Electoral bureaucracy at work

Every company in Belgium with more than >x employees must organise a worker's council in which the employees are represented via elected union representatives. And every 4 years all companies must organise elections to choose these representatives. Yesterday was the last day they could organise them in a 2 week period. And our company held its elections on the last day.

A couple of weeks ago I got a nice e-mail that I was appointed to be on duty together with some other colleagues. Great...just what I was waiting for.

My feelings about trade unions are fairly ambigious. Trade unions are good and are necessary. If we live in a country with good social conditions and protection, that is mainly due because of historic union negotiations and pressure. But local representatives sometimes think too often they are important because they are elected....that they must nag about each decision in the company...they fuss too much about details. I have the attitude "if I don't like the company policy anymore...I'll look for another job". Union representatives are also protected against getting fired during their mandate....something which has had sometimes a very perverted effect of ineffective people fearing for their job joining a union, becoming candidate and trying to get elected for all the wrong reasons.

All in all we don't notice the unions too much in our office. The campaign was made up by some flyers at the entrance, 1 e-mail for both lists (the christian union (green) and the liberal union (blue)). The green team apparently does not want to represent the IT department because they missed our office when distributing their green pens in all departments. Poooh I'm shocked ;).

Yesterday morning I was greeted outside by the blue delegation and received one of their pens. They were not allowed to campaign inside the office buildings anymore, so they gathered at the doorsteps, greeting everyone who entered.

My duty was in the election bureau for lower management (there was also one for blue-collar workers and white collar workers : the entire social law in Belgium is still based on this differentiation !!). We expected a maximum of 49 voters during 3 hours (including ourselves!). We had a electoral president, a secretary and 4 assistents to run the bureau. There were 2 candidates: one for the christian union and one for the liberal union. There were 2 free positions so basically they were certain to be both elected (assuming they both vote for themselves and that none would have zero votes). In the election bureau for white collar workers, there were a couple of hundred voters to come and there were real lists, so there it made more sense. But the election for the candidates for lower management was completely pointless. Nevertheless the Christian union had insisted that the election had to take place and if one of the unions requests it....the company must organise the election. Both the candidates were present in the election bureau as official "witnesses" to ensure our neutrality and the correct processes.

So there we were: 8 in a little meeting room waiting for voters to come. One assistent directed the people at the door and made sure to hold them if it would have gotten too crowded (yeah right), I took their voting invitation and called out their name out loud ( pretty silly as we all knew each other), the president handed them the voting bill which we had been folding before opening the bureau, 2 assistents marked the voter on 2 seperate voters lists which had to match afterwards and the last assistent checked the voting booths to assure they didn't go into one that was occopied and to make sure the pencil was still sharp or that nobody left propaganda etc...
You can see we were terribly busy!

First the 2 candidates made their vote themselves. Lots of silly jokes followed that the exit polls were very tight and gave 50% to each etc etc... Then we voted ourselves and in the first hour another 10 people showed up. First we were all chitchatting and making jokes about opening the windows so that the candidates could make publicity just outside the window (hey...they wouldn't be inside, right?), etc etc. It turned out they are both very active experienced divers, so that gave me some topic of conversation for a while.
After an hour the number of voters slowed down. I had brought my laptop in, as well as 2 of my colleagues, so we could work a bit and track our e-mails with half an eye. But the other 5 were hit by boredom. Officially we weren't allowed to leave the room for any reason or we had to close the voting bureau down entirely for 10 minutes. But we quickly all agreed to loosen the rules so we could go to the bathroom and go and look for a newspaper etc.
So when then someone came in, it actually took a while before we noticed and before we had dug up our voting lists and papers from underneath the scattered newspaper, half solved sudoku's etc... Whaa stress stress ;).

After 3 hours we could finally close the door and the 8 of us could start counting the total of 29 votes. That took only a couple of minutes. And then we had to enter those 2 numbers in some special computer program which printed 20 papers of official documents which we all had to sign. 20 pages (of which copies needed to be sent to the ministry etc...). What a bureaucracy

And that was the end of the social elections.... Hopefully they do a good job ;). And hopefully they don't have to organise a pointless election over 4 years.


Wholly Burble said…
My goodness, you could have elected senators and congressmen here in the States with all that manpower and work effort LOL.

Glad it's over for you for another four years.
Oh, I agree with you on every sentiment about the beginning of your post. And your union vote sounds like the procedure for my precinct vote, except my precinct volunteers all tend to be over 75 years old and many of them can't hear each other, so they all repeat the same instructions, etc. It's pretty funny. I'm grateful to them for volunteering, though.
david santos said…
Thanks for your posting and have a good day
Allie said…
Hmmm .... sounds like a lot of work to me. I am assuming that this has squelched any desire to aspire to run in any election for yourself hey? :)