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When will the salary increase be paid? And six other questions about the CAO

In July, the unions and universities reached a definitive CAO agreement (Collective Labour Agreement), with commitments on higher pay, more permanent contracts and a more inclusive leave scheme. Colleagues from the HR department and the FNV union explain how the agreement was reached, what we can expect from the commitments made and when we will see the highly coveted salary increase on our pay slips.

A decision has been reached: we have a new CAO agreement. Does that mean everything is now finalised?

Not completely. An agreement has been reached based on certain key principles and these must now be further formulated by the CAO parties into a definitive CAO text. Some agreements are already very concrete and can be adopted and implemented quickly, such as the salary increase and the one-off allowance, but other issues require more time and coordination.

‘Take, for example, the new transition leave,’ says Beatrix Pehlemann, team leader for employment conditions & working relations. ‘We’re pleased that the CAO parties have come to an agreement on this, in advance of national legislation, and we now know that this regulation will be implemented. But how much of the salary will be paid during the leave? And for how many weeks? The universities and unions have to firm up the details into a definitive CAO text before the end of September at the latest.’    

Does the HR department just have to wait then until the new CAO text is available?

Not at all, says Beatrix. ‘In the meantime we are taking stock of how all the agreements relate to existing policies and processes so that we can press ahead as soon as the CAO text is in place. Obviously, we won’t be doing this on our own, but will be working together with colleagues in the university. We are also identifying ambiguities and questions about implementation, so that Universities of the Netherlands, the umbrella association of Dutch universities, can include these points in their discussions about the CAO text.’ 

‘Some agreements can be implemented quickly, others require more time and coordinationg’

What will happen once the CAO text is available?

Even then, implementation isn’t just a matter of one press of a button. ‘On the one hand, there are different systems that have to be technically configured or modified,’ says Beatrix. ‘Take, for example, the agreement to pay the year-end allowance in November from 2024. What does that mean for how the allowance is made up? How do you determine the amount of salary received in the calendar year? At that point in time, we won’t actually know what the salary for December will be. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of taking due care. Some of the CAO agreements are clear, but others need more time. Ideally, we want to introduce the agreements in a way that will please everyone, and that requires proper coordination with the faculties, expertise centres and in some cases the unions in the Local Consultative Body.’

In any event, this CAO agreement offers some good opportunities to further shape employment conditions and personnel policy, she says. ‘In that respect, it’s good to see that the CAO parties are on the same page on the issue of permanent contracts for lecturers as we are in Leiden. I regard that as a compliment for the policy that we have formulated together within the organisation in recent months.’

The previous CAO expired on 31 March. Why has it taken four months to reach a new agreement?

There are different reasons for that, says lecturer in International Studies and FNV union official Arnout van Ree. ‘One reason is that the government didn’t let us know until April this year how much additional funding universities would receive to correct salaries to take inflation into account. Another factor is that last year, given the high inflation and the war in Ukraine, an emergency settlement was negotiated and agreements were reached only on salary. As a result, a number of major issues, such as the proportion of temporary contracts and the high workload, were put on hold. The unions and employers were still having heated debates on these topics this year.’

Arnout is hopeful that things will move faster next year. ‘Those agreements are already being planned now. Four months after the deadline is really exceptional, but it took several rounds of talks before everyone agreed. Partly for this reason, the FNV would prefer wages to rise automatically in line with inflation.’

‘The ability to exchange Good Friday for another holiday or day of remembrance makes our leave arrangements more inclusive’

Is the FNV happy with the outcome?

‘Yes and no…,’ says Arnout. ‘Diversity and inclusion is an important issue, but it was also a bit of an afterthought at the collective bargaining table in recent years. Transition leave is therefore a nice win, because that flexibility just has to be there for something so critical. Also, the ability to exchange Good Friday for another holiday or day of remembrance makes our leave arrangements more inclusive. After all, we have a diverse group of colleagues each with their own religious and personal beliefs. With regard to temporary teacher contracts, I had hoped for more. The proportion of teachers on temporary contracts is now going down to 13.5%, but across the teaching staff as a whole, that's still a lot of people. Fortunately, Leiden University has already been forward-thinking on this point, by giving teachers doing structural work a permanent contract as early as last year.’

When can staff expect the salary increase and the one-off payment?

That will happen in September, backdated from 1 August. ‘Payment of the salary increase and one-off sum to our employees is a priority,' says Beatrix. ‘So, in anticipation of this final agreement, we already had some processes in place and it was just a matter of waiting for the final salary scales from Universities of the Netherlands.’  

The aim was to date the salary increase retroactively from 1 April, Arnout explains. ‘But that didn’t work out in the end. We therefore agreed on a one-off payment as compensation. In any negotiations there is always room for improvement, but the main thing, particularly for colleagues in the lower salary scales, is that there is now an agreement on salaries.’ 

How can employees contribute to future CAO agreements?

By becoming a member of a union, says Arnout firmly. ‘As an employee, you are after all bound by the collective labour agreement, but if you’re not a union member, you have no voting rights. As an employee, you can offset the costs of membership via your secondary employment conditions and you also have the benefit of legal aid. The more members there are, the stronger our voice at the negotiating table. And that in turn affects the length of the negotiations and the agreements that are made.’

You can read the definitive agreement for the CAO of Universities in the Netherlands 2023-2024 here (in Dutch).

Unions in the Local Consultative Body

Employees at Leiden University are represented in the Local Consultative Body by four unions: AOb, CNV Overheid, FNV Overheid and AC/FBZ. The unions make agreements with the universities at national level, concluding on your behalf the CAO of Dutch Universities. At local level, the unions make further agreements with the Executive Board in the Local Consultative Body. You can contact the union yourself if you have any questions relating to your working and employment conditions.

Would you like to know more about the unions and the Local Consultative Body? Visit the page on the staff site.

Text: Evelien Flink
Banner: Monique Shaw

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