up2date. Das Onlinemagazin der Universtiät Bremen

“The Staff Council Is for All”

What are the tasks of a staff council? Holger Ruge, chairperson of the staff council at the University of Bremen, talks about their work

Campus Life

The staff council elections at the University of Bremen are on March 6. up2date. took this occasion to ask some questions: What does a staff council actually do – and what is not within their responsibility? Holger Ruge has been a member of the University of Bremen’s staff council since 2012 and has been chairperson since 2019. In this interview, he talks about what he and the other 20 members of the staff council have achieved for the employees of the University of Bremen over the past four years, and what else they plan to tackle over the next four years.

Mr. Ruge, what exactly does the staff council do at the University of Bremen?

You could call the staff council the voice of the staff. We represent the concerns of employees in all areas and discuss these with the university executive board. Broadly speaking, we are there to ensure that the interests and perspectives of employees are always included in management decisions. For example, our day-to-day activities include participation in staff recruitment and salary allocations. Many technical and administrative staff know us from staff selection interviews, where a member of the staff council is always present. We are also available to listen to employees’ complaints and concerns. We support employees, for example, if they want to talk about their problems at work, need a second opinion, or would like to be accompanied to an appraisal interview. It is important to note that a conversation with us is always confidential and we only take action if the person concerned asks us to. As a result, our work is very multifaceted, as we are involved in all organizational, social, and personnel decisions at the university.

That does sound like a very extensive range of tasks. What is the staff council not responsible for?

People sometimes get confused: We are not the HR department. Although we work closely together and are involved in many of the processes of this department, as staff council we have no financial resources, for example, and have no say in whether a position gets established or a permanent contract. We are also unable to offer legal advice or psychological counseling, but we are happy to act as a central point of contact for any concerns and refer people on to suitable advice centers.

Holger Ruge stands in front of the administration building of the University of Bremen.
Holger Ruge has been a member of the University of Bremen’s staff council since 2012 and has been chairperson since 2019.
© Personalrat Universität Bremen

Who can contact the staff council?

The staff council is for all. That means we advocate the concerns of all employees of the University of Bremen and the State and University Library Bremen (SuUB): research assistants, professors, administrative and technical staff, as well as student assistants. The composition of the staff council members also largely reflects the different status groups. The apprentices have their own youth and apprentice representation, which consists of two members, as apprentices at the University of Bremen are officially employed by the Bremen Training and Further Education Centre (AFZ). We currently have 21 members – three civil servants and 18 employees. How many seats will be allocated to the staff council depends on the total number of employees. The University of Bremen currently employs around 3,500 people. Eight of the current staff council members have full or part-time leave from their ordinary work duties. This means that they are exempted from their daily work completely or on an hourly basis in order to devote themselves to the tasks of the staff council.

On March 6, a new staff council will be elected for another four-year term. What do you look back on from the past four years?

The COVID-19 pandemic was certainly one of the biggest issues we had to tackle. During that time, we were involved in drawing up various regulations: the wearing of facemasks, access controls on campus, data protection when working from home, and much more. We also participated in developing the subsequent regulation on working remotely. We also dealt with the topic of healthy working conditions, which includes workplace glasses, fire safety, and general occupational health and safety. We also examined our own communication with employees more closely. In addition to the already established staff meetings and our staff council newsletter, we have launched the PRUNI podcast, which is published regularly on the staff section of the website.

And what will be the focus of the next four years?

Staff recruitment and salary allocations will continue to be important issues in the future. Ensuring good and healthy working conditions is another ongoing topic for us. This includes establishing a risk management system, i.e. systematically recording, documenting, and informing employees when dangerous situations occur on campus. The term “risk” can include many different things: This can range from graffiti on walls and vandalism in buildings to harassment and hostility. We also want to place a bigger focus on human resources development. Among other things, we are working to further establish annual staff appraisals and status group meetings for greater transparency and better career planning for research assistants. In addition, we aim to create more transparency in the allocation of salary levels during recruitment. In our work on the staff council, we always ask ourselves: What do our employees want? This is why employees should make use of their right of co-determination when it comes to these and many other issues.

Staff Council Election on March 6, 2024

All employees of the University of Bremen and SuUB library can vote either for the ver.di list or the GEW list (academia open list). For civil servants, a personal election will take place. The staff council seats will be filled according to the votes.

You can vote on Wednesday, March 6, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the polling stations in one of the following buildings: NW1, MARUM, Unicom, and SuUB. In addition, you can vote in GW2 building between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Anyone who has not received a voting card, such as student assistants, can submit their vote there. For this purpose, you must present your identity card.

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