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Sjoerd Wouda looks back at four years of chairing NWO Central Works Council

‘The NWO Central Works Council stood at the front line during the implementation of the single NWO idea’

Leading the NWO Central Works Council during a period of transition is no mean feat. Nevertheless, he succeeded in doing it. Sjoerd Wouda, software engineer at NWO Institute AMOLF, looks back with a sense of satisfaction at his NWO Central Works Council membership. He was a member for eight years, four of which in the role of chair. The NWO Central Works Council elections 2019 have taken place, and at the start of May, he will pass on the baton to his successor. 'Looking back, I am most proud of the realisation of a single set of Implementation Regulations (IR) for the entire organisation. That was not all plain sailing.'

Wouda says that he combined his chairing of the NWO Central Works Council with his busy job at AMOLF by spending three days a week on council work. 'In practice that was not enough though, certainly not during the NWO transition. Fortunately, my line manager saw the importance of this work and gave me all the space I needed. Preparing for the meetings well definitely makes all the difference. 'The chair not only leads the monthly meetings but also keeps an overview of everything that takes place within the NWO Central Works Council. Wouda: 'I also read all the documents from the NWO executive board and pass them on to the various committees within the NWO Central Works Council. The committee members focus on the portfolios where their personal interest and expertise lie. I am also the point of contact for the NWO executive board representative Caroline Visser, and as the daily management of the NWO Central Works Council, we have an agenda-setting meeting with her once every two months.'

New ways of working
During the transition period, the members invested a lot of time in the NWO Central Works Council. The Central Works Council of the FOM Foundation and the Central Works Council of NWO were disbanded and together with CWI, NIOZ and initially ZonMw, an entirely new NWO Central Works Council was formed. 'We had to find a completely new way of working. The manageability of the organisation has changed, and in that respect, I do not envy the directors at all', says Wouda. 'Especially during the initial period after the transition we experienced a lot of difficulties due to the differences that existed between organisation units, and we at first took some time to find our way. Now the Central Works Council colleagues really understand each other's interests and quickly find a common line. With the business of the transition behind us, we now also have more time to exchange ideas with each other. Things are starting to work better, but we are still in the process of improving things.'

Keep on listening
The current NWO Central Works Council will pass on the lines of action that it drew up for 2018 to its successors who will start in May. Wouda states the points which he believes are a priority. 'Work pressure is an extremely important subject in my view. It is an intangible theme, but it is vital that we keep paying attention to it.' He also thinks that the PhDs from the Administrative Unit for Research Groups at Universities (BUW: Beheerseenheid Universitaire Werkgroepen, in Dutch) require special attention. 'Unfortunately, we have not yet found any representatives from the university workgroups for the NWO Central Works Council. I really do hope that the new NWO Central Works Council will maintain the dialogue with this group. I also think it is important we continue to push for the NWO-wide intranet for all colleagues from NWO-I and NWO-D.' Besides the lines of action, Wouda mentions the importance of the NWO Central Works Council's role in providing solicited and unsolicited advice. By this, he means listening carefully to what is happening in the various organisational units and passing on those signals to the executive board representative. 'This requires a lot of patience. The organisation is large, not always as effective as it might be, and at times fragmented. You want to be able to realise a centralised policy, but at the same time organisation units such as the NWO Institutes must be able to retain their own identity.'

On 8 April 2019, the elections were held, and 9 April the last NWO Central Works Council meeting in its current composition took place. The new NWO Central Works Council will come together at the start of May with the old council and will receive a two-day transition training. During this, the specific responsibilities will also be transferred. Wouda has several pieces of advice for his successor. 'Ensure that you position the most important points high on the agenda before the meeting and try to keep the meeting to the point. With such a large group that is a real challenge. Use the time efficiently and do not lose too much time in extensive discussions. And be aware of the fact that all portfolios require a lot of time. Usually, there are no quick wins to be gained.'

Wouda has experienced personal growth during his period as chair: 'I discovered how satisfying it is to achieve something with the entire team. I also discovered new personal capacities, such as translating the visions of other people into a broader context. And then seeking common ground and connections in this.' Looking back at his NWO Central Works Council period, Wouda is most proud about the realisation of a single set of Implementation Regulations (IR) for the entire organisation. 'That was not all plain sailing', says Wouda. 'It was a very slow process to merge four different sets of regulations from different employers into a single set. But everybody stayed on board!' He is also really pleased about the mutual growth within the NWO Central Works Council and the collaboration after the transition. 'With the merging of all NWO units into a single central works council back then, we took a first step within the transition to a new NWO. It is fantastic that the NWO Central Works Council stood at the front line during the implementation of the single NWO idea.'

About Sjoerd Wouda
Sjoerd Wouda (40) has worked as a software engineer at AMOLF for more than 20 years. AMOLF was his first employer after he completed his degree in electrical engineering. In 2005, he was the co-founder of the local Works Council at AMOLF. He then also became a member of the Central Works Council of the former FOM Foundation.

Tekst: Melissa Vianen
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, April 2019

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