Given the high energy prices, Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas) decided to offer its staff an extra allowance. Employees in the lowest pay scales will be given a one-off net supplement of 370 euro. Scales 9 and up will receive 185 euro. For part-time staff the amount will be adjusted in proportion to their appointment.
BUas, like all other higher education institutions, has a separate budget for things like parental leave, a bicycle scheme and a home working allowance: the so-called ‘decentralised working conditions funds’. The energy supplement was paid from that budget, after consultation with trade unions and participation bodies.
According to education union AOb, other universities of applied sciences are also contemplating similar supplements. Douwe van der Zweep, board member of the AOb, points out that there are alternative budgets available, referring to the “sometimes substantial reserves” of educational institutions.
New collective labour agreements for higher education institutions have only just been adopted and will be in effect until 1 April 2023. The new agreements also included wage increases to compensate for inflation: salaries went up by 4 percent. But energy prices in particular have risen sharply since then.
“The Association of Universities of Applied Sciences closely monitors developments around purchasing power, inflation and energy prices, which it discusses with employers, trade unions and the government”, according to a spokesperson for the umbrella association.
It is currently unclear if anything will result from these discussions, or how soon a decision will be made. Should any agreements on financial compensation be reached, “the aim would be to have those agreements apply to the whole sector.”
The universities have not yet initiated discussions on energy supplements. “We understand that employees are concerned about the high inflation rates”, a spokesperson for university association UNL said. But according to him, there have been no consultations yet on compensation beyond the collective agreement. “It may be that individual universities will come up with their own solutions”, he said.
Every year, the higher education institutions’ government funding is adjusted for wage and price changes. That adjustment is meant to at least partially compensate for price increases. Next spring, just before the collective agreements are set to expire, the government will review this adjustment again.