Two weeks ago, over a hundred people joined the national day of action against casualisation, organized by Casual Academy, 0.7, and WOinActie. Staff and students rallied in front of the Faculty of Social Sciences in Leiden, where the Casual groups from the Radboud, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden and Delft introduced themselves, while activists in Groningen and Maastricht held parallel rallies at their Universities. We sang re-mixed protest love songs, and heard from speakers of the FNV, WOinActie, de Leiden branch of Voor14, and student activists from XCC. Even strikers from UCU Nottingham showed their solidarity, and we will keep in close contact with them in order to set up an international network of groups that fight for labor rights within academia.
Locally, CasualLeiden brought together a number of departement/programme specific groups of casuals attending, such as OrganisingBIAS, OrganisingPhilospophy, and OrganisingPsychology. It was a clear sign that people across the Leiden University are getting organized and are no longer prepared to passively accept their exploitation. It forced Prof Hester Bijl, the Rector magnificus, to reply!
After the demonstration, activists from Leiden and Radboud joined a solidarity meeting with striking workers in Britain, while others joined the AOB’s annual AcademieKUS ceremony – which was awarded to Nicole van Os. For full coverage of the day we refer on the journalists who were also present, here, here, and here.
What we like to address here is the origin of this demonstration as well as the follow-up.
During the pandemic years several action groups have formed in Dutch academia to fight casualisation, exploitation, poor social safety, and a lack of accountability in and by Dutch Universities. This all escalated in September of 2021, following the true opening of the academic year, when 0.7 sent out a letter to the executive boards of several Dutch universities (colleges van bestuur, CvB’s) in which they demanded that the boards take responsibility for the precarity at their institutions. They accompanied the letter with a petition which collected over a thousand signatures and a doomsday clock, which was set to run out on 20 December 2021, in order to pressure the CvB’s into action. That letter was taken up by several local action groups, who addressed these matters directly with their respective university boards, and with the help of CasualLeiden this collaboration eventually birthed our collective known as Casual Academy. Sadly, some of the institutions have responded poorly to our cry for help, the University of Leiden (as well as the UNL) being the worst examples. And so, we gathered at the Wassenaarseweg at valentines day. But although that day has come and gone, and we’re extremely happy with how it went, our struggle continues.
Monday the 14th of February 2022 was the start of a semester of action. That means that while we close the initiative of the university won’t love you back, more action is coming and we will continue to organize. Not only is the CasualAcademy now a fact, providing a social and technical infrastructure for all local ‘Casuals’ and other groups. But we will also seek and grow new connections, with student groups, with international allies and with the unions. This is immediately visible in our plan of action for the coming months. Together with the FNV we will explore a joint action in March, and in April we will hold our next national day of action where we will make use of the end of the ‘industrial peace’ agreement that the unions signed with the employers. Disruptive acts such as teach outs, (white) strikes, and temporary occupation could then be supported by the unions.
Lastly, the scale of what all these small groups, and our predecessors have been able to achieve in just a year of action is truly inspiring. Everyone in academia is now familiar with the red square, and WOinActie is invited at the ministers table. Our grievances and exploitation which have been ignored for so long, are now common knowledge. We ended the culture of silence. All universities know that action groups and collectives are knocking on their doors and that they are demanding change. In Utrecht and Leiden, we’ve influenced policy and improved contract situations already. Our people sit in most councils, are active in the LO for several unions, are part of the YA’s and other institutional participatory bodies. Through and with the unions we are now a voice at policy level. We are part of the negotiations. All of this in just one year! But most importantly, we are a network now. We are a collective instead of individuals. We are a system of representation and a system of care. We are there for all employees who experience serious setbacks, unsafety and other harm from this system. You are not alone.