Workers’ union: UB uses on-call workers for structural work (CORRECTION)

At least thirty on-call workers at the University Library (UB) are doing the same work as contracted employees while subject to different conditions, says workers’ union FNV. That is a breach of the collective agreement. 

FNV is investigating the issue following a question from the UB’s service council as to what the HR department of the university understands as structural work. They want clarification on whether regular positions, such as behind the front desk of the library, can be filled by on-call workers without further consideration.

It’s understandable why department managers decide to hire on-call workers, says FNV spokesperson Maarten Goldberg. ‘They often have a long-term budget to keep in mind, part of which isn’t guaranteed. It makes sense to be able to do away with staff at the end of a year.’

Invigilators

The university uses on-call workers for various jobs. The large pool of invigilators that the UG uses during exams is almost entirely made up of on-call workers. These people’s jobs are not structural, Golberg emphasises. ‘Invigilators’ workloads vary greatly. They might work twenty hours one week and zero the next. You can’t really put permanent workers in a position like that.’

But the UB isn’t the only place where on-call workers do structural work, he says. ‘It also happens at other departments, but I suspect on a much smaller scale.’ That’s why the union is focusing on the UB. ‘We could inspect the other departments, but we’d be keeping our HR colleagues from doing the rest of their work.’ 

Questions

According to Goldberg, the focus should first lie on how large the group of on-call workers is and what policy the UB has for on-call work. In late November, the FNV asked the board of directors about this, which in turn went to the UB’s board. 

‘They might tell us they’re using the on-call workers at non-regular hours’, says Goldberg. ‘But we don’t think that’s entirely true. We’re in possession of a collective agreement that states they might have to work until nine o’clock at night, without overtime. Until then, on-call workers work regular hours, doing regular work.’

The UB board has said it is still formulating a response. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that FNV started an investigation following a complaint from an on-call worker. That is not the case. While FNV has received complaints from on-call workers, they do not work at the UB.

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