#18: Why do we need a staff council?

The University of Magdeburg, with almost 3,000 employees, is one of the largest employers in the city of Magdeburg. In order for employees to have a say, a part in decision-making, and a part in shaping the future of such a large institution; the staff council steps in to help. It is involved in many important decisions and represents the interests of the employees vis-à-vis the university management. In the new issue of "Listening in on the University", Dr. Ursula Föllner, Chair of the Staff Council at Magdeburg University, and Staff Council member Dr. Andreas Drust talk about their work as a Staff Council, what it is allowed to do and what it is not allowed to do, where things are currently going wrong, why a Staff Council can sometimes be uncomfortable, and what you can actually turn to the Staff Council for.

Guest today

Dr. Ursula Föllner has been a staff councilor at Magdeburg University for more than 25 years and is currently the chairwoman of the 13-member body. The linguist works in the North German Department at the Faculty of Human Sciences. Dr. Andreas Drust is an anesthesiologist at Magdeburg University Medical Center and has been involved in the staff council since 2015.


 *the audio file is only available in German

The Podcast to Read

**For technical reasons, one question could not be recorded. You can find this in written form here.

Intro voice: In die Uni reingehört. Der Podcast zur Arbeitswelt an der OVGU!

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Welcome to a new episode of Listening in on the University. Staff councils are called upon to make many important decisions. They represent the interests of the employees vis-à-vis the university management and have the right to participate in the decision making. What staff councils are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do, and what the current problems are. Why a staff council can also be uncomfortable at times and what you can actually turn to the staff council for, that's what we want to talk about today. I am Friederike Süssig-Jeschor, Press Officer of the Medical Faculty of the University of Magdeburg, and I would like to welcome my guests today. On the one hand, this is Dr. Ursula Föllner. She is the Chairwoman of the Staff Council of the University of Magdeburg and at her side sits Dr. Andreas Drust from the Faculty of Medicine. He is a deputy board member of the Staff Council. A warm welcome to you all!

Dr. Andreas Drust: Good morning!

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Let me start by telling you that I myself was once a staff councilor at a another employer. At the time, it was the first staff councilor for the company. And I have to tell you honestly that my motivation for getting involved there was actually the commitment to the collective for the benefit of all employees. Dr. Föllner, you have been a staff councilor at Magdeburg University for more than 25 years. What motivates you to remain involved?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Yes, essentially it is the representation of the rightful interests of the many employees within the university in the sense of the individual, but also for the prosperity of the university as a whole. As a native of Magdeburg, I naturally identify particularly with our university, with my university. But such an institution can only function if, despite all hierarchies and all professional differences, there is fair and collegial cooperation. And I would like to play my part in this, perhaps a small part, but a part nonetheless.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Dr. Drust, as a member of the Faculty of Medicine, you have brought a completely different perspective to your work on the Staff Council since 2015. Especially now, when there is once again a state of crisis in the healthcare sector. How can and could you as a staff council member, support with your work during the crisis?

Dr. Andreas Drust: The last two or even two and a half years have been dominated by the Corona pandemic. That has actually dissipated a bit now, I have to say. But we had our problems in the beginning. On the one hand, of course, with very complex patient care - not only necessarily for the Corona patients themselves, i.e. in the intensive care unit or on the normal wards - but this has naturally extended to all areas. This is because a higher staffing ratio is needed to treat corona patients. This is simply a matter of principle. The staff has to come from somewhere, and of course this has cut a swath everywhere with problems ranging from the smallest to the largest, which were not necessarily always apparent to the superiors. Yes, these were small problems such as protective equipment, overwork, burnout, and the employees did not dare to talk about them in the beginning, at least not with their superiors. Then the staff council was always the point of contact. There's a problem here, it doesn't really work. There was already a Corona task force at the time, but without the involvement of the staff councils. Of course, that was a shame, and in the second wave of Corona, many colleagues who were on the verge of burnout said, "This can't go on, we can't take it anymore. And at the time, we wrote an endangerment report, which we also made public at the university. And it hit like a bomb, that's for sure. There was then a big round of talks. Since then, we have been invited everywhere, even beyond this actual Corona topic. And it has to be said that this has given the trust-based cooperation, not only with the Medical Faculty, but also with the University Hospital - which are two separate employers - a considerable boost. And I have to say that we have already done a great job.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: You have already mentioned this and also thrown in a technical term, the hazard report. And I have already mentioned that the tasks of the staff council are many and the challenges are complex. Can you give us a little insight into what your tasks are and what you are and are not allowed to do?

