On Wednesday evening, dozens of campaigners met in Utrecht to discuss new steps in their protest against the government. They may go on strike. ‘I see no other option if the government continues to ignore us,’ says Leiden University professor Remco Breuker, a representative of WOinActie.
He calls the new cuts announced on Budget Day a slap in the face of the campaigners. ‘The education minister had clearly alluded to extra funds for education at the opening of the academic year. That’s what everyone understood. And to subsequently announce cuts means you are not suitable to be a minister. It means you are unable to secure funds for higher education and research, not even with the billions currently available.
Putting the pressure on
WOinActie wants to put the pressure on. The campaigners are considering a new demonstration with open-air lectures, but also work-to-rule (no more overtime) and submitting complaints to the Labour Inspectorate.
‘I see many colleagues throwing in the towel or keeling over'
It may eventually escalate into a general strike. ‘That’ll be the limit. Perhaps we should wait and see what happens if students can no longer graduate. Everyone and everything will suffer delays. But now it’s our personal lives that are on hold.’
He believes there is a high degree of willingness to demonstrate and even go on strike. ‘I see many colleagues throwing in the towel or keeling over. The stress is damaging people’s health. We feel like we are never able to relax, that we are never able to shut down our PCs for the evening or the weekend, because too much can go wrong.’
Breuker thinks that the scientists will also eventually need to do some soul-searching of their own. ‘We are part of the system and we help perpetuate it. This is a situation we all helped to create. Things need to be sorted out, and that requires money: first things first. But afterwards, we will need to think very carefully if this is how we wish to lead universities to the 22nd century. I don't think so.’
WOinActie was established nearly two years ago, and is demanding an additional €1 billion for university education. At the opening of the new academic year, the protesters demanded the resignation of Ingrid van Engelshoven, the minister of education.
HOP, Bas Belleman