AOb-chairman Tamar van Gelder: “I keep thinking: I'm sacrificing quality, but there's no other way, so I'll just do it. That affects your entire well-being as an educational professional.”
AOb-chairman Tamar van Gelder: “I keep thinking: I'm sacrificing quality, but there's no other way, so I'll just do it. That affects your entire well-being as an educational professional.”

Image: Angeliek de Jonge

'We are so much more than a collective labor agreement farmer'

Tamar van Gelder is the new chairman of the AOb and wants to make the profession even stronger. “AOb'ers stand for good education for all pupils and students in the Netherlands. By ensuring that we are a strong profession.”

The same profession is struggling with a shortage of colleagues. Tamar van Gelder: “It is a downward spiral. Everyone is currently stepping up a gear. Support staff do the work of teachers. They go from three hours of German to one hour of German per week. Then extra exam training, so that the students pass the exam. Add tasks. overtime. And think again and again: I'm sacrificing something in terms of quality, but there's no other way, so I'll just do it. That affects your entire well-being as an educational professional.

'Small classes are a no-brainer for us'

We have if AOb shared our solutions, but there was insufficient response. Sometimes a separate component has been removed, such as the work pressure resources in primary education, but that is insufficient. A coherent delta plan is needed.
Small Classes for example, should be part of that. A no-brainer for us. But I find we still need to explain. People say: But then you need even more teachers, don't you? Yes, that's right, even more so. To be able to keep them in the end. To prevent the teacher leak. As it is now, you are plundering your people.

The problem is most apparent in primary education. Classes are sent home, or schools move to a four-day school week. Certain subjects are taught less in secondary education. Class size is not a subject in HBO, but you get tasks or students on top of it. There is a huge amount of overtime in the university. And in MBO no more vacancies are posted regularly. Or courses do not start at all.”

'We cannot shape the energy transition without teachers'

The latter sounds like a little less choice for the student. Is that bad?

"Of course. Take the energy transition, for example, that we have to move to sustainable energy. Society makes demands and invests. But that also means that a lot of staff is needed to train people who will become – just to name one example – heat pump installers. If the teachers and support staff are not there, such training will lapse. And we cannot shape that energy transition at all.”

Is there a scenario conceivable in which the AOb going to strike again?

"Of course. If the coalition agreement does not state anything about tackling the teacher shortage, or the pay gap, then there is no other option. We are actually still in the 'Invest in education' campaign, although we have only been able to hand out small pin pricks due to corona. The point is: if we don't go on strike, education will 'strike' itself. Because it can't go on. I also expect employers to participate again. If I were them I would return their order to the cabinet. I mean: good education? How?

This is, of course, a very bitter prospect. I always have a positive disposition. So I hope for a coalition agreement that does contain these topics.”

De AOb does well on the one hand. The membership base is rejuvenating and remains roughly stable. But the percentage of workers represented by the union is sometimes low. In senior secondary vocational education, for example, the AOb about 7,5 percent of the workforce. Colleagues who are not union members receive a collective labor agreement, as it were.

“You mean there are so many people who 'free' piggyback on our work, kind of 'free-riders'?”

Yes. Can the AOb – as a stunt – don't say: next year we will only conclude collective labor agreements for members? The rest is up to you to negotiate.

“No, because the power of a trade union lies in solidarity. We do it as a collective. You cannot make agreements for some of the people. That will make you argue. They do, we don't. We naturally want to avoid that in a school or institution.

Moreover: we are so much more than a collective labor agreement farmer. Members are individually assisted as needed. They are well informed. But AOb'ers also stand for something broader: good education for all pupils and students in the Netherlands. By ensuring that we are a strong professional group. We bring colleagues into contact with each other. In corona time we experimented a lot with this online. There are times when we have more than twenty meetings a week. Sometimes this concerns the collective labor agreement or pension. But more often it is about other topics. Digitization, flexibilization of teacher training, and so on.”

'I can name ten subjects in which the opinions of AObmembers are incredibly diverse

Topics where AObmembers think very differently about each other.

“I can name ten subjects in which the opinions of AObmembers are incredibly diverse. The middle school, Article 23, the corona measures, and so on. But how nice is it that we have these discussions in house? And being able to look together: what is a feasible map, what is realistic? In this way we as employees can formulate common principles. That is of course better than if only employers do that. Or that a minister thinks: well, that is perfectly in the hands of the boards. Then everything is poured out on us. And we know how disastrous that turns out to be in practice.”

You yourself have worked in vocational education. Do you know enough about what is going on in the other sectors?

“I come from an educational family and a union nest. In a Youtube video from 1981 you see me as a child at the opening of the Leon van Gelder school, named after my grandfather. He was an important educational innovator in the last century. And scientific advisor to the Abop, one of the forerunners of the AOb.

Apart from that: in my five years as secretary for the AOb all sectors have been extensively covered. And I'm not alone in it AObmanagement eh. My colleagues, for example, have worked for a long time in primary and secondary education.”

What quality will help you in the presidency?

“I am very accessible, have great stamina and can put things into perspective. The AOb is a broad club. Everyone who works in education is welcome. But because of that width, you sometimes also have to be able to say: We're putting the brakes on this for a while, and this is what we're going for now."

Do you want to become active for the AOb? Check aob.nl/participate

The full interview is in the September issue of the Education magazine.

 

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