Dr. Andreas Drust: Because you are talking about the hazard report. That is something that is not originally a staff council activity. It is actually a duty of the employee that can be derived from the Occupational Health and Safety Act. But employees who do not dare to report a problem to their supervisor can also do so through the staff council, and we then approach the employer as a kind of representative. But that's not really the point. What do we do and what is our basis? There is a Staff Representation Act that forms the basis of our activities. Many people don't know that it clearly and explicitly defines what we do, what our tasks are and who we are responsible for. So it's not the case that we actually represent all employees under the Staff Representation Act. In principle, there are several bases that can be derived from the law. We have a comprehensive right of initiative, which means that we can initiate things ourselves in order to solve problems. We have a comprehensive right to information that we ultimately demand in the form of discussions with the department. There is a right to be heard, a right to participate, and probably the most important right is the right of co-determination, in which very clear facts are defined that may not be implemented without co-participation by the staff councils. In addition, the law also regulates the demand for and promotion of those in particular need of protection, foreign colleagues, young employees, the promotion of equality, the prohibition of discrimination, occupational health and safety, and the conclusion of service agreements. These are all things that are regulated in this law and that we must and do implement accordingly.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: You said it, it's clearly regulated. Would you sometimes like more leeway in certain areas?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: We would like to. We already have a few areas that we are not really satisfied with. This applies, for example, to employees in the non-scientific area, where we would like to see them given more opportunities in terms of personnel development. For example, we would like them to be given more responsible tasks, or we would like them to be able to move up to a higher pay grade, and we would like to promote personnel in this way so that these people are able to make a career within the university. We certainly have competition as an employer at the university and have to make sure that we keep good people here at the university. And if you don't offer these development opportunities, it will be difficult. So in any case, it would be nice if one or two things could be arranged in this way, certainly in agreement with the department.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Let me return to the realities of the Corona pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, working from home has been an important way to slow the spread of the virus. Corona has thus also created a new work reality. Did the pandemic provide long overdue impetus?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Perhaps one sentence for the main office: Even before the pandemic, we had already initiated a service agreement, so to speak, and it was completed on time and we were then able to fall back on it. In this respect, we were a little ahead of the times, but it was simply time to do something like this.

Dr. Andreas Drust: That is certainly a modern form of work. At the medical faculty, the view is perhaps a bit more differentiated, because we naturally have occupational groups there who, for reasons of principle, cannot do any mobile work or even a home office. How is a nurse on a ward supposed to work from home? Or how can a surgeon in the operating room work from home? Of course, that's clear, it doesn't work. So we are 100 percent in agreement that there is such a service agreement and that we will also implement it accordingly, and we are also happy for every employee who can make use of it. Knowing full well that in my area in particular there are employees for whom this will never apply. There are sometimes discussions about envy. Indeed, that has to be said. And sometimes a lot of convincing has to be done on site to make it clear to the employees that there is simply no other way on principle. It's not just a question of working hours in the form of home office or mobile working, but we also have to cover on-call duty, on-call services and shifts. It's simply not possible in our job any other way, and employees have to learn to live with that to some extent.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Nevertheless, as a staff council you also have the opportunity to exert influence on this issue of work hours. What options do you have?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: We are currently in the process of working with the department to revise the electronic time recording system. This will take a little time, because on the one hand the technical requirements must be in place, and on the other hand the implementation must be clarified. There is a small working group that has also gathered experience, for example, from the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. You can learn from others, but we are on the right track. But it will still take a little time. And I think it's similar in medicine.

