Top Tweede Kamer officials resign saying politics has taken precedence over worker safety
The official who run the Tweede Kamer as an organization resigned from the lower house of Parliament on Friday afternoon, including the Tweede Kamer Clerk, Simone Roos, who sits as the organization's nonpolitical top civil servant. They argue that politicians are interfering too much in the investigation into former Tweede Kamer Chair Khadija Arib. As a result, the protection of employees at the workplace has faded into the background, when the safety of the civil servants working in the Tweede Kamer should be central, they said.
Five members of the management team wrote in an email to parliamentarians that they were "dismayed" by all the criticism of the initiation of an investigation into Arib's possible transgressive behavior. "The investigation has been made political, officials have been damaged, there appeared to be little attention for those who filed reports, and the integrity of the [Management Team] has been damaged." They wrote in the email they are stepping down from their jobs "with a very worried feeling when it comes to working safely and collegially." They added that they have repeatedly asked the political leadership to pay attention to this and also point to the "employer obligation" of the Tweede Kamer organization.
In addition to the clerk, the head of human resources has also resigned. This person also acts as a point of contact between the executive board of the Tweede Kamer and the independent research agency Hoffman, which will carry out the investigation into Arib on the executive board's behalf. They agreed that they "can no longer perform our tasks in good conscience and safely," impacting their ability to carry out their jobs in a responsible way.
In a separate email to the officials of the Tweede Kamer, Roos wrote that since taking office in June 2018 she has noticed that "there is tension in the political-administrative relations, positions and manners." She called a recent meeting by a Tweede Kamer committee on the Arib issue "the most shocking meeting of my career, in all respects".
"We recognize that the culture in the Tweede Kamer is often unsafe and therefore unhealthy," the five members of the management team wrote jointly in their email to the Tweede Kamer staff.
"A very bad thing," said Michel Meerts, the works council chairman, regarding the state of affairs surrounding the investigation into Arib. He accused the executive board of not standing up for the officials. Politics cannot "endlessly" continue to insult civil servants, a situation which played out "without officials being able to defend themselves," said Meerts. "Scandalous."
Many civil servants are worn down, and no longer want to work for the Tweede Kamer, Meerts stated. He has no idea how to proceed. The works council will meet at the beginning of next week to consider the situation that has arisen.
Chamber president Vera Bergkamp believes that the departure of the entire senior civil service of the Tweede Kamer shows that it is important that the investigation into Arib should continue. "I think we should take seriously that these people have not felt safe," Bergkamp said.
She also does not see halting the investigation as an option. "I am an elected chairman and I am committed to bringing the investigation into safe waters. If this had happened at a hockey club, then you would also investigate that. We are the Tweede Kamer. Why shouldn't we do that investigation?"
The investigation into Arib has caused great division in the Tweede Kamer for weeks now. MPs are angry that the decision about the investigation was leaked through the newspaper, and believe that there is too little basis for an investigation into Arib. Some also doubt the independence of any investigation.
It remains to be seen whether the investigation will be suspended. A decision is expected by Monday.
Reporting by ANP