Organisation - February 28, 2013

'It's time Wageningen UR had a new boss'

Employees' council is aiming for new chairman of the board.
Senior executives should represent both Wageningen's 'subject matter and its culture'.

The joint employees' council feels that Wageningen UR needs a new chairman of the board. This should be someone who unites people and who represents both Wageningen's subject matter and its culture. This is the message in a letter sent by the WUR council to the supervisory board on 18 January.
The terms of office of all three board members are due to expire within the next year. Both Martin Kropff and Tijs Breukink will end their second four-year term on 1 October while Aalt Dijkhuizen's third term will end on 1 March 2014.
'Twelve years is a long time,' says Cees van Dijk, the central council chairman, on the subject of Dijkhuizen's time as board chairman. 'That is not a criticism of the individual; it simply means we need new blood. It's time Wageningen UR had a new boss.'
According to him, the chemistry has usually worn off after eight years or so. 'CEOs of big companies spend an average of six to eight years in the job. After that, the organization needs new concepts and ideas. You see that people in high-ranking positions such as prime ministers tend to underperform in their third term. Old irritations come to the fore - it's an inevitable process.'
Uniting force
The employees' council advised against Dijkhuizen's reappointment in 2010, but its advice was ignored. Now, a good year before his term of office is due to expire, the council is aiming for a new chairman. Its letter to the supervisory board includes a list of characteristics that 'the new chairman should have'.
The employees' council expects the new chairman to exercise ' leadership as a uniting force' and to be someone who represents the organization in terms of 'both subject matter and culture'. The chairman should also maintain an international network and enjoy working with the employees' council.
The supervisory board has not yet replied to the letter. Last month, chairman Margreeth de Boer made it clear they saw no reason to look for new candidates where Kropff and Breukink were concerned. It was too early to say anything about Aalt Dijkhuizen's case. Now she does not want to comment for privacy reasons. The executive board members themselves let it be known via their spokesman that they do not wish to say whether they want another term.
Salary
The high salaries enjoyed by the Wageningen board members are controversial, which is why the employees' council thinks the members should comply with the Balkenende norm if they are reappointed. The council points to a letter in which former minister of Education Van Bijsterveld talks about restricting top salaries: 'If a board member's contract expires and they opt to stay in the same job, this counts as a new start (...) Any reappointment is therefore just the same as a new appointment.'
According to supervisory board chairman De Boer, this does not apply if an employee has been appointed for an indefinite period. 'That's just employment law. The employment contract specifies the conditions, including the salary and bonus agreements. The government acknowledges this. And this applies to the Wageningen board members as well.' De Boer says it is too late to make a new salary agreement of this kind

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