Dr. Andreas Drust: Exactly. Perhaps we can also say that working time per se, i.e., the beginning and end, is actually one of these facts that requires co- participation. So we clearly have to be involved in the decision-making process. So no employer can say, "We start here and end at this time." That's not really the case, nothing gets past us. That's also a good thing! And in the Faculty of Medicine, as Ms. Föllner has already mentioned for the main service, it is similar that we are also in a commission that is working on implementing electronic time recording system. There is a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2019 that wor hours must be recorded to the minute. And this does not necessarily have to be done electronically. For doctors, for example, this is also clearly regulated in the collective agreement. So it must be a very clear time recording. As I said, it doesn't necessarily have to be recorded digitally. Of course, it would be desirable and we are working on it. But there are, of course, a number of hurdles, most of which are there. On the one hand, there is of course the technical question: How do we do that? At what point do you log into your work hours account and how? Do you do it when you enter the campus or at your workplace? Do you do it via a cell phone app or via a time clock? These are all questions that still need to be answered. That's one side and then the other, of course. There are professional groups for whom this may not apply. For example, scientists, who should actually be granted freedom of movement. Does this kind of recording of work hours apply to them at all? That has not yet been clarified. And that is precisely why such work in these committees is so important.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: But work hours are only one aspect. In my time as a staff councilor, I have seen that there is a lot of unfamiliarity with the work of a staff councilor and that many people don't even know what they can do to contact a staff councilor. Can you give us any other concrete examples?

Dr. Andreas Drust: So the most common problem or problems that we face are certainly conflicts. So conflict management takes up a lot of our time. Ms. Föllner and I are also both conflict officers for the staff council. And there are numerous problems that can be solved, both at the same levels in the hierarchy and at different levels. Some of them can't be solved, but that's something we're often consulted about. Then it can also be quite mundane things, such as classifications, that someone says or is of the opinion that he is not being paid correctly. That also happens occasionally. Then, of course, there is the question of career prospects, questions about notice periods, termination agreements. Yes, it is sometimes the case that you leave your employer because you want to reorient yourself politically - pardon, because you want to reorient yourself in terms of work, because you want to move your center of life geographically somewhere else. And then you sometimes leave an employer by mutual agreement, there doesn't have to be any conflict. But then the question is: "I now have another six months' notice, can I get out of the contract sooner, what can I do?" So there we have more advisory activities. Then there are also more frequent health inquiries. Someone has an ailment and would perhaps like to have their workplace made a little more health-conscious. Of course, the HR managers are also involved. With maternity protection issues, questions about vacation entitlement, questions, especially in my area, about management rights: "My boss wants to transfer me to another area. Is he allowed to do that? What are the basics?" These are things that are brought to our attention and that we then have to clarify, of course, primarily with the department or with the supervisors.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: In order to be able to clarify all these questions, it seems that you also have to have legal knowledge. How do you arrive at the answers?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: The good thing is that the Staff Council does not consist of a single person, but rather we have 13 members. And each member naturally brings his or her own experience, knowledge from his or her own specialist area, but also knowledge that each member has acquired in the course of his or her membership of the Staff Council. And that is, above all, knowledge that has been acquired through further training, for example. As a staff council, we also have the right to send our members to training courses, and the department also does this and pays for it. So that's a very important factor, but of course it's also the case that, first of all, you acquire certain knowledge in the course of being a member of this body. The younger ones learn from the older ones - in terms of years of membership. But we also have specialist journals in which you can browse and pick out specific cases. Legal facts are described there, which you can then refer to. But the unions are also a very important factor. As we both sit here now - Mr. Drust is a member of the Marburger Bund, I am a member of the Education and Science Union - we can also draw on them. These unions have lawyers, they also train us. We can also go there and ask questions, we are supported there. And in this respect, it is not only the individual who has to prove the knowledge and then use it, but it is really a kind of collective knowledge that you can fall back on. And I believe that this is also necessary.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Dr. Drust, you mentioned it: you deal with very different groups here on our Medical Faculty campus and also on the main campus. Can all employees, including department heads, approach the staff council?

