News - October 6, 2010

Isric’s move: a no-win situation

Soil information centre Isric gets – after a drawn-out conflict – a place on the campus. Victory, hail the bosses. But at what costs?

Isric had to leave Duivendaal in a hurry and relocate to the campus at the end of November last year. The building in the centre of Wageningen did not meet fire safety requirements, was the reason given by Kees Slingerland, director of the Environmental Sciences Group (ESG), who was in charge. It would be irresponsible to remain there any longer. Since then, Isric is housed in the Wissel building on the campus. The abrupt departure (some called it a 'deportation') resulted in a drawn-out conflict between Slingerland and the employees of Isric. The case was even brought before the judge.
The parties reached a settlement just before a new round in the courtroom. Isric will stay on the campus and move into the premises of the ESG. The soil museum will be housed in a new building. All's well that ends well? Not really, says the ESG employees' council, under which Isric falls. It sees a clear case of power play in the construction funds for the new building. The funds are given only if the employees drop their main demand: a (temporary) return to Duivendaal. The conflict has therefore being bought off in a way.
Above all, it remains to be seen if Isric has much to benefit from a new building. The rent, for example, will be considerably higher than in Duivendaal. How is Isric going to come up with that? Then there is the question of keeping a certain distance between ESG and Isric, to ensure the independent position of the international soil institute. In any case, there is no victory when it comes to the relation between the ESG management and Isric, which has been badly damaged. The conflict has also caused much discontent on the work floor throughout the year.
The question is: why has such a hardline been taken and allowed to continue? The most obvious answer is: money. Wageningen UR is trying to get rid of the property in Duivendaal. Everything points to that. A new development plan is in the pipeline, the Lawet building has been sold in the meantime, and the administration building will be next. There is nothing wrong with this, says Kees van Diepen, chairman of the employees' council. 'But admit it then! We would find that an acceptable argument.' Instead, the unfairness of the relocation now hangs over their heads, and the conflict is paid off in a no-win situation.