that’s stressful, he says, it’s uncertainty about your future.
The protesters were also advocating improved social safety at the university. ‘This topic has been ignored for a long time; the board of directors didn’t pick it up until last year’, says Kalantar. This is partially explained by the fact that the issue often doesn’t translate to an official complaint. ‘People simply don’t come forward with it, even though we know there’s a lack of social safety at the university.’
When people do come forward, the response is often inadequate, a report by the Young Academy Groningen (YAG) on the subject showed in October of last year. The report says the UG isn’t very good at handling complaints concerning unwanted behaviour or a lack of social safety. Instead of helping them, they blame the victims, forcing them into mediation with the perpetrators, and sabotaging their careers, says the YAG.
In order to end these issues, university employees should band together and make a stand, the protesters say. From now on, the union will collect reports from employees concerning worries about their position, structural overtime, and any and all forms of a lack of social safety.
‘We don’t want the board to rule on every single case, but we want to create an overview of people’s experiences we can use’, says Kalantar. ‘Every individual case counts if we collect all of them. We need the masses to provide insight into the issues and reach our goal.’