Dr. Andreas Drust: So in principle, of course, anyone who wants to talk to us can come to us, because we talk to everyone. That's a basic principle in the Staff Council. Communication is the be-all and end-all, but it has to be said that we are not responsible for everyone. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Staff Representation Act defines exactly which employees we are responsible for and which employees have a staff council or staff representation. For example, appointed professors have no such representation or we are not responsible for them per se. So for them, the whole Staff Representation Act does not apply at all. However, there are also some groups of people for whom the Staff Representation Act applies in principle, but for whom certain facts do not apply. For example, co-participation in social matters and employee matters does not apply to employees in managerial positions with personnel responsibility. So you have to make a very precise distinction. Nevertheless, we stick to the principle that we will talk to anyone who wants to talk to us. And - as is customary in a democracy - that must be the basis for all our actions.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: It is mandatory that a staff council be involved in hiring and terminations. Are there any other very important concerns?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Yes, there is Section 67 in the Staff Representation Act, which lists exactly which facts constitute the basis for participation. This also includes, for example, grouping, downgrading. Or if the employer refuses to allow someone to take on a side job or to work part-time. Then we are on board, so to speak. However, there is another area where we have to be consulted, and that is something that is also very relevant. These are disciplinary measures taken by the employer, such as dismissal or, for example, a warning. And during the hearing process in the dispute, new facts sometimes emerge. And I don't have to name any names here. But it has certainly been the case that the hearing in the personnel council has not resulted in a warning, or that terminations may have occurred in a different form, for example as a warning. So we take responsibility and are accountable in our meetings.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Yes, and in order to deal with all these issues, staff councils form their opinions yes, through resolutions and can make law, for example, by concluding service agreements. You mentioned it 13 members, that's quite a few. Each one comes from a different area of expertise. How do you find a common denominator?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: This is sometimes not quite so simple, because 13 people naturally also have 13 different heads and can also have 13 different opinions in case of doubt. But it is also a common wealth of experience or knowledge that is available to us. This means that the members also contribute their knowledge, their experience from the individual specialist areas and also have their ear to the ground, so to speak, if you want to put it a bit simplistically. This is a democratic process that takes place within the committee. So there are discussions, the facts are presented and then there are majorities for one or the other measure. And I can tell you from the committee that most of the votes are really 100 percent unanimous. But there are also cases where someone abstains or there are dissenting votes on some decision. But this decision is then also supported jointly by the committee. And to the outside world, this is then represented as the opinion, as the decision of the committee. So there is no back peddling and no leaking of insider knowledge in any way, but rather a unified opinion that has emerged democratically.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: As a staff council member, you are always in a situation where there is a certain amount of tension and you should always keep a cool head and use your negotiating skills, empathy and knowledge of your duties and rights to help shape everyday working life. Dr. Föllner, you now have a great deal of experience in this area. What do you consider to be the most difficult part of the job?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Sometimes you have to keep a certain professional distance. Personally, I sometimes find it difficult when it comes to extending fixed-term employment contracts, which is simply not possible due to the legal situation. And that can also lead to social hardship. But we as a staff council have no chance to do anything about it because, for example, the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts) has made such provisions. You then have to take action at the trade union level or in other ways. But we can't do that as a staff council in this committee, because we have to comply with the law. So that's sometimes not so easy. In the same way, it is sometimes difficult to accept decisions of the rectorate, or I often find it difficult to accept decisions from the ministry, and then to incorporate them into our decision-making processes accordingly, if we are firmly convinced that this decision is actually not expedient and not to the benefit of the university. One example was teacher training, which was largely, not completely, but largely closed at Otto von Guericke University, where we, as the main staff councils at the time, protested massively against it to the ministry. The whole thing was implemented and then you have to bear the consequences as a staff council. So if employment contracts are not extended, if any working groups are no longer continued, if institutes are dissolved, then we have to implement this, even though we would have had a completely different opinion.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Yes, Magdeburg University, with just under 3,000 employees, is one of the largest employers in the city of Magdeburg. What special challenges does this pose, especially for you as staff council members?

