When universities and universities of applied sciences merge, what happens to collective agreements?

Blog post

Universities and universities of applied sciences do not fall under the same collective agreements. The treatment of employees can vary significantly between different institutions, and even within them.

Different collective agreements apply to employees depending on whether they work for a university or a university of applied sciences – even if they were working for the same organisation. Although the collective agreements are overall quite similar, they do differ from each other. The devil is often in the details. For example, the differences in the number of teaching hours will be highlighted as the cooperation between universities and universities of applied sciences deepens. There may be situations where colleagues are sharing an office and doing the same work but under different terms and with different pay.

There are significant differences between job titles; with regard to research-focused work, for example, the interpretations of the terms of the collective agreement can vary wildly within the university sector. On the applied sciences side, researchers are chiefly considered the management’s support staff, and as such they are not eligible for weekend or evening work bonuses, and they have no standing in the teaching work. Yet, research projects also fund the teaching work, meaning that researchers also participate in work that relates to the teaching. Like teachers, researchers also have to work nights and weekends as part of their duties, yet only teachers are paid additional bonuses and compensations for this – sometimes. There are also differences in the salary practices between the collective agreements of university teachers and applied sciences teachers.

If the higher education sector ends up furthering the cooperation between the university levels in the future, both collective agreements contain occupational groups that would see significant impairments to their terms if they were to move over to the other collective agreement. Roughly speaking, if they were to move under the collective agreement for universities, applied sciences teachers would end up losing at least as much as university researchers would under the agreement for universities of applied sciences. Enticing offers for collective agreement shopping exist.

If there are to be negotiations for a shared collective agreement in the higher education sector in the future,  it is of primary importance that the negotiations include representation from all employee groups and that the voices of all operators in the sector are heard.