Universiteit Leiden

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New FNV union representative introduces herself

Leiden University has a new FNV representative: Thecla Meyknecht. Employees can come to her with questions and problems related to the workplace. ‘All managers should receive targeted training in which they learn to be proud of their human capital.’

Thecla Meyknecht works as an FNV representative two days a week. She also supports the Board of Examiners for the Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences programme two days a week. At present, she works mainly from home, but she has access to office space in the Van Steenis building (home of Archaeology and Environmental Sciences).

What can you do for staff?

‘All members of staff can come to me, but we do make a distinction between staff who are members of the FNV union and those who are not. For non-members, I limit myself to a brief consultation. My help for members goes much further. We can discuss possible steps and I can accompany them to a difficult conversation. We also have skilled lawyers and solicitors we can call on if necessary.’
‘I have only just started this job, and I’ll begin my training to become an adviser with the FNV in November. There, I’ll learn everything about the legal position of university staff and the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch universities (CAO NU). Once I’ve passed my exams in January, I’ll be authorised to act formally as an FNV adviser. Until then, I’ll limit myself to advisory sessions with everyone, during which I can call on advisers from other universities. Collectively, we really form a team.

‘Anyone can come to me for advice, but my help for members goes much further, with legal advice, for example.'

Do you have a passion for unions?

‘Yes, you could say that. I can’t stand injustice. When I see it, I want to sink my claws into it. When something concerns me at work, I don’t keep my mouth shut; I immediately bring it up for discussion. I can be quite forceful about that. In the workplace, I don’t like it when people work on the basis of power relationships. I always start from cooperation. In my decades of work experience, I’ve seen major differences. Good managers value their human capital. Before I came to the University, I worked for 30 years as an executive secretary and seven years as a project leader, often with very good managers and directors.’ 

Workload Week
In November, the FNV will organise Workload Week in connection with the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus strategic alliance (LDE). In the run-up to that week, FNV union officials at Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam will conduct a survey among staff in support positions. This concerns their tasks in relation to the official job description in the university job classification system of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). During Workload Week, the FNV will organise a webinar and meetings according to the College Tour model, in which a certain aspect of work is addressed each time. An FNV member will give an introduction, several experts from the university will speak, and staff can ask the experts questions.
More information to follow

Why do you think that you more frequently have found good managers outside universities?

‘I hold them to a high standard. I think one cause is that at a university, people like professors are given managerial positions for which they are not trained. Good academics are not automatically good managers. The fact that you are one of the best in your field does not always help you to be a useful supervisor for your people. I applaud the fact that the University is working hard to professionalise leadership, but that process is still ongoing. Everyone who leads, including middle management, should be trained for that, in my opinion; as a supervisor, you should learn how to guide your people with respect, through cooperation rather than hierarchy. Managers also have to learn which legal steps they can and cannot take at will. In education, we have the Basic and Senior Teaching Qualifications; there should be something like that for managers too. They also deserve support to be able to do their work well, which is why training is essential.’

I can’t stand injustice. When I see it, I want to sink my claws into it.

The number of union members is decreasing, while unions continue to ensure a good collective labour agreement...

‘Yes, that’s a shame. What many people don’t realise is that the collective labour agreement that the unions negotiate applies to the entire sector, including non-members. They benefit from results such as pay rises, allowances and more than 20 days of annual leave. It’s the same at universities. So the FNV – and the other unions – do a lot for people who are probably not even aware of it. I also think that people aren’t aware enough of how much they can gain from union membership. It’s not just about legal help; you can also get career advice, for example, or take courses at low prices. Fortunately, we have hundreds of union members at the University. I hope that staff who are not yet members will join a union, because together we are strong. The larger the group, the more influence you can exert on the collective labour agreement. And members can give their consent in the negotiations for it. That applies to all job levels. FNV membership isn’t that expensive, and it has real added value.’

Thecla Meyknecht can be reached at
06 112 733 31

What can FNV offer you?

  • A good collective labour agreement for universities
  • Guaranteed help in case of (imminent) labour conflict 
  • Personal advice on work and career
  • Direct advice for questions about your work and income 
  • Tax service
  • Korting met je ledenpas
  • Discounts with your membership card
  • Influence on your terms of employment

Become a member

Text: Corine Hendriks
Photos: André van Haasteren

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