Organisation - March 31, 2010

Stalemate over stagnated ASG employees

Management and Employees' councils argue over 'mobility cluster'. Employees' Council will take case to court if arbitration fails.

Animal Sciences Group Lelystad
Is the 'mobility cluster' at the Animal Sciences Group some kind of reorganization in disguise or part of an existing procedure? The Management Council and the Employees' Council (OR) of this sciences group have been at loggerheads about this issue for several months.  If arbitration fails, the case would be brought to court.
ASG has been trying for many years to increase the mobility and career prospects of a handful of employees. However, attempts made by department managers so far have been stranded.  The OR was taken unpleasantly by surprise when the Management Council placed this group of employees separately in a 'mobility cluster' from 1 October last year. 'Especially so when we learn that the mobility phase will end in job dismissal', says OR secretary Hans Stormink. 'You can't dismiss people like that, unless they fail to perform and such instances are documented. If this is a reorganization, the OR has the rights to be consulted, adds Stormink. 'We are not against relocating and re-deploying of employees. In fact, we have been pushing for years for improvements in the job evaluation process, through which redundancy can be detected and remedied at an early stage.'

According to management council member Dick Pouwels, no reorganization is involved here, but an operational management procedure. 'We have taken this handful of employees out of the organization structure in order to give them extra attention because they are difficult to redeploy in research projects. The policy to increase career prospects remains unchanged. There's only a difference in the way in which it is carried out: the mobility cluster. But this is not an organizational change. The cluster is a temporary measure.'
The OR thinks differently, and has therefore brought the case in November last year for arbitration to the company committee of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). SER ruled in mid February in favour of the OR, whereby the management and the OR had to begin discussions about the mobility cluster all over again. The management, however, did not consider the SER-ruling as legitimate advice and proposed another round of arbitration, which is currently going on.

'We have been dealing with this mobility cluster for six months', says OR chairman Herman de Boer. 'In the meantime, employees are pressurized to enrol in the mobility cluster. Four of the seven employees who are now in the cluster have been re-housed in a separate wing of the building. Employees are isolated; they are kept from their work. Moreover, the mobility phase will end in job dismissal. We won't let that happen.'
Pouwels looks at this differently. 'The mobility cluster is only a temporary measure; the mobility phase is limited. If it doesn't offer any solution, we will look for possibilities outside the organization. This is a normal process. From the management's point of view, we are dealing with a handful of individual cases, while the OR sees them as a group set aside. There's reorganization in the latter case, but not in the former.'
The arbitrator will ponder over this dilemma and is expected to issue an advice at the end of April. If both parties are still unable to see eye to eye then, the OR will bring the case to court.