Dr. Andreas Drust: As Ms. Föllner mentioned at the beginning, we are exposed to a great deal of competitive pressure. Everyone has been following it in the media, Intel is coming to Magdeburg. That is certainly to be welcomed, no question. But that of course means that skilled workers will be sought there, and we will not only train them, but also employ them. And of course companies - it's not just Intel, it's Telekom here, it's SWM - we have quite a few other employers here who can under certain circumstances, can offer quite different salaries. And that's where we are sometimes limited by our salaries. Especially in the IT sector, there is certainly a lot of competitive pressure. Yes, we have mechanical engineers, we have janitors, we have electrical engineers, so we also have quite normal professions without which a university would not function at all. Of course, they are in danger of being poached. And then we must certainly also demand politically that - as Mrs. Föllner has just said, the thumbscrews are a bit tight on us - change can be achieved so that we remain competitive. So this will certainly be the most important issue, but we have no direct influence on it. Nevertheless, we are of course fighting for it.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Dear listeners, I apologize in advance for the technocratic wording. But according to the law, the work of a staff representative committee with the management level should always be carried out closely and jointly for the benefit of the employees, for the fulfillment of the official tasks, on an equal footing and with a sincere desire to reach an agreement. So much for the theory! What does your practical experience tell you? Are there cases that simply cannot be resolved? And if so, how do the staff council and university management come to an agreement anyway?

Dr. Andreas Drust: In principle, we are obliged to cooperate with the department in a spirit of trust under the Staff Representation Act. However, this applies not only to us, but also to the other side. The law refers to a so-called peace obligation. It has to be said for the Magdeburg, that we are in a privileged situation here at the university, where cooperation really does work very well as a rule. We are aware that this is not the case everywhere. As staff council members and union members, we are of course very well networked and always in close contact with staff councils at other universities. Sometimes you're amazed at how problems are handled elsewhere. So it is by no means a matter of course that even simple rules are followed everywhere. Of course, there are ways to turn to other authorities in the event of a dispute. There are step-by-step procedures with conciliation bodies regulated by law. The main personnel council, for example, is one of them. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to go before the administrative court, even to the point of issuing temporary injunctions if urgent matters do not allow for a delay. Thank goodness we have never had to make use of this here at the OVGU in the recent past. Both at the main office and at the medical faculty, we have a very good relationship with the heads of the offices and vice versa.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Let's get down to practical work: how should we envision your collaboration with the university management in practice? How often do you meet, how does the exchange take place?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Yes, well, this is also partly regulated by the Staff Representation Act itself. But in principle, both the department and we as the staff council attach great importance to communication with each other. And so discussions are held with the rector at least every six months - departmental discussions. But in addition, there are weekly discussions with the personnel departments, one in the medical area and one here on the main campus. There are also discussions with the chancellor about every six weeks. In the medical field, there are also discussions with the dean of the faculty at longer intervals. And what I think is particularly important is that we can talk to each other at any time. Unless, for example, you pick up the phone and try to arrange something with the rector or with a dean's office. Or vice versa, we are also contacted if this is seen as necessary in order to get misunderstandings or problems that arise at short notice under control as quickly as possible. In addition, we sit at the table during numerous job interviews and representatives of the department or supervisors are also present. And we also exchange information on these occasions. So I think this is a particularly important procedure and a great asset, this communication, this certain openness, with which we try to solve problems in a short way.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: I can say from my own experience that, especially in the initial phase of my work as a operation councilor, it took up an enormous amount of my time, and I often pondered over many, many issues in my free time. After all, many things take place behind closed doors. You mentioned it. What do you actually do at the university and do you do your work on top or do you have a certain amount of time available for it? Is that enough for you?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Maybe I'll start? Well, I'm on a 75 percent leave of absence. As chair of the staff council, it's not really possible to do anything else, but it's very important to me to still be active in my field in German Studies. And on paper, that's 25 percent. De facto, I would say it is a bit more. But I mentioned earlier, or in the context, that this contact with the actual field of work is important, simply to stay in touch with colleagues. In my case, it's the North German department that takes up a lot of time and space, or to some extent also teaching and one or the other research project that plays a role there, which I consider important. Of course, sometimes in your free time you still have the topics on your mind that you didn't solve during your working hours. And of course you don't watch the clock that closely. I think it's similar for you, Andreas.

