The merger – why should temporary employees care?

Most temporary employees feel that the merger process is something that they can avoid spending time on. This is a natural response, but unfortunate from a democratic perspective. Moreover, the merger could also be a useful opportunity to make changes in systems and routines in order to improve working conditions for PhDs and Post Docs.   

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The merger process is something that receives a lot of attention, obviously. However, my impression when talking with my fellow PhD colleagues is that they ask the question: “Why should I care?” They have good reasons to give this response.

As a PhD student (or Post Doc) you know that your salary will end in one or few more years. You know that you must publish articles to advance your carrier. Moreover, NTNU expects you to manage your time effectively and focus fully on your research. So then, why should a PhD student spend energy and time on the ongoing merger? Well, that is difficult to answer.

Today I was observer in the Board Meeting of DION (the interest organizations for PhDs and Post Docs). First of all, I will appraise DION for spending their valuable time on activities for the common good. It is challenging position to be in, but it is crucial that someone takes this responsibility on the behalf of their fellow colleagues. Also, we discussed the merger. It is clear that temporary employees are vulnerable in processes of radical change. We don’t have the same job security and we are largely dependent on senior researchers in order to deliver results. So naturally, we are worried that our interests are forgotten in a time where the merger receives most attention.

That being said, the merger could also bring about positive events for us. It is possible to picture that an “unfreezed” organization can be changed in a better direction. As an example, procedures connected to duty work and project funding varies quite a lot between faculties and departments. I know that DION is working with such issues, but it is challenging to facilitate processes across bureaucratic boundaries. Maybe the merger can give us the leverage to implement needed change?

I genuinely believe that it is more fun and rewarding to work in an organization where you can influence the working conditions. There are many arenas where input from temporary employees are listened to and respected. I know the the board of DION also are happy to get feedback from their members, so an email could be enough. As a final note, I hope you use your democratic right to vote in the election next week. We are now in a situation where we lay the groundwork for our future colleagues, and your participation is needed.