How do you make your voice heard as a locally employed member of staff working at a Dutch diplomatic mission? The ministry may take pride in having formally arranged for employee participation in decision-making, but how do you make sure it actually works for you?
Dutch legislation is based on the principle that employee participation in decision-making needs to take place at the level of the decision maker. This is why well-functioning mission councils are important, and are not to be underestimated as instruments for discussing and influencing decisions on working arrangements in your embassy, permanent representation or consulate.
However, what about decisions that are, or need to be taken at headquarters in The Hague? Think about topics such as RLok, PUW (postuitwerking/ adaptation of general rules on working conditions to locally employed colleagues), and the markers on salary surveys, or a social plan for reorganisation. How do you influence those? The best answer is through influencing the trade unions that participate in the so-called Georganiseerd Overleg or “Organised Consultation” where these points feature regularly with the Secretary-General of the ministry. The unions are in a strong position: for example without approval of the GO, the ministry cannot implement a social plan.
Seen the importance of trade unions, you will appreciate that it is through the largest trade union at the ministry: “Vereniging Dienst Buitenlandse Zaken” (VDBZ) “ Trade Union for the Foreign Service” that you will achieve the most influence. Indeed the VDBZ distinguishes itself among other things by focussing on the interests of all employees of and at the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The VDBZ is the union that not only understands ‘The Hague’, but also its foreign missions, their particularities and their problems. We stand up for the interests of all employees, no matter your background or position or location.
Indeed, we have also spoken out for the interests of locally engaged staff on many occasions. This is not always common knowledge, but no need for modesty: the VDBZ delivers results to locally engaged staff and offers individual advice to its members:
- The VDBZ successfully supported colleagues in Ankara for a more reasonable solution to the consequences of shifting from payment of salaries in Euro to the local currency.
- The VDBZ successfully made a plea for an extra holiday in Rabat.
- The VDBZ suggested better payment following the closing of the mission in Syria.
- Following interventions of the VDBZ for more transparency on the markers in the salary survey in Lisbon, the following message was received: ‘… it is obvious to us that the VDBZ has not taken this lightly and has defended our interest skilfully, resulting in a positive gesture by HDPO. On behalf of all local personnel, heartfelt thanks to you.”
The VDBZ is also the largest faction in the elected Works Council “Ondernemingsraad” (OR). Though the OR deals somewhat less with issues related to locally engaged staff, it still has a strong say in topics such as personnel policy, including empowerment policies for employees through training, as well as the consequences to personnel of reorganisations, such as the current centralisation of administrative tasks from missions to The Hague.
VDBZ is an independent association of the staff of our ministry. We are not part of the ministry itself. We can only do our work with the support and contribution of our members and two permanent staff in the office. The VDBZ board and all other contributors work on a voluntary basis for the benefit of all members of the VDBZ and the employees of the ministry at large. All employees!
Become member of VDBZ and contribute to our collective interests. The more on-board, the stronger our collective voice for expressing the concerns of all employees!
On behalf of the GO-members of the VDBZ,
Bert de Wilde
Jurrien van der Horst
For further information or to sign up as a member please contact our office:
Edith Everard / Julie Kennedy
Your best interests at heart!