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‘Want to change things? Employee participation does just that’

The University Council (UR) is the central employee participation body at the University. But what exactly does the UR do? We asked Inge van der Weijden, researcher at CWTS and member of the UR on behalf of the staff party Universitair Belang. A question-and-answer session about what is going on within the University and the importance of employee participation.

Why did you become a candidate for the University Council?

‘I wanted to represent the interests of the staff within the University, my colleagues in fact, and to act as a sounding board for them about what is happening the organisation. I also liked the idea of advising the Executive Board about their policy plans and being able to make a contribution to those plans. It's a good match for my research: I work at CWTS (Leiden's Centre for Science and Technology Studies) where I do research on the careers of academics. Having been a member of the UR since September last year and now being  chairman of Universitair Belang, I get to see my work from the inside.’

What do you want to achieve as a member of the UR?

‘One of the key areas for me personally is career policy for temporary staff, a subject that again fits with the knowledge I've gained from my research. There was no career policy for post-docs, for example, although they too need training and support in their career. Fortunately, the first steps have now been taken and since September of this year courses have been set up for post-docs.’

‘What I also think is important is that more attention should be paid to teaching and professionalising it. Teaching is one of the issues covered in the Performance and Development interviews, but there is a feeling that it's by no means always taken seriously in the interviews. I believe it's important that teaching commitments are included in assessments as well as research output.' 

‘Together with the other two staff parties we are looking at reducing work pressure; it's a problem throughout the University, so we are working together on it. We are also always involved in gathering new issues. Everyone is welcome to approach us with problems they come across or good solutions they may have found.' 

What are the current issues in your meetings? 

‘One hot topic at the moment is the HR Next Level plan: the University's new policy on P&O and HR, which may also have consequences for how the work of these departments is structured. It's our job as employee representatives to stress the interests of the employees. Is the University paying enough attention to the feelings of the staff about such a change? And are they communicating properly on this issue? These are the kinds of things we keep a keen eye on.' 

Why is participation so important within the University? 

‘In every organisation people complain or they think things should be done differently. If you really want to change things, you need to talk to the employee participation bodies.  Or become a member youself, of course!' 

This is the first in a series of interviews with the leaders of the different parties in the UR. Part two in the series will appear next month in the newsletter.

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