Concerns have risen amongst University staff members across the Netherlands over the unprecedented prevalence of precarious occupational contracts. These concerns concreticised fairly recently in the form of the “Casual Leiden” Movement.
Set up in autumn of last year, “Casual Leiden” is a branch of a larger network of activists across the Netherlands, called “Casual Academy”. According to the Casual Leiden website, they seek to mobilise staff and students alike around the issue “of casualization and structural overwork at Leiden University.” Their three main aims are to:
- End casualization (“casualisation” intended as in staff employed under temporary contracts)
- Provide career paths and professional growth for all
- End structural overwork
The movement sprang up because of the perceived poor and limited reaction of the Dutch government in dealing with the current working conditions. Together with “0.7”, Casual Leiden organised the “Doomsday Clock initiative”, which set a deadline for the Dutch government (20th December) to address the problem. Unfortunately for the organisers of the Doomsday Clock initiative, the Dutch government did not meet the deadline, which prompted action by the Casual Movement and subsequently led to the protest in Leiden on Monday.
The movement’s cause has persuaded many students to participate in the protest in solidarity with the teaching staff. Anne Lau, a student who participated at the protest, said she was “shocked and ashamed to hear about the dire working conditions tutors are increasingly facing and how little awareness there is about the issue of casualization among us students.” According to the survey made by the Casual Leiden movement published in July, the number of temporary contracts at Leiden University is “relatively high”- of the 180 respondents, 79% of them were employed under temporary contracts and out of 173 respondents, 48.5% of them were in between the ages of 28-35 and mostly identified as female. BAISmag has recently contacted Casual Leiden, to ask whether this is a result of a gender bias, to which they replied that indeed “female staff members appear more likely to receive a temporary contract and less likely to be made permanent.” but also that “more data is needed to make definite conclusions.”
When questioned on what has been the impact of overworking on staff, Casual Leiden said that the impact has been “enormous”: “Many staff members have also had burnouts or struggled with depression and anxiety as they are constantly under pressure from superiors to work longer hours and during weekends,” in order to get a chance at having a permanent and more secure position. This, they claim, cuts short on the staff’s ability to have a “stable future” and other prospects, such as “buying a house, and often have to delay starting a family.”
Casual Leiden believes that its efforts so far have yielded successes, as some contracts have been made permanent, but that “there is still a lot of room for improvement.” Monday’s demonstration itself, they claim, has been a significant success for the movement, so much so that it has inspired colleagues in Rotterdam and Amsterdam to set up their own movements. When asked what their plans are to get individuals who might not feel directly affected by the issue, Casual Leiden affirmed that this issue affects the University community as a whole, regardless of whether you might be a student or a member of staff with a permanent contract: “the precarious conditions many colleagues suffer make it impossible to create meaningful long-term relations at work” and that the staff’s “working conditions are students’ learning conditions,” which is why they believe it is crucial that students take action in this regard.
Anne Lau claimed that this issue goes to show what the University’s financial “doubtful” priorities are, as they seem to prefer to “spend on expensive surveillance systems and a fancy interior instead of investing that money in fairer wages for the academic staff and increasing the quality of our education.” This is why in her eyes “there must be more students at those protests to show that we do care about the university sacrificing our education for profit.”
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Images from Casual Leiden website
- Anne Lau, interview by Rosalie De Beus, 17 February 2022.
- Casual Leiden, interview by Antonio Righetti, email interview, 17 February 2022.