Science - May 6, 2004

At least four hundred job losses likely at DLO

The Wageningen research institutes are likely to lose over 400 positions in the coming three years. Most jobs are likely to go at the applied research institutes, Alterra and Plant Research International. Support staff are likely to be harder hit, and the Executive Board wants to avoid compulsory redundancies.

The Executive Board finalised its plans last week for the coming few years in ‘Focus 2006’. One of the main issues is the extra budget reductions imposed by the Ministry of Agriculture: there will be 15 million euros less per year in the structural budget, and there are delays in the open budget of 10 million euros. The DLO research institutes are also faced with fewer contracts from the private sector, leaving them with a total budget deficit of 39 million euros.

As yet there are no short-term ways of filling the gap. Two years ago hopes were pinned on a twenty percent increase in research assignments from abroad, but that figure is unlikely to be achieved in the short term. Now it looks like DLO will have to do its best to maintain current turnover levels. It is not even proving that easy to rely on research funding such as Bsik (Dutch joint ministerial research capacity subsidy) and the EU sixth framework programme. While the institutes have been successful in being awarded research projects the funding from the donors is dependent on the institutes themselves providing counter-financing.

According to the Executive Board, DLO has few options other than to make cuts in the region of 25 million euros per year. This translates as 275 research jobs and 175 support staff jobs. A growth of about 30 jobs in ‘new markets’ is expected, while overhead costs should decrease from the current twenty percent to fifteen of the total budget. It is not yet clear exactly which jobs will disappear as not all institutes have approved the plans yet. The Research Institute for Animal Husbandry has already made it known that 50 jobs will be lost.

The Executive Board wants to avoid a formal reorganisation as the redundancy payments involved would be ‘prohibitively expensive’ at around 70 million euros and crippling for the organisation. A working group headed by Kees van Ast will be formed to work the plans out further and monitor the process. The Executive Board has earmarked 25 million euros for the reorganisation, for instance for employees who decide to take early retirement.

The Executive Board discussed its plan Focus 2006 with the Supervisory Board and has received approval from them. The Joint representative bodies and the unions have also been informed of the plan and will discuss it mid-May.

Korné Versluis

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