Nieuws - 2 december 2010

Record turnover and work pressure at Alterra

Alterra achieved a record turnover from assignments for the private sector this year. The boom has its down sides though.

Alterra's operations director Auke de Bruin is proud. 'Our turnover for external clients is 25 percent bigger than last year. In money terms that means a rise from 23 to more than 28 million euros.' De Bruin considers this a milestone because for the first time clients from the market are just as important for our turnover as the ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I). 'In 2000 we were still dependent on EL&I for 80 percent of our turnover. Last year that was still 60 percent and this year it is 50 percent. We are more and more market-oriented. That is good news for the future because we will be less dependent on the ministry.' In terms of overall turnover, Alterra has had a pretty good year too. De Bruin says a modest profit is expected.
High work pressure
Kees van Diepen, chair of the works council of the ESG, has a few doubts about Alterra's success story though. He says the work pressure towards the end of the year is too high. 'Management tries to finish as many projects as possible this year. This final sprint has been imposed on the various centres. But for some staff it is just not possible to work the planned hours this year or to find colleagues who can do so. In such cases it would be much more efficient to carry the hours over to next year. You can do that very easily with external assignments. Why boost this year's  results at the expense of next year's?'
Keep it up
Director De Bruin acknowledges that it is hard work. 'It is true too that people feel the pressure is on. But that pressure is always there at the end of the year. We've got the assignments, but we do have to get them done this year. So we've installed a strict regime for that.' It is not the same success story throughout Alterra. The Landscape Centre, the largest of Alterra's five centres, has had a 'tough year' according to De Bruin.
Nor will the pressure go down next year. According to De Bruin, Alterra wants to get 60 percent of its turnover from commercial clients next year. 'We have to keep it up. I have every confidence in the route we are taking. We are learning to play the market. And we have shown that we can do it.' Van Diepen's expectations are more muted. 'Making money on the market is fine. But you can see that everyone is after the same EU funds. So it will be crowded there.'