The reorganisation of the EUR’s support services is a fact: on 12 May 2015, the University Support Centre opened its doors after some delays following a drastic reorganisation.

Towards the end, the Director and Coordinator still had to go all out to win over the employee participation bodies and the university now complies with all agreements made with the Ministry concerning overhead. Can the reorganisation therefore be called a success?

The bottleneck in the discussions with the employee participation bodies was the basic premise underlying the reorganisation: that the foundation for providing the support services would be in good order after the completion of the BV2013 programme and that support could therefore be better and more efficiently provided by a newly to be formed University Support Centre (USC). The reorganisation was to result in the elimination of 60 fulltime jobs within the generic support services segment and in some 3 million euros in savings.

However, the employee participation bodies (University Council, EUROPA and the EUR Service Committee) were not ready to accept the premise that you can effect savings and simultaneously improve service delivery. It took almost a year to bridge that difference in perspective. Only when this succeeded, at the beginning of this year, and quite a few things were scrapped in – what the employee participation bodies perceived as – the overblown management jargon contained in the reorganisation plan, did the consultative bodies give the go ahead: the USC became a fact on 12 May 2015. The responsible member of the Executive Board, Bart Straatman, looks back:

Why did it take so long before you caught on to what it was that the employee participation bodies objected to?

“The language used and the assumptions made in the first plan put too much emphasis on the future situation and we did not sufficiently alleviate the concerns of the employee participation bodies about the resolution of short-term problems. Contrary to what we had expected, the foundation was not in order; they were right about that. The gap between our plan and reality was too big. Especially in relation to ICT, the system appears to be unstable for inexplicable reasons, which meant that we were not in compliance with the conditions we had set for ourselves in the plan.

Take the SAP ERP software for example. This system was to produce efficiency gains in terms of the digital processing of invoices. When it then turned out that certain systems did not interface properly and the digital invoices have to be printed and scanned back in, I can understand why the level of irritation had reached its limit. When we assured the employee participation bodies that additional staff would continue to be available to solve ongoing problems, everyone calmed down.

The employee participation bodies also came to realise that the formation of the USC can contribute to putting the basic service delivery in order.”

Ultimately there is no suitable position within the university for ‘only’ six employees. This is quite a difference from the announcement made at the beginning of 2014 that 60 FTEs were to be eliminated. How is this possible?

“This concerns positions that were to be eliminated following the merger of the ICT faculty support functions, for example. Furthermore, we are investing in people by training them to enable them to perform the position that they have since been given. It turned out that it was possible to bridge the mismatch between the existing workforce and the vacant positions referred to in the past. With the current 47 FTE reduction we are compliant with the performance agreements we negotiated with the Ministry.”

Did you not cause unnecessary fright among employees by talking about such large numbers?

“The message was: this concerns a drastic intervention and we will do our utmost to soften the blow, but we are unable to exclude forced layoffs. In addition, I wanted to make it clear that we are working on a fundamental change in ways of working and that demands a great deal of everyone involved. The fact that there were still so many vacant positions helped us tremendously, because that gave us the room we needed to invest in people and to prepare them to take on a different job.

You could also say that the reorganisation was successful in spite of the hiccup with the employee participation bodies. We were able to show our social face.”

What was the role of the employee participation bodies?

“The employee participation bodies significantly improved the plan. Their intervention (the threat that they would vote against the reorganisation plan, ed.) was a good thing. They did good work for the affected employees and they were a serious consultation partner for the Executive Board.” WG


From 60 to 6 FTEs

•    Of the 60 fulltime jobs that were to be eliminated from the generic support function, 47 were part of the USC and 13 were part of the faculties.

•    Of these 47, a similar position did not exist for 44 employees.

•    Of these 44, 30 were placed in existing vacant positions.

•    Of these 30, 5 will remain in a position at the same level; 1 will move to a lower-level position; 24 will move to a higher-level position (of which 22 will move up one job level and 2 will move up two job levels). The relocated employees must demonstrate that they meet the requirements of their new position within one year – and sometimes two years. If not, they could potentially still lose their job.

•    Of the 14 for whom there was no similar position, 2 decided to leave of their own accord; arrangements were made with 6 others to carry out suitable work (for example, because they are close to retirement). There was no suitable position for the remaining 6 employees; they will be provided with support in finding a job outside the university.