Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO Issues in The Hague

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Jun 24, 2024

[LSCTH] meets Site Manager VP1 - Report on meeting with VP1 and his team on 12 June 2024

THE EPO's staff representatives in The Hague (LSCTH) have published a report dated 4 days ago about a meeting that took place 12 days ago. It helps illuminate and elucidate the nature of a toxic work/office atmosphere. They speak of a "toxic working atmosphere and overwhelming workload in specific teams" (direct quote) as well as "financial and staffing problems" in schools (the EPO does not properly look after kids of examiners who move abroad; in fact, just don't get pregnant at all).

There's nothing particularly sensitive in this new publication, so we're reproducing it as plain text, HTML, and GemText below:

Staff Committee The Hague
Comité du personnel de La Haye
Personalausschuss Den Haag

Rijswijk, 20 June 2024

LSCTH meets Site Manager VP1

Report on meeting with VP1 and his team on 12 June 2024

Dear colleagues,

On 12 June 2024, the Local Staff Committee The Hague met with VP1 in his function of Site Manager The Hague together with members of the administration. During the meeting, the following issues were discussed:

1. Occupational Health & Safety: staffing and knowledge transfer

After our two internal nurses in The Hague retired last year, Staff Representation (SR) noted that the recruitment of one internal full-time nurse and very recent recruitment of two external 50% part-time nurses had alleviated the immediate need within OHS, but stressed the importance of long-term relationships with the medical staff. SR further asked whether adequate time for knowledge transfer will be planned during the transition to a new internal physician, as our current physician is nearing retirement, and again reiterated the benefits of internal positions.

The Director of People Engagement and Partnership informed SR that the OHS team is currently addressing the understaffing issue and the transition of the physician position. She stated that the administration aims to maintain the usual service level and will provide updates through the COHSEC.

Regarding the preference for recruiting internal staff, she explained that the OHS in Munich has successfully employed both internal and external staff for years and that Office-wide replacement rates are also influencing the rate at which nurses are replaced. She concluded that appointing internal staff has both advantages and disadvantages.

2. European School in The Hague: financial and staffing problems

The European School in The Hague (ESH) has long faced a range of problems, which SR reiterated to the administration. These ongoing issues comprise a shortage of teachers in both primary and secondary schools, a structural financial deficit in primary school, the necessity of merging classes in primary and a reduction in teacher assistant positions. SR acknowledged the efforts of the School Liaison Officer (SLO), who has been actively seeking long-term solutions, including at the political level. Many parents have nevertheless expressed their concerns to SR about these issues at ESH and their impact on the quality of education. SR requested that in addition to long-term solutions, concrete short-term solutions to ESH parents were needed, preferably within the next thirty days so that colleagues can have visibility into their children’s immediate future.

VP1 confirmed the EPO's proactive involvement in this issue, while the Director of Talent Acquisition and Development emphasized that access to high-quality education in The Hague is essential for attracting new talent. Regular visits to ESH and other schools in The Hague are scheduled to assess opportunities for proactive engagement by the EPO. The SLO reported that she has made multiple visits to ESH and that she replies to inquiries from ESH parents regularly. She noted that the causes of the primary school's issues are widely recognized, particularly the gap between rising salaries for primary teachers and stagnant school fees. She reaffirmed the commitment of the EPO administration, other international organizations, and ESH management to develop a robust and sustainable plan for the future, with ESH management dedicated to maintaining a high standard of educational support.

When discussing the efficiency measures to be implemented by ESH management, she expressed her opinion that reducing teacher assistant positions and combining classes are common practices seen in other Dutch schools and also at the European School in Munich (ESM), and claimed that these measures do not compromise the quality of education. Additionally, she noted that the EPO is urging the school to improve communication with ESH parents.

SR stated that ESH parents seem to disagree with the EPO's view on the impact of class mergers on education quality. Additional concerns were also highlighted: science classes being taught in languages other than the section language in ESH secondary, infrastructure issues, and low teacher retention rates. SR emphasized that ESH parents are eagerly awaiting responses and require immediate solutions, with some considering leaving the ESH.

The administration deemed a thirty-day deadline not realistic. They also mentioned that the merging of P1/P2 and P3/P4 classes in the French and Dutch sections at ESH primary has recently been postponed. Furthermore, they announced a forthcoming discussion between EPO and ESH management in July, noting a possible exceptional funding from the Dutch Ministry of Education before the end of the year. Regarding the shortage of teachers at ESH secondary, the administration expressed that it was a severe nationwide issue, with the German section of ESH being significantly affected. However, they stated that this issue is considered difficult to resolve quickly.

