The Labor Inspectorate says university work pressure schemes are of little use

The Labor Inspectorate says university work pressure schemes are of little use

The protest group WOinActie has collected more than seven hundred complaints about workload. With the support of trade unions, these complaints ended up in the office of the SZW inspectorate in January 2020, which launched an investigation.

This is now round. The result: things are not going well. Plans against work pressure are not effective enough. They focus too much on the individual, while the source of the problems is not addressed. The Inspectorate talks about the danger of ‘symptom control’.


For example, workload training is offered, while the impact of this is not measured. Universities also mention that lack of funding is one of the causes of workload, while keeping their own policy out of harm’s way.

The inspectorate talks about the danger of ‘symptom control’

For example, WOinActie sees an imbalance in evaluating education and research. The universities can do something about it, but according to the inspectorate, they reflect very little in their plans.

Universities also pay little attention to the consequences of discrimination and unwanted behavior in the workplace. They respond mainly to accidents. In some universities, it is not even clear who is actually responsible for processing reports and references. Moreover, aftercare for victims is not sufficiently organized.

over time

and overtime? This is where the complaints started. Universities were looting their employees, was the complaint by WOinActie. But the inspectorate can’t do much about the extra work.

Nor do universities pay much attention to discrimination and undesirable behavior in the workplace

That was clear from the start. An exception has been made for scientists in the working hours law (just like firefighters for example). Once the salary exceeds a certain threshold (three times the minimum wage or more than 64 thousand euros full-time), the Hours of Work Act no longer applies.

But this does not mean that the problem of work pressure can be eliminated. The ministry and universities will enter into discussions. The Labor Inspectorate keeps its finger on the pulse and talks to WOinActie every six months.

“Universities are busy every day with a very high workload,” says a spokesperson for the VSNU University Consortium. “In the new collective labor agreement, reducing the workload is one of the spearheads for universities and trade unions.” For example, it is agreed that private time should be monitored and the activities of employees should match the size of the assignment.

Grievances Secretary

Universities also report that the KNAW scientific community issues advice about undesirable behavior in science. They also expect plenty of independent ombudsmen, who will soon appoint them all.

Universities expect a lot from ombudsmen

Increasing number of reports of discrimination? VSNU attributes this in part to the increased interest of universities in the structural problems in the field.

Indeed, universities want to receive an additional 1.1 billion euros annually, in part to reduce their workload.


WOinActie’s Professor Remko Brooker tweeted in response to this inspection investigation that universities have been disrupted mirror by mirror in recent years. He says there is a benefactor and a pessimist. “My halves disagree about what works and what doesn’t, just something has to be done.”

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