North Rhine-Westphalia calls for better HE job terms

The Social Democrat-Green government of North Rhine-Westphalia is tabling a bill in Germany’s Upper House, the Bundesrat, urging the federal government to improve employment terms in higher education and research.

“Our Bundesrat initiative is aimed at putting more pressure on the German federal government to do away with shortcomings in current legislation concerning fixed-term contracts in higher education and research,” explained the state’s Higher Education and Research Minister Svenja Schulze of the Social Democrats.

“There has to be an appropriate, fair and flexible balance between interests within the higher education and research system. Its employees deserve good employment terms and working conditions.”

In 2008, the analysis and statistics agency Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH, or HIS, was commissioned by the federal government to evaluate a new law (on fixed-term contracts) that had come into force a year earlier.

The HIS survey, published three years later, found that the law was above all unsatisfactory regarding the duration of contracts agreed between employers and employees. Around half of the contracts had a duration of less than one year.

“This sort of employment practice makes it difficult for people to plan their careers while they are still in their qualifying stage. It is inimical to the family in terms of employment terms, and it therefore makes an academic career unattractive,” said Schulze.

“And ultimately, this does considerable damage to Germany as a centre of higher education and research.”

The North Rhine-Westphalia government accused Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat, Christian Social and Free Democrat Federal coalition government of having failed to draw any consequences from a survey that was commissioned under Merkel’s previous administration.

The state bill includes an introduction of legally guaranteed minimum durations of contracts for fixed-term employment, linking fixed terms to the period covered by third-party funding in research and other projects, and the omission of excluding such contracts from free collective bargaining.