Delegates corner

As we promised you, we will continue to give the floor to delegates from the CERN Staff Association, men and women who are committed to working to defend your working conditions.

Today it is Georges-Henry Hemelsoet who will answer our questions.

Good morning Georges-Henry, thank you for taking part in this interview. Can you introduce yourself in a few lines and explain your work at CERN?
Hello, my name is Georges-Henry Hemelsoet. I'm married and I have three children who are now adults. I've been working at CERN since 27 years and I've always worked in the operations group because I really like to be in the middle of the action and feel useful. I had a four-year break to go to the control group but I didn't like this job as much as the operation group. I had to stop working on shift (for medical reasons) which allows me to devote more time to the Staff Association. I like everything that is new technology, the field of electronics and thanks to the confinement I discovered a new passion for gardening and more particularly for growing vegetables.

When and how did you join the Staff Association (SA)? And what are your activities at the SA?

I first joined the Staff Association at the beginning of my career but unfortunately the shift working hours did not allow me to fulfil my mission as a delegate in a satisfactory way and as I like a job well done I decided to focus on my career but the Staff Association has continued to be on the back of my mind all these years.

Following the last five-year review, I found myself stuck in my career path and put in a benchmark job that did not correspond to my degree, as many of us do.
Frankly, I was distraught, I really couldn't see my way out of it. I turned to the Staff Association for assistance in pursuing an internal appeal. A professional team received me, listened to me and advised me on the steps to take.

When I left shift work, it was natural for me to come to the Association so that I, in turn, could help my colleagues. I found many competent people with whom I had already had the opportunity to work. I attend the meetings of the InFormAction and Conditions of Employment Committee regularly and I would like to increase the amount of time I devote to the Staff Association after the deconfinement.

So you would like to spend more time working for the Staff Association, what does the Staff Association mean to you?

Yes I would! I came to CERN in a very good period of time, as I was able to get my permanent contract after 4 years and I have always had interesting projects to do. But I notice that more and more of our employment conditions are under threat and that today we have to fight almost daily to ensure that CERN continues to be the centre of excellence it has always been.

The Staff Association is the place where we can make proposals to improve our conditions, where we can play a part in this wonderful adventure that is CERN and where we can work and highlight what makes this organisation special, in order to make it more attractive to the young people and future generations that are arriving today.

You explained to us in your own words what the Association is and why it is important to be a staff representative. What convinced you to (re)sign up for this adventure?

I had an extremely bad experience when my supervisor, who was an exceptional manager, decided not to accept his permanent contract and I asked myself a lot of questions. Why and how could a person come to refuse a permanent contract at CERN? There was something that didn't "match" or rather no longer matches the expectations of the new generation. What could I do at my level to make CERN attractive again to this young generation?
And that is why I am participating in the Conditions of Employment Committee!

I train myself and keep abreast of decisions taken at the Staff Council, I try to convince my colleagues to join and support the Association so that it is even more representative of what, for me, is the main component of CERN: its staff.

How do you live this mission as a staff delegate?

I have only been a delegate since this year and some of my fellow delegates already have a lot of experience. I realize that I have a lot of training to do, a lot of new things to learn, but I can still bring my ideas and feel useful in the commissions I take part in. I am very well surrounded by the members of the Staff Council who are a source of knowledge and experience for the Association. I am looking forward to the end of the confinement so that I can continue to meet my colleagues, inform them about the progress of the different commissions and get their comments and wishes in relation to what they are experiencing in the field.

How much time should be devoted to his mission as a delegate?

The minimum amount of time to devote is 10% of your time, but between meetings of the staff council commissions and meetings with people from his department it is really very little. I think that in order to be successful as a delegate, at least in the first few years, you should rather count on 20% of your time.

By participating in meetings, writing notes, and training