The elections of last March heralded the start of the tenth year of the KOK-EDE Works Council. The Council has sat through three terms lasting three years. During this period, I had a lot of dealings with C.J. Kok in my capacity as a member and later chairman of the Works Council. I shall try to explain a little about how it all started, how it progressed and the relationship with C.J. Kok.
As the years went by, things slowly changed and improved, helped by the rapid changes in society taking place around us. The KOK-EDE Works Council developed from a body that had been set up because this was what the law prescribed, into an institution that was taken very seriously. This was particularly true after the amendment to the law on works councils that was passed in September 1979, which increased their rights to give advice and make decisions.
C.J. Kok was keen to provide information but he didn’t always appreciate a dissenting voice, making it very clear when he was not happy. Let me assure you that facing up to a strong-minded person like C.J. Kok is no mean feat. You had to be completely sure of your facts before he started asking tricky questions. If weren’t on strong ground, you didn’t stand a chance.
C.J. Kok is now leaving the company, bringing his relationship with the Works Council to an end. On behalf of all the other members, I would like to wish him and his wife all the very best for the future.
The very first meeting was held on 19 November 1971. As I was abroad at the time, I missed it and can’t describe the somewhat awkward atmosphere that must have accompanied that first meeting. What I can say is that this awkwardness only wore off very gradually during the meetings that followed in the first few years. It was a period in which both sides were still finding their feet. A lot of people at KOK-EDE (including some fairly prominent employees) didn’t see the point of a Works Council. At first, the meetings consisted of C.J. Kok giving lengthy accounts of what was going on, whereby the emphasis was on providing information rather than consulting. We also dealt with matters that probably didn’t belong in a Works Council, like the pressure on the water pipes in the lorry cleaning depot on Morsestraat, and the placing of benches on the patio, for which a special working party was set up.
Although C.J. Kok never interfered with or obstructed the process whereby the Council developed into a full-fledged consultative body, the meetings did not all go smoothly. We laughed a lot, but we also had our differences.
A respectable number of things were achieved during the period spent working with C.J. Kok, including an 8-hour working day, flexible working hours, a company savings scheme, an improved pension scheme and the appointment of an ‘employee commissioner’.We all learned a lot from him in this respect and I have fond memories of a period working closely with a manager who also had to ‘learn’ to consult with his employees, but who was prepared to do so and always willing to set out a new course.