Dr. Andreas Drust: It's the same with me. In principle, we could also get a 100 percent exemption. We have already had this in the past. But we in our current committee don't want that for ourselves. I now also work as a doctor and have a forty percent leave of absence, so I can still work three days a week. That is very important to me. I am also on duty 100 percent of the time, and especially at three o'clock in the morning in the operating room or in the shock room, I receive information from the other employees via the short official channels. I have a problem here. Have you heard this before? This and that. So it's not necessarily the office hours in the staff council office - I also get a call, I also get an e-mail sometimes - but it's precisely these short official channels that are so important. And that you are also known. I'm an anesthesiologist, so I come into many areas where I'm always perceived as a contact person. That is very important.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Communication with employees, you just mentioned it. How do you manage to have clear and continuous communication, and why is effective public relations work by staff councils so important?

Dr. Andreas Drust: We have not only our office with fixed office hours, so we are also always available by phone or of course by e-mail. In my case, as doctors, we always have a beeper system where you can also be paged. So the number is also known. So I am also regularly paged during working hours. These are, as I just mentioned, these short official channels, but of course we also have our official channels. Once a month, we send out information to our members, and of course we also hold staff meetings. These are prescribed by the staff council. And along with that, of course, there are also activity reports in which we clearly define in writing and give an account of what we actually do and why we do it. And on the subject of public relations, all we can say is: That's exactly why we're sitting here today and doing this. This is public relations work (laughs) and it's very important for us to present ourselves, because many people don't know what the Staff Council does.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: In order to be able to carry out your work in full, you as a staff council also enjoy certain protective rights and may not be discriminated against, for example. Can you explain in more detail what this means? And why do you think these protective rights are so important for your work?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Yes, so one important protective right is the protection against dismissal, which exists. And something else, in more global terms, a ban on discrimination. These are the two essential aspects that come into question for staff council members. Even if one has only nominated oneself for election. Then there are also these protection rights for a certain period of time. Yes, we have just described this relatively pragmatic, goal-oriented and reasonable cooperation with the department management. But of course, something like this always depends on people. And of course there is no guarantee that this type of cooperation will continue at other departments - we already mentioned other universities where this is sometimes not the case - in the future. In this respect, it is important to have these protective rights. And the second: As I said earlier, we are also involved in our departments and have superiors there. There are certain committees in which decisions are made and so on. And there you can make yourself very unpopular as a staff council member. Then, of course, it's important that you also have support here and are not exposed to any reprisals. Yes, that would be the most important reason from my point of view. Yes, this integration into the normal structures of the university remains intact. And then you also have to show backbone.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: I can well imagine that you also find yourself in a conflict of interest here and there. How do you deal with that?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Conflicts of interest of this kind can actually only occur to a large extent in this specialist area, so that, for example, you either have information that further employment has been approved, or that an employment contract has been approved, but you are obliged to maintain confidentiality. You are not allowed to tell the person. So that would be something like that. Or that you have knowledge from some confidential conversations, but you can't use it now and continue to gossip - something like that occurs, for example. Or conflicts of interest, if one institute is to be closed and the other remains. And professionally, you may be closer to one than to the other. Something like that can happen, but you have to keep your distance - I mentioned professional distance earlier - and that's what you have to do in this case.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: There is now a popular and much-used stereotype that paints the staff council as the enemy of the employer, who only ever make demands, who don't care about the interests of the employer, who delay everything and who in the end can't achieve anything. What is your position on this? Do staff councils also have to be a bit of a nuisance? And is there any truth to the toothless tiger?

