Academics regularly forced to work unpaid overtime, unions, action group say

Students in a lecture
Students in a lecturePhoto: kasto/DepositPhotos

Professors, lecturers and support staff at universities in the Netherlands on average work 12 to 15 hours more per week than their contract prescribes, without being paid for it, according to a report trade unions FNV and AOb and university action group WO in Actie presented to the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment on Monday. The forced, unpaid overtime can compromise the top position of Dutch universities, WO in Actie said to newspaper AD. 

In December, WO in Actie called on university workers to report overtime. The group received over 700 responses, along with complaints of the workload leading to stress and psychological complaints, fatigue, sleep problems, no time for friends or hobbies, "relationship problems, divorce, and alienation of children", the report states. 

The analysis shows that the international top position of Dutch universities is partly thanks to achievements of scientists in their off-time. "A lot of work is done in the evenings and weekends," Ingrid Robeyns of WO in Actie said to the newspaper. "That is really no longer possible." If Dutch academics burn out, their universities' prestige dwindle along with them. 

The hours used as standard for education and research need to be recalculated, Robeyns said. "On paper it is fine. But the time for education is far too short. In practice, bureaucracy consumes a lot of time and there is no time left for research." Forcing academics to do their research in their private time

Young lecturers in particular, who do not have a permanent contract and want to be promoted, need to publish research to achieve that. Already established lecturers are under pressure to secure funding for research. They therefore have little choice but to also work in their private time, according to the action group. WO in Actie and the trade unions want the Inspectorate to investigate whether the standard hours need to be adjusted.