A starting point in a conflict is to see if the situation can be solved with the people directly involved. If you feel you are being treated unjustly, whether it is your supervisor, your supervising team, or the HR department, it helps to make your concerns known directly to them. Of course, you should refrain from this if the nature of the problem is such that you feel it could endanger your position, be it professional or personal. However, a failed attempt at a joint solution is also often considered a prerequisite for eligibility for further steps.
Arbitration committeeIf you want to make use of your rights as laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement, but you think your employer refuses to grant them, you can opt for dispute settlement. A dispute can be submitted to the Disputes Committee, which must be set up at every university. Disputes can relate to non-compliance with the leave agreements.
The employer can establish further administrative rules in a local procedure regarding the internal handling of a submitted dispute. A condition for the committee to handle the request is that ‘demonstrable consultation’ has taken place between employee and immediate superior on the subject of the dispute.
Confidential advisorUnder the Working Conditions Act (Arbeidsomstandighedenwet), Dutch universities are obliged to protect their empoloyees from psychological stress. At every university there is a confidential advisor who serves as a point of contact for those who are victims of undesirable behavior or discriminatory treatment, who witness or suspect malpractices within the organization, or who are involved in a work-related conflict.
The confidential advisor is bound by official secrecy and can - if you want that - support and guide you in submitting a formal complaint or reporting an incident. S/he can also serve as a mediator when needed.
Please note that while some universities provide specific PhD advisors or PhD mentors, most of these are staff members who have strong connections with other professors and advisors in their departments. Because of the perceived or assumed relationship between advisor and the PhD candidate's supervisor, not everyone might want to discuss their problems with other PhD advisors in their departments. In a few cases impartial PhD advisors or mentors are employed - these are a good first point of contact before reaching out to the (university-wide) confidential advisor.
OmbudspersonEvery university (but not every UMC) has an Ombudsperson who can be contacted about more systemic issues. If a problem does not only concern you, but others as well (e.g. institutional racism) you can contact the Ombudsperson. The position is special because the Ombudsperson is impartial. Essentially, s/he stands above those directly involved in the complaint or report.
This Ombudsperson can support you by, for example, conducting a more detailed discussion, offering advice, or referring you to another party, or by organizing an independent investigation. Note that often the Confidential advisor and the Ombudsperson are in close contact and will direct you to each other if needed.
Works councilYou can also get in touch with someone from the Works Council (Ondernemingsraad, OR), the employee representative committee of your university. The powers of the Works Council are regulated in the national Works Councils Act (Wet op de ondernemingsraden, WOR). Examples of these powers are the right of advice, the right of consent and the right of initiative. Most Works Councils meet at least once a month with the Executive Board of your university.