Jytte and the local chapter of the Finnish Union of University Professors call for openness in the personnel reductions caused by the economy drive. Uncertainty on the future of subjects and professorships causes insecurity, reducing wellbeing and trust.
Due to the pressure on university budgets and the cuts implemented by the Finnish government, 2016 saw a record number of co-determination procedures and dismissals. Most universities, bar Jyväskylä and Turku, chose to carry out dismissals. The decision made by the University of Jyväskylä has proven to have been the right one, as both the organisational climate and the relationship between the university management and the staff organisations remain healthy. This provides good grounds for future action despite the effects of the economy drive.
In Jyväskylä, the university used some of its capital to circumvent dismissals. However, most of the savings were made by leaving the posts of retired professors and other members of the teaching staff unfilled. The retirement of other staff members has produced additional savings on the same principle. In the University of Jyväskylä, the need for savings in 2017 is around 5.5 million euros and the target for cumulative savings amounts to as much as 12.5 million euros. To meet the targets, all the staff members who are either about to resign or retire over the next five years are having their posts subjected to critical evaluation. The university aims to leave about half of the positions unfilled.
Jytte and the local chapter of the Finnish Union of University Professors understand the effects of the economy drive and want to support the university in difficult times. However, not filing the vacated positions creates unnecessary ambiguity and insecurity for the departments. While departments know which members of their staff will reach the retirement age over the next five years, it is impossible to predict who will leave the university for a different job either in Finland or abroad. Nevertheless, it is unclear who decides if a post is going to be filled or not. The ostensibly unclear, random, or case by case basis of the decisions adds insecurity and worry about the future. This worsened by the lack of collegial decision-making, as it seems that the university management makes the choice on a case by case basis without recourse to a transparent strategy.
Staff can look for support and guidelines from the university priority areas for research and strategy, but even these are vague. It is unclear, for example, which subjects are the focus of either the university or the department and in what way. The operating plan does not seem to play a role in filling the positions vacated through retirement. In the new university, traditional chair-based thinking no longer fits the recruitment of professors, since professorships are in practice personal positions.
From the point of view of staff, clear planning and transparency regarding the decisions on whether positions are going to be filled or not would be extremely important. When experts vacate their positions, their duties are usually distributed to other members of the staff. Sometimes this adds unreasonably to the workload. When professors give up leadership, obtaining external funding becomes increasingly difficult. Also, the projected tenure track assistant professorships are in principle fixed-term, which adds to the insecurity in departments.
Jytte and the local chapter of the Finnish Union of University Professors call for openness in the personnel reductions caused by the economy drive. Uncertainty on the future of subjects and professorships causes insecurity, reducing wellbeing and trust. It also makes it more difficult for departments to prepare for personnel reductions. Departments must be provided information on changes well in advance in order to make it possible to prepare for changes in circumstances. Departments must also be heard and they must receive a chance to react to changes.
Chair of Jytte
Chair of the Jyväskylä Chapter of the Finnish Union of University Professors