Report from the Works Council

2018 was an interesting and busy year for the Works Council. We received more requests for advice and consent than in the previous years. The Works Council was also involved in many topics, like the employee survey, the ‘workforce principles’ and the job structure. We notice that the changes are coming thick and fast. The organisation is fully in flux and this places great demands on employees. On top of that, the voluntary severance scheme was launched, at the same time as a strong move towards more efficiency. This combination caused a great deal of turmoil, the effects of which will be felt in 2019.

Requests for advice

The Works Council was asked for official advice or consent on approximately 15 topics in 2018. To name just a few: the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment, Finance in Transition, Procurement (FP) organisational change, closure of the Kootstertille mixing station, a new bond loan, the elimination of Grondzaken (LAJ) and the Reorganisation of Business Development.

Some of these were reasonably easily handled, because the employee representation process was fleshed out well. It is important that the employees involved engage in dialogue with their managers about how the work is set up. We know that you cannot make everyone happy, but adequate understanding and support on the work floor are conducive to well-being and trust in the organisation. If we see constructive dialogue, the goal of employee representation has been achieved and the Works Council can remain at a distance. If that dialogue is missing, we encourage both the management and employees to engage (more effectively).

Other topics

We were also involved in a number of other topics. Our delegation on the Core Team was expanded at the end of 2018 because of the numerous topics being handled there. The employee survey was carried out once again at the beginning of 2018. We contributed ideas for the questions and are naturally very interested to see what is done with it. We see that the results were shared much more transparently than in the past.

For many employees, the drastic decrease in the GNIP activities (multi-year replacement programme for the gas transport network) was difficult to understand and accept. Arguments such as the decline in gas transport, impending efficiency discounts, and more risk-based maintenance are far-removed from many colleagues.

HR topics were also up for discussion, such as the set-up of the Sourcing Team, plans for a new assessment cycle and the Gasunie leadership profile. This profile outlines a leadership style that is entirely in keeping with optimum employee representation and it is being energetically rolled out by HR. We realise that the ideal situation has not yet been reached at this point. This culture change takes time. For the time being, we see there is sometimes a reversion to ‘forceful leadership’ when the situation becomes hectic. The Works Council discusses this with HR and the director on a regular basis. The Works Council will also actively monitor the introduction of the desired leadership style in the years to come.

Another point of concern relates directly to the severance scheme and related efficiency measures. Not only the Works Council, but employees, too, fear that a great deal of experience and expertise will be lost with the large number of colleagues leaving at the same time and the limited handover period. It will therefore require a great deal of dedication and flexibility from the remaining employees to keep everything on the right track. Many colleagues are willing to take this on. It will be a bit of a muddle at first, but we expect that a smoothly functioning organisation will once again emerge over the course of 2019.

New Works Council term

The term of the current Works Council team expires as of 1 April 2019. Some of that team is making use of the severance scheme and will already be leaving the company as of 15 February 2019. This includes almost half of the incumbent members and this will therefore have a significant impact on the current council’s strength. We will look for a feasible way of working in the coming period, so that all that we have accomplished is not lost. Fortunately, several Works Council members have stated they are willing to stand as candidates once again. There can be some continuity, therefore, and the new members will also bring new blood to the team, which is needed. The new Works Council team will be facing some fine challenges.