Dutch academics demand investigation into structural unpaid overtime

A survey assessing more than 700 Dutch academics last month indicates that university employees in the Netherlands work an average of 12-15 unpaid hours weekly – an average of 36% more than their regular contract. According to a report published Monday by Financieele Dagblad, protest group WO in Actie found in their investigation that “More than 70% of university lecturers and professors complain about high or unacceptably high work pressure.”

Remco Breuker – Leiden professor of Korean studies – says in FD that he is officially contracted for 38 hours a week but in practice he works 65-70 hours, not counting his work on the weekends. He explains his working day consists of meetings, thesis supervision and lectures. He tells FD he does his research in the evenings and during the weekends.

FD writes that for university employees, “the so-called ‘norm hours’ that stand for a certain task are usually not enough to complete the work. As a result, family life, hobbies and social contacts are put at risk and health problems accumulate.” FD adds that those who refuse to put in extra time “run the risk of missing out on promotion or permanent employment.”

Previous university attempts to curb work pressure range from buying fruit trays for staff to investment in time management courses. According to FD, “Only 8% of the respondents say that this has helped and most of them do not expect any improvements in the future.”

Ingrid Robeyns – an initiator of WO in Actie and professor of Ethics at Utrecht University – says some of the so-called efficiency improvements have been counterproductive. She claims with the weak ‘improvements’ implemented, “Drivers then allocate fewer standard hours to a course. As a result, the hours on paper are reduced, while as a teacher you have just as much work on it.” Robeyns stresses the only solution is restructuring the budget to allot more money to academics so that universities can hire more staff members.

On Monday, WO in Actie together with trade unions FNV and AOb will report the survey results to the Inspectorate SZW, making a collective claim on behalf of university workers and demanding an investigation into the practice of structural unpaid overtime.

Featured Image: Romaine [CC0]


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