Compelling soil research institute ISRIC to re-locate to the 'Wisselgebouw' on the campus was a wrongful act. This judgement is rendered by the Enterprise Chamber of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. However, it is uncertain if ISRIC will move back.
The judgement is largely in favour of the ESG employees' council (OR), under which ISRIC falls. The OR had demanded an immediate return to Duivendaal. Chairman Kees van Diepen is pleased and relieved. 'The judgement justifies our decision to bring this process to the court. The employer had in fact made us take this line of action. The departure from Duivendaal and the communication beforehand had taken place in an atmosphere of intimidation. The Employees' Council has shown that we do not yield to intimidation.'
ISRIC had to evacuate the Duivendaal premises at the end of November last year at one fell swoop when it appeared that the building was not fire-safe. Errors were made in the procedure leading up to this evacuation. ESG director Kees Slingerland's order to move was made before the OR could issue a recommendation. The OR had refused to offer its advice due to the lack of proper information. In this, the judge ruled in favour of the OR.
Director Slingerland is not surprised by the judgement. 'The judge says that we should have waited for the OR's recommendation. But I was faced with a dilemma: to wait or to move quickly. I had opted for a quick move because I didn't want to be held responsible for any fire hazard consequences.'
ISRIC can return to Duivendaal when it has the required fire escape facilities. Initial estimates place the cost of these facilities at 20,000 euros. The judge has ordered ESG not to lose any more time in applying for the licenses and to put things right in one way or another. But the question whether ISRIC will leave the campus still remains. The judge does not stipulate moving back if a decision in principle can be made in the meantime concerning a definite location for ISRIC.
According to Slingerland, preparations for the definite location have been 'carried out to a large extent'. He expects the plans to be more concrete in four months' time. 'ISRIC can go back to Duivendaal if there is nothing else.' Two possible locations are a new building for Alterra and the Atlas. OR-chairman Van Diepen does not put much hope on a new building. 'Especially with the cost-cutting measures at present.' Even if a new building does materialize, moving back may still take place. 'It would be two to three years down the road before the new building is ready.'
Director Slingerland feels 'extremely disappointed' that the issue had been brought to court. 'Errors have been made and many things could have been done in another way. I have repeatedly proposed to the OR to discuss the issue to find a solution. But the OR specifically wanted a judgement from the court. It wasn't up to me to decide.'
'The safety risks were not high enough that evacuation had to take place', Van Diepen says. 'Slingerland could have made Duivendaal fire-safe a long time ago if he had applied for the licenses immediately. But he didn't do that. The forced re-location to the campus had itself cost 20,000 euros.'