Some Employees' Council elections have been scrapped due to a lack of candidates. 'It seems participating in Employees' Councils is not seen as a bonus for your CV.'
The Employees' Councils have been suffering from a lack of participants for some time now; there were elections in only six of the nineteen electoral groups in 2008. Cees van Dijk, the chairman of the Central Employees' Council: 'It is a trend and I find it a great pity. It would seem that participating in an Employees' Council is not seen as a bonus for your CV. Officially there are proper arrangements for compensation, you get your hours paid and PhD students, for example, are allowed longer to finish their thesis. Even so, it is not enough. Especially at the University, there is an enormous pressure to perform.'
The situation is most acute at the ATV electoral group, the University part of AFSG. Simone Elzinga is the only candidate although there are seven seats. Elzinga: 'It is a real shame. There were three of us but two members retired and no one has joined. We would like to be representing all employees, especially now AFSG is getting new accommodation. The directors also realize this is not a healthy situation.'
The Student Council, the VHL Employees' Council, applied research and most DLO institutes have just enough candidates. Alterra has the biggest choice: ten candidates for six seats.
'Quality of Employees' Councils must be increased'
The Executive Board wants Employees' Councils that are simpler, cheaper and of better quality. A working group headed by SSG director Ruud Huirne has carried out an exploratory review and concluded that there is sufficient willingness to consider a change in working procedures.
However, the Employees' Councils feel this should not be based on cost cuts. The Councils also feel the boards of directors should look at their own role: the hard line taken by the ESG directors (in the Isric case) and the ASG directors (in the case of dairy research leaving Lelystad) has led to a lack of trust. Even so, the Councils acknowledge that quality could be improved. To achieve that, a training programme will probably be set up for Council members.
Huirne feels that the Employees' Councils do not adequately reflect the employee population. There is hardly any representation of foreign employees and temporary employees such as PhD students. Huirne also sees too much attention to minor details while the really important matters get ignored.
There is a complex structure for employee participation: DLO, VHL, the University and students each have their own delegation. There is a central Employees' Council, but it only has limited influence as yet. After the elections a single WUR Council will probably be set up, encompassing the COR (Council for DLO) and GV (Council for the University and students).
The Executive Board wants to use the year ahead to work jointly on a more efficient and cheaper Employees' Council system. If the parties have not reached agreement by 1 May 2012 then an expert committee will have to come up with a binding recommendation.