Organisation - November 17, 2011

Alterra is suffering from effects of nature policy

The cuts in nature expenditure are having a big impact on Alterra this year.

The Landscape Centre has been particularly hard hit. The centre is scaling down by nearly a third in a year. ‘We will have cut thirty FTEs by next year', says director Kees Slingerland.
Back in April it was disclosed that Alterra would need to find six million euros. That shortfall was due to government cuts in nature and environmental research. The decision was taken to tackle half of the shortfall through cutbacks. ‘We will manage that, and save even a bit more than that', explains Slingerland. The remaining three million was to be obtained through additional projects. And Slingerland says they ‘won't make that entirely'.

Tailored solution
The problems are particularly serious for the Landscape Centre, where there are more people than there is work. A decision was taken earlier this year to exercise restraint in renewing temporary contracts. In addition, twenty FTEs have been cut through natural wastage and secondment elsewhere. There are now twelve FTEs left for whom there is no work. The idea is to solve this problem by giving them different work within Alterra or elsewhere, retraining, early retirement and so on.
Slingerland calls this approach a ‘tailored solution'. He says they made a conscious decision not to have a reorganization. ‘The problem with reorganizations is that you lose colleagues you would have preferred to keep. That's a pity because we do think the Landscape Centre has a future. The social factor is also important - reorganizations create a negative mood within your organization.'

Busybodies
Kees van Diepen, who chairs the ESG Employees' Council, is critical of the process that has been set in motion. He does call the operation a reorganization. ‘But the directors prefer to avoid that word so they can keep the unions and other busybodies at bay.' Van Diepen says pressure is being put on people to ‘accept solutions they would rather not have.' ‘That's the messages I'm getting. People are being put under pressure, or feel they are at any rate.' Indeed, Van Diepen thinks compulsory redundancies are a distinct possibility.
The approach for tackling the Landscape Centre's problems has been documented in a recovery plan. The Employees' Council will shortly be able to give its opinion of that plan. This is too late, thinks Van Diepen. ‘We wanted to be involved at a much earlier stage. The process has been going on for so long already.'

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