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Nautilus lawyer ends 20-year union career

Nautilus lawyer in the Netherlands, Mieke den Hollander, bids farewell to members after a long career with the Union

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my final legal column for Nautilus. After almost 20 years, I am leaving the Union.

In my time, I have been involved in advising colleagues and our Board in collective cases, and I have assisted individual members in wrongful dismissal cases. Over the past few years, however, I have especially enjoyed helping members who have conflict in the workplace.

This is why, for the last part of my career, I am starting my own legal practice for individual clients and mediation.

It was a difficult decision, because I will miss the contact with our members, but I am grateful for the work I was able to do for them and for Nautilus.

Digging through my archives, I found one case that I would particularly like to talk about, as it shows that it is always worth asking Nautilus for advice.

Several years ago, a nervous member came to me asking for help. He brought a settlement agreement from his employer and said, “Please look at it. I don’t want to protest because my employer told me that otherwise he would mention all my mistakes in court.

Reading the agreement, I saw that our member would receive a small financial settlement considering all his years of good work. I asked him to tell me what had happened.

He said that after years at sea as an engineer, he decided to find a job ashore, as he and his wife had small children. He found a job with a well-known insurance company, where he was responsible for all technical aspects of their office where hundreds of employees worked.

He was the supervisor of a team of colleagues, who appreciated him because of his good technical knowledge and because he was always ready to give useful advice.

However, the company began to experience financial problems. Our member, who was hired during the good years, had a very high salary. Instead of saying, “Could we discuss your salary, as our company is in financial difficulty,” the employer appointed a new interim manager. Our member was assigned by this acting manager to do an assessment, which apparently revealed that he was not fit to be a supervisor.

It was strange because our member had been an excellent supervisor for many years. He was told he would have to go through a ‘period of improvement’, and the caretaker manager said that if he didn’t improve his skills his job might not be safe.

After that, our member felt so insecure that he failed to prove himself. The interim manager told him that it was better for his health to end the employment contract and that the company would make him a good offer.

After hearing his story, and the fact that before the evaluation our member had very good evaluations, I convinced our member to let me contact the employer. He didn’t want to stay with the company anymore after what happened, but I promised our member that I would do my best to get him better compensation.

Fortunately, the interim manager was on vacation, so I contacted the company’s senior legal counsel. After lengthy discussions, he agreed that the way our member had been treated was unfair and that higher compensation was warranted. Our member received sufficient financial compensation and was able to leave the company with his head held high. Soon after, he let me know that he had found a great job in shipbuilding, where he enjoyed working with ex-sailors like himself.

I hope this case shows you that it is always good to ask Nautilus for advice.

I wish you all safe and happy times in your work as maritime professionals!

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