The departure of Carlos Custer came entirely unexpected at the end of the year 1996. There was still a year to go before his mandate of the Congress of Mauritius would have ended. The reason of his departure was not clarified either by himself or by the WCL board. The only thing I noticed was his opposition to the early retirement of a number of administrative staff members with whom he worked well together such as his personal secretary, the coordinator of the administration, the head of the accounting and other staff members. He considered their early retirement as an unnecessary reorganization that the WCL would do more harm than good. However, he had no problem with the early retirement of several other staff members. But the ACV did not listen to Carlos and went on with the reorganization.
Was for Carlos Custer the announced reorganization by the ACV, the straw that broke the camel? That is possible. I myself had also written a report with some proposals for changes at the secretariat. Following my report CNV President Anton Westerlaken made together with the subsequent CNV General Secretary Bert Boggelen a study based on interviews with the responsable leaders and staff members.This study was well intended but had little practical results. With a report alone you cannot solve the problem of incompetence. With the proposed reorganisation the real problems were not solved, but I realized that opposition to the ACV would be meaningless given the position of ACV in the WCL.
|Part of the WCL staff members that went on early retirement (1996).|
I do not know if Carlos had discussed his early departure with Emilio Maspero, the General Secretary of CLAT. I can not imagine that he has not done it since there was a constant dialogue between Carlos and Maspero. If Maspero would have agreed, why would that have been? Indeed, with Carlos at the WCL, Maspero had a lot of informal influence on the WCL policy. Maybe Carlos has threatened to resign if the reorganization would go through and when the ACV went on with the reorganization, he had no other option than to leave?
At the Confederal Board meeting in Lugano (October 1996) Willy Thys of the ACV Board was appointed interim Secretary General with the intention that he would be elected General Secretary at the next World Congress. At my own suggestion, CNV President Anton Westerlaken proposed that I should be elected as Deputy Secretary General at the same Congress. The proposal was supported by Michel Bovy as Chairman of the Commission Trade Action. The aim was to create a strong position for Trade Action within the WCL in order to strengthen the WCL as a whole. Unfortunately, nothing happened then. Apparently CNV did not succeed to convince other WCL members to support this proposal.
During the International Colloquium on Trade Action, which was held shortly after the Confederal Board in Ostend, Belgium (25-27 November), it appeared that the Protocol for the Trade Action Secretariat still was not implemented fully. Therefore, on behalf of the Colloquium Michel Bovy, also chairman of the Commission Trade Action, wrote a letter to Willy Thys, saying the following:
"Through this joint letter, the International Trade Federations make known to the Board of the WCL, that continuation of the current division of labor is unsustainable. Untenable for the two Executive Secretaries and most untenable in relation to the activities of the members of the ITF's. We believe that should be implemented in the short term the Protocol between WCL Trade Action and the WCL (judgment of the WCL Congress in Mauritius)."
Shortly after this I made at the request of Willy Thys a list of all relevant documents relating to the decisions on the organization of the WCL Trade Action Secretariat (January 30, 1997). The review contained the Guidance Resolution of the World Congress of Mauritius (1993) and the restructuring proposal that was discussed at the same Congress and in which was stated that "the Executive Secretaries of for Trade Action would do only tasks related to Trade Action. There should be a minimum of three Executive Secretaries and their number should depend on the resources and needs. "
The note also stated that there was no money for three full-time Executive Secretaries and therefore on the Congress came to the compromise to choose two Executive Secretaries: Dirk Uyttenhove and myself. Since I also had confederal responsibilities (Europe and the International Solidarity Foundation), I was in fact involved only as a half time Executive Secretary. Therefore I urged to look for a solution through additional administrative support to the Trade Action Secretariat and to further discuss with the CNV their commitment for additional support for the Secretariat.
After all, during the aforementioned International Colloquium in Ostend, the CNV Industrial Trade Union had announced to make available additional funds for the Trade Action Secretariat. Treasurer Wim van der Jagt had explained that he wanted to discuss with other CNV Trade Unions to contribute extra to the WCLTrade Action Secretariat. A copy of this note was send to the Presidents of the ITF's and of course Michel Bovy, the Chairman of the WCL Trade Action Commission.