FNV: Many university employees feel unsafe at work

Unions FNV and VAWO say universities should get their own ombudsman. A study has shown that many employees don’t feel safe at work.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Universities have confidential advisers, but the unions feel these advisers can’t actually do very much. An ombudsman, on the other hand, can investigate employee incident reports and make recommendations for actions or sanctions, says FNV director Jan Boersma.

Their study shows that many university employees often have to deal with bullying, abuse of power, humiliation, being excluded, not being told information, and (sexual) harassment.


The unions say 44 percent of the people reporting incidents are women, but with 35 percent, the men aren’t far behind. The unions say the numbers are ‘shocking’, and that ‘these aren’t just isolated incidents anymore’.

The incidents described in the study are harrowing. ‘A prominent professor plagiarised my work. I was told to stay quiet or I might lose my job’, one person wrote.

‘When I applied, they blatantly asked me if I wanted children. They also wondered out loud if I would be able to combine the job with a family’, someone else wrote.

Zero tolerance

The RUG responded that they take ‘these reports very seriously’. This week, they will publish a so-called zero tolerance statement, saying that inappropriate behaviour of any kind is completely unacceptable.

Spokesperson Jorien Bakker said there is no immediate need to subscribe to the unions’ call for an independent ombudsman or woman or a complaints committee. ‘The RUG’s confidential adviser, who only answer to the board of directors, is doing the job well.’

Per the collective agreement for universities, other institutes are currently participating in a pilot programme to suss out the need for an ombudsman. The RUG will await the results of that pilot to decide whether the current policy needs changing.


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