Dr. Andreas Drust: (laughs) So from a factual point of view, I would say we're already argumentative, but always communicative and, of course, solution-oriented. But that's right. A certain amount of annoyance is allowed and must be allowed. That is quite clear. We have to keep reminding the employer that we are still there. But as we said at the beginning, we have and maintain a good working relationship with the departments and also with the university management. In this respect, we don't have to be a nuisance at all, because we are regularly involved in the relevant decision-making processes in the way that is appropriate. And that is exactly what we must not forget, that the whole construct, the whole system must work. It's no use insisting on a law if you then have to demand everything legally; you are always to some extent at the mercy of what other players in this system do or are no longer willing to do according to the rules. And if that doesn't work, that's like a democracy, like a constitutional state, then the whole system doesn't work and that's why you always have to say: we have here - thank God - such a structure where that works quite, quite properly, not in all areas, no question. And where we are also involved everywhere. But at the end of the day, I think we can make our contribution. And we must never forget that we are not toothless, because there is a very clear legal basis. And in the case of unambiguous things that do not conform to the law, we would also get justice in court. And the employer knows that, too, of course.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: And a second popular cliché is the coffee-drinkers' club, that is, they only meet to have a nice chat. I think we've been able to refute that here today and get a good impression of how much work is involved in this activity. Yes, this is where I would like to pick up again. This work also involves a great deal of bureaucracy. How could it be otherwise in Germany?

Dr. Andreas Drust: (laughs)

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: And until resolutions and agreements take effect, you really need a lot of staying power. How can you keep the motivation and commitment of your members at a high level?

Dr. Ursula Föllner: I think an important aspect of this is, for example, that you really notice and visualize the successes you have. Sometimes they are only small successes, sometimes they are only partial successes. But basically, you have to become aware of them. Otherwise, in the daily work routine, you might lose sight of that. So that as one thing. And then I think it is extremely important that there is fair cooperation within the committee, fair and collegial cooperation with mutual support, so that you can also have trust within this committee and motivate each other. I think it's also important that there are opportunities for further training so that members don't feel overwhelmed, but that they can develop their own expertise. I think that's an important aspect. And something that should not be underestimated is that there are team-building measures. In other words, people sometimes set a goal together outside of these meetings, for example by spending a nice evening together or going on an excursion. Or, for example, for many years we've had a bowling tournament at Christmas, where we can have a good time and talk to each other on a different level. So I think that's important. I think you can compare it a bit with a team sport, where you need success, you need mutual support and you have to pull together in one direction.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: I think we could go on talking for hours, but, dear listeners, we are almost at the end of our interesting talk about the work of the Staff Council at OVGU. All loyal listeners know that now we have our quick question and answer session under the motto "Long speech, short sense". That means I'm about to start three different sentences and your task will be to finish those sentences. Are you ready? If I were a university principal or rector for a day, would I...? Ladies first!

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Then I would open up all the possible combinations in the teacher training programs, so that you could also combine social studies, physical education and German, for example. And on the other hand, I would be very happy the next day if I no longer had to bear the responsibility for this.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: Dr. Drust?

Dr. Andreas Drust: If I was a university principal one day, I'd really look forward to the next day when I could do my own job again.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: As a staff council, we have the goal of...? Of course, you are welcome to answer this together.

Dr. Andreas Drust: Ensuring good cooperation between the university and employees, I would say.

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Exactly. That's exactly how I see it, too.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: I would always stand for election again because...? Since Dr. Föllner will no longer be available in the near future due to retirement, I will pass this question on exclusively to Dr. Drust.

Dr. Andreas Drust: Because I am firmly convinced that I am doing good work for the staff council in the interests of the employees and that we can actually harvest the successes time and again.

Friederike Süssig-Jeschor: With that, I thank you, my guests for this insight into your work and say: Bye and see you next time.

Dr. Andreas Drust: Thank you very much!

Dr. Ursula Föllner: Good-bye!


Intro voice: In die Uni reingehört. Der Podcast zur Arbeitswelt an der OVGU!

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