Since the administration was unable to provide any of its own short-term solutions, SR proposed some potential solutions that the EPO could adopt to ease the burden on ESH parents. SR suggested reinstating ESH parents into the transitional measures of the Education Allowance Reform, enabling them to move their children to any other international school as needed. Additionally, SR proposed facilitating transfers for ESH parents to Munich, allowing them to enrol their children at the European School Munich (ESM) and enjoy the benefits of a fully fledged European School Type I.

VP1 stated that this meeting was not the right forum to discuss these proposals. He declared that all schools have problems at the moment and that the EPO is continuously working on long-term solutions with the Dutch ministries and other EU agencies. He added that the EPO would keep working on the ESH file. When inquiring with VP1 whether his response to the short-term solutions proposed by the SR should be interpreted as a negative, VP1 confirmed that no short-term solutions were anticipated for the coming year.

However, SR persisted by pointing out additional issues with ESH, such as the decrease in security personnel and the suspension of building maintenance, both of which are affecting the quality of education. In response, the SLO stated that there are currently no

immediate reasons for concern about educational quality, as the EPO is focused on long- term solutions, and does not deem short-term actions necessary. SR replied that this contradicted feedback received from ESH parents and inquired whether the EPO planned to provide financial assistance to ESH primary to cover its deficit. Additionally, SR informed those present that a crowdfunding initiative was being discussed among the ESH parents and asked if the EPO would be prepared to double or triple their contributions to give the school some immediate breathing space with their finances.

The SLO responded that the financial situation at ESH was not acute enough to warrant such emergency measures.

3. Toxic working atmosphere and overwhelming workload in specific teams

SR highlighted cases where the working environment is severely detrimental to colleagues' health.

On the topic of toxic working atmosphere, teams were mentioned with high incidences of long-term sick leave. Events such as public humiliation of team managers by higher management in front of colleagues were also brought up.

The Director of People Engagement and Partnership responded that the COO had recently convened a meeting with all the directors, marking the first involvement of HR Business Partners (HRBPs), indicating a shift towards placing greater emphasis on people-related matters. She noted that the disparities among the 300 team managers were expected, emphasizing that since they are appointed on fixed-term contracts, changes could be made if necessary. She encouraged SR to raise any problematic cases to the HRBP responsible for the respective directorate, a point which was confirmed by the Principal Director Corporate Services. VP1 also mentioned that the staff engagement survey was addressed in a management meeting the previous week, revealing that everyone could improve their management style. VP1 also encouraged contacting HRBPs to escalate any problematic cases.

On a related topic, in certain directorates, management interference in the examining divisions is being used to put pressure on examiners to increase grant rates. Additionally, examining divisions are reshuffled to reduce the number of summons to oral proceedings. VP1 observed that in the concerned directorates, there was no noticeable increase in grants, but more intermediary actions were documented. He emphasized the importance of making constructive suggestions were needed to ensure consistent application of the EPC across the EPO.

SR proceeded by inquiring about the current status of the overwhelming workload in the field of batteries. SR also passed-on feedback from teams in fields with too few search files, mentioning that there was a distinct lack of organisation, and notably no overview available to help these colleagues understand which other fields had a surplus of files, which would facilitate sharing of the workload among teams/fields. They further felt unsupported due to lack of training and lack of provisions for a learning curve in new fields.

In response to concerns about the workload in batteries, VP1 emphasized that accepting these files is a voluntary decision and pointed out the importance of supporting volunteers so that they can handle battery files with the necessary expertise to ensure high quality. He also took note of the feedback regarding a request for further organisation with workload balancing.

4. Catering facilities: equipment maintenance and survey

SR asked two questions regarding the caterer. The first question relating to the broken conveyor belt and its implications for health and safety, the second question relating to the organisation of a survey about the caterer to help improve Restour's services. Such a survey has been organized in the past by the former Restour User Committee (RUC), which no longer exists.

In response to the first question, the Director General Administration acknowledged that the broken conveyor belt was a known issue. He mentioned a backup solution implemented several years ago using niches with trays. He admitted that while this was not an ideal situation, it was temporary. He informed the SR that the complete renovation of the Hinge, including the kitchen and its conveyor belts, was planned as part of SP2028, pending approval by the AC in October of this year. The renovation was estimated to take 2–3 years.

In response to the second question, the Director General Administration explained that the administration already organised a general survey for all services and that creating a specific survey for the caterer was not necessary. He noted that the RUC would create an additional platform for topics already falling under the scope of the LOHSEC. The Principal Director Corporate Services added that in order to prevent survey overload, a comprehensive annual global services survey had been established. He announced that the upcoming survey would include questions specifically addressing the caterer.

Kind regards,

Your staff representatives

There's talk of "consistent application of the EPC across the EPO," but the EPO deliberately violates the EPC. It has, in effect, abolished its very own charter to fake "productivity".

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