University
Henri Hardieckis a member of the Linnaeusborgh internal fire department. Photo by Reyer Boxem

Support staff fear restructuring

Will I be able to keep my job?

Henri Hardieckis a member of the Linnaeusborgh internal fire department. Photo by Reyer Boxem
Next month, the university council will finalise the plans to place concierges, receptionists and their back office under the umbrella of the UG’s support services department. But the staff remains concerned.
25 May om 18:10 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 July 2021
om 14:32 uur.
May 25 at 18:10 PM.
Last modified on July 9, 2021
at 14:32 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

25 May om 18:10 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 July 2021
om 14:32 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

May 25 at 18:10 PM.
Last modified on July 9, 2021
at 14:32 PM.

René Hoogschagen

Freelancejournalist
Volledig bio
Freelance journalist
Full bio

Harry Sipsma, concierge at the Academy building, doesn’t understand the need for the reorganisation. Approximately 140 people, a total of 80 FTE, who take care of the entire university, from the northernmost building at Zernike to the southernmost property in the city centre, will be moved to fall under the same department: facility management. Why do all these people from all these different faculties, each with their own culture, have to fall under one umbrella?

Because, the reorganisation plan says, people currently do things differently at each faculty and building. Security protocols and opening hours vary, reserving a room or getting a key works differently depending on the faculty you’re at, etc. Once everyone has the same boss and works the same way using the same tools and the same planners, it’s easier for people to help out in a different building when needed. The university is currently using temps to fill this need.

Shortcuts

‘It would certainly make a difference if every building had the same alarm system’, an employee at a faculty in the city centre says. But she knows it will never be truly easy. She switched locations once, but even after several months she still hadn’t familiarised herself with all the buildings at her faculties. It’s no wonder, since the city centre faculties are spread out over a range of old and new buildings that are connected through shortcuts. It’s important for her to know her way around, though, as she is also a health and safety officer.

I’m worried for my younger colleagues

Henri Hardieck works at the services department Linnaeusborg, which means he’s basically a concierge who mainly does technical work. He’s also a health and safety officer, as well as a proud member of the internal fire department. He proudly displays proof of this. In the room with the fire-retardant suits, hoses, and walkie-talkies hangs a photograph of the crew: five employees, each with a helmet under their arm. He, a department colleague, a researcher, and two others who work in the green building.

It’s an important function, with lots of responsibilities. He can tell the fire department where to go, knows which chemicals people shouldn’t be sniffing, and knows the locations of the freezers containing research that shouldn’t be thawed out. A substitute would never know these things. He would also make a poor substitute at the Academy building, he says, laughing. He can’t imagine himself serving as beadle during official events.

Concerns

That’s not the point of the reorganisation, says Helga Emmens, in charge of the plans. ‘Obviously, it’s not great if someone doesn’t know the buildings by heart, but if we manage to streamline all the relevant processes, people will always know where the floor plans are located.’ Besides, she says, ‘no one will be forced to work elsewhere’. 

But that’s just one of the many concerns that employees have about the reorganisation. Will they be forced to wear a uniform? Will their hours be changed? Are their jobs in danger? They failed to ask the head of the reorganisation these questions, who in turn reported that the staff had no comment on the change. However, they did turn to their colleagues on the staff committee that the university council had created, says Hans van Gestel, who’s on the council’s Personnel faction. 

Sipsma isn’t afraid to openly criticise the plans. ‘I’m almost retired, anyway’, he says, laughing softly, although his voice rings out in the empty Academy building. He turns serious: ‘But I’m worried about my younger colleagues.’ He’s concerned the reorganisation are a prelude to outsourcing the work.

Outsourcing

A Zernike staff member shares his concerns. She points to a copy shop down the hall. It’s been outsourced, just like the cleaning and the cafeterias have been. On the other hand, she doesn’t think the plans jeopardise her own job. Even now, years after running the cafeterias was outsourced to Beyk, there are still people there who work for the UG itself.

They said they wouldn’t outsource cleaning, either

Sipsma is more worried than she is. He’s noticed that some faculties no longer have concierges or receptionists, but rather a G4S security guard or a student-assistant on ‘room duty’. ‘That’s a job they’re taking right there.’

But the reorganisation plans explicitly state that one of the principles is that there will be absolutely no outsourcing. But how much will the university stick to such ‘principles’? ‘They said the same thing about the cleaning department’, Sipsma says.

Photo by Reyer Boxem

In writing

‘I don’t know how many times I have to say it’, says Emmens. ‘There are absolutely no plans to outsource.’ The plan has it in writing, she says. She repeats the message, just to drive it home: ‘We will not be outsourcing.’ It’s a matter of trust, she says.

What’s more, says Emmens: ‘This is a job where you work with the public, and it’s nice to have the same people working in the buildings. It’s nice to be able to recognise people when you walk into a building, and know they’re doing a good job. Those are people we want to keep.’ 

Other large organisations are actually insourcing, says Emmens. It also remains to be seen whether the UG will keep its flexible pool of student-assistants and temps. ‘We might hire more permanent staff, even.’ She also knows that outsourcing isn’t even necessarily cheaper. 

Efficiency

The reorganisation plan states that cutting back on permanent staff is not one of the reorganisation’s objectives. The university does want to save money on efficiency, but the plan also states that this will probably take a few years.

People keep reinventing the wheel

The efficiency efforts are to prevent things from unnecessarily being done twice, Emmens explains. ‘People keep reinventing the wheel.’ One example is when an entire building or a whole wing has to move. You have to figure out how to tackle that, where to put all the trash cans, says Emmens. But other faculties might already know how everything goes.

Purchasing will also become cheaper, says Robert Rossingh, team leader of the service management department at the law faculty. ‘Some purchasing is already being done from a central office, but not all’, he explains. After the reorganisation, everything will run through a single back office. Purchasing everything for the entire university at once is cheaper, he says.

Slow

Hardieck can see the advantages of this, and it’s not like he doesn’t like the plans, but he is worried the entire process will slow down. ‘If I need light bulbs, I order them through AFAS and I can track the whole process. But if I have to go to someone else to ask for them, I don’t know whether they’ll order them the same day or if they’ll decide to wait until other people need light bulbs, too.’

Emmens says the reorganisation will benefit students and lecturers, as well. ‘They’re increasingly moving from building to building, and it’s nice to know how to hook up your laptop no matter which room you’re in.’ 

Not that everything has to be done exactly the same, she says. ‘Science faculties operate differently from arts faculties, but there’s no reason we couldn’t streamline how to book a meeting room.’

Reorganisation timeline

The reorganisation plan

Late 2017 plan 1: The university council says the reasoning behind reorganisation is unclear.
Late 2019 plan 2: The Personnel faction says the reasoning is still ‘barely coherent’ and points out nothing has been done to ensure co-determination.
Late 2020 plan 3: The university council agrees. All the difficulties have been dealt with, says the Personnel faction’s Hans van Gestel. Anything that hasn’t been dealt with will only be decided once the people it concerns have had a say in it, which they have through the support services department’s employee council.

The personnel plan

May 31 The first personnel plan draft is sent out to the employees involved.
June The second draft is sent to the university council for advice. The board of directors should be able to sign off in late June and everyone should fall under the facility management umbrella by September first, says reorganisation manager Helga Emmens.

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