News - September 22, 2016

Recovery plan for environmental research under discussion

Albert Sikkema

The Employees Council (OR) at Wageningen Environmental Research (hitherto Alterra) wants the management to apply the existing ‘from-job-to-job’ arrangement in its new Recovery Plan. That would mean the management would discuss the necessary cuts with the departments, which would then come up with solutions. ‘That arrangement is in our CAO [labour agreement] and is a transparent way of making cutbacks,’ says acting OR chair Jaap van Os.

The OR published its advice on the management’s Recovery Plan on 15 September. The plan includes cutting 60 of the nearly 300 jobs in the organization. Half of these job losses will be achieved through retirement and the ending of temporary contracts, and the other half through standard HR policy in which staff are individually assessed on their performance.

OR members and unions have protested in the past against this individual assessment, because they said employees get pressurized to accept an outplacement. The OR at Environmental Research would prefer to see a ‘from-job-to-job’ system. Van Os: ‘If you ask the group to deal with the cutbacks, people could for example decide to achieve them partially by cutting down their hours.’

We hope we won’t have to take a hard line on this point

Van Os does not oppose the standard HR policy of helping people who are not performing well to find another job. But he sees this personal approach as undesirable in cases where people have less work because of a decline in demand. The OR sees this as a collective problem which should be discussed and addressed collectively. Van Os: ‘We hope we won’t have to take a hard line on this point, but that we can convince the management, since this arrangement fits a coaching leadership style.’

The OR is also keen to hear as soon as possible what the management’s new strategy for adapting to the market and staying financially healthy is going to be. Van Os: ‘Actually you need a strategy first, before you start cutting back. On the other hand, we need to shrink fast now to get out of the dip quickly.’

The management of Wageningen Environmental Research announced last week that 23 of the targeted 60 jobs have already been scrapped.’