Universities have no plans to do so yet

Will employees get an 'energy bonus' to keep warm this winter?

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The Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas) decided to offer its staff a bonus to cope with the rising gas and electricity costs. Employees on the lowest pay scales will be given a one-off net supplement of 370 euros. Those on scales 9 and up will receive 185 euros. For part-time staff, the amount will be adjusted in proportion to their appointment.

Like all higher education institutions in the Netherlands, BUas has a separate budget for things like parental leave and an allowance for those working from home: the so-called "decentralised working condition funds". The new "gas and electricity supplement" was taken from that budget, after consultation with trade unions and councils.

According to educational trade union AOb, other universities of applied sciences are also contemplating similar supplements. Douwe van der Zweep, a member of AOb's board, indicates that there are alternative budgets available for this. Sometimes educational institutions have "substantial reserves", he says.

Higher education institutions have just adopted new collective labour agreements, which will be in effect until April 1, 2023. These agreements already include a 4-percent salary increase to compensate for inflation but the costs of gas and electricity have risen substantially since then.

“The Association of Universities of Applied Sciences is monitoring the purchasing power, the inflation and the rising prices, which will be discussed with employers, trade unions and the government,” states a spokesperson for their umbrella association.

Whether anything will result from these discussions, or how soon a decision will be made, is yet to be known. Should any agreements on financial compensation be reached, “the aim would be to have them apply to the whole sector.”

Research universities (such as UU) have not yet initiated any discussions on a bonus to compensate for the rising costs of electricity and gas. “We understand that employees are concerned about the inflation,” a spokesperson for the association of Dutch universities, UNL, declared. But, according to him, there have been no talks yet about compensation beyond the collective agreement. “It may be that individual universities will come up with their own solutions”, he said.

Every year, the funding given by the government to higher education institutions is adjusted according to wages and inflation. That adjustment is meant to at least partially compensate any price increases. Next spring, just before the collective agreements are set to expire, the government will review this adjustment again.