No proper telework allowance at UGent but only a limited connection fee of 20 euros ... and this, again, not for everyone

Submitted by ACOD UGent on wo, 12/08/2021 - 09:00

On Tuesday 30 November 2021, the Personeelsonderhandelingscomité (POC, Personnel Negotiating Committee) of UGent deliberated about a new regulation on allowances and reimbursement of expenses. These regulations will be presented to the Board of Directors this Friday, 10 December 2021.

The proposed regulation contains some specific changes for the better, which we will elaborate on in a subsequent article.

Nevertheless, this proposal received a triple protocol of non-agreement in the negotiations. For ACOD, the reason for this disagreement was that the board did not show any concrete and sincere willingness to start discussions about the introduction of a proper telework allowance at UGent.

There will be a so-called connection fee of 20 euros per month. This compensation was obtained by the trade unions in the negotiations that were held at the Flemish level this year for the CAO VI higher education. For this allowance, all universities, including UGent, receive specific additional resources from the government.

For the allocation of this connection fee, UGent provides fully analogous modalities similar to those already applied for the corona premium. This non-indexable net compensation of 20 euros will be allocated:

  • to all staff members, as well as (post)doctoral grant holders, with an employment rate of at least 20%
  • for every month during which they have worked at least one day or are in a situation that is equal to a service activity (e.g. holiday leave, illness, parental leave, ...)

In contrast to other universities, such as KUL or VUB, UGent does not provide means to supplement this limited amount to a proper telework allowance that also covers all other additional costs that teleworking staff members are confronted with, costs that UGent itself can save to some extent thanks to this telework. ACOD's proposals to also pass on the costs of a telework allowance to external financiers and thus make additional budgetary resources available for this purpose were not taken seriously by the administration and were shelved.

Moreover, it appears once again - as with the corona bonus - that a large group of employees would not be eligible for this (limited) connection fee of 20 euro per month. This again concerns, among others, all researchers who are directly paid by an external financier, e.g. the FWO aspirants and the FWO postdoctoral fellowship holders and the researchers who are directly remunerated by other comparable institutions, as well as the large group of international researchers with an external grant, e.g. from their home country.

For ACOD, this is unacceptable. Therefore, we could not agree with this proposal. Not only has the board shown no willingness at all to enter into a sincere discussion about the proper reimbursement of the additional costs that teleworking staff largely take over from UGent; the board also continues the approach that has already been criticised several times, whereby a large group of researchers at our university are excluded from the same rights and benefits as their UGent colleagues in other statutes, while they are doing the same work for the benefit of UGent.