Alliander is committed to long-term employability. The challenge is to ensure that our employees remain sufficiently fit, motivated and skilled for their work, both now and in the future. To complement the existing employability interviews between managers and employees, Alliander has now introduced a long-term employability budget along with a broad range of supporting activities and resources.
To monitor whether we are keeping our people sufficiently motivated and healthy, we conduct periodic medical examinations. We also actively measure absenteeism. In 2016, the absenteeism rate was 4.1% (2015: 3.8%). The average for our sector in the Netherlands is 3.5%. In 2016, we saw an increase in the long-term absenteeism as well as in the duration of absenteeism. But the number of times that employees reported sick declined.
Successful start for long-term employability budget
Under the current collective labour agreement, employees with a permanent contract are entitled to a long-term employability budget. This budget of € 500 gross per person has been available since 1 January 2016. Employees can use it to finance activities or resources to promote their general health, career development or workplace health. Examples are gym subscriptions, sports supplies, training courses or workplace adjustments at home. In the first year, 51% of the employees took up the long-term employability budget.
Alliander Fit is an initiative to ensure that employees are aware of the importance of remaining fit and healthy. The programme started in 2014, but was opened up to all employees in 2016. They set personal targets for their physical and mental health and have access to free activities and facilities to achieve these targets. There are special gym hours as well as walk-in hours and workshops where colleagues can ask questions or contribute ideas on health-related issues. Each business unit decides which themes are relevant and where the biggest challenges lie. Teams that work shifts, for instance, can devote attention to the adverse effects of irregular hours on sleeping and eating patterns.
Maintenance in cramped spaces
At a stone's throw from the Rozengracht-Marnixstraat road junction in Amsterdam, a 10-metre-long trench has been dug in the pavement. Rob Aouden, a Liander engineer, is working with his mates Andor and Patrick to replace a piece of cast-iron gas piping.
Car engines roar, tram bells clang, cyclists rush past and the occasional fire engine pulls out with a screaming siren. Hardly a quiet workplace, but Rob shrugs his shoulders. “A routine job, this,” he says. “We're working on a project to remove all cast-iron gas pipes lying within one metre of the front elevation and replacing it with PE. It will take a day or two.” The section dug up that morning is lying on the pavement – after 40 years in the ground. The gas supply to a nearby café has just been switched back on. Rob laughs: “The café owner had asked to be reconnected before ten o'clock. So we started at 6 this morning. He needs to heat up his croissants, doesn't he?”
A traffic control supervisor – hired by Liander – helps a cyclist to cross safely. Rob points to the signs, fences, traffic control supervisor, protective clothing and special overalls against polluted soil. “Each of us has been checked for working in polluted soil and we are all trained and qualified. Safety comes first, for ourselves and everyone around us. We all want to return home safely, don't we?” But the quality of the work is obviously also crucial. Rob regularly makes photos. “We want to show Liander, but also the local authorities, exactly what we did and how we did it.” Rob and his colleagues pull, haul, dig, and scrape their way through the mud and sludge. It's a real squeeze, with only a few decimetres between all the other gas, water and electricity mains. “It's not too bad here," Rob says mildly. “Other places in the city centre are so tight you have no space to move at all underground. And fortunately, I'm still fit and agile.”
The engineers push the new pipeline into position, clean it and connect the welding equipment. It basically melts the pipe sections together. After 20 minutes, the joint has cooled. Job done! So how long does Rob expect to continue plying this trade? “The municipality wants the city to be gas-free within 30 years. New areas are getting district heating systems, but there is still no solution for the city centre. So the gas network is here to stay for some time to come.”
After this afternoon, Rob has a short weekend. On Sunday, he's back on night shifts for two days at the Leidseplein. The work there can only be done after the trams have stopped running. “Working nights is nothing special. Sometimes we get called out of bed for an emergency, and then you have no choice. Not so long ago, the phone rang at four in the morning. There was a smell of gas in a basement storage unit. It turned out to be a leaking moped. I wasn't amused.” Rob removes the pressure gauges from the mains, Andor grabs a shovel, Patrick climbs onto the digger. A few final photos before the hole is filled in. “A quick call to the contractor for the repaving job, and that's that. By this afternoon, you wouldn't even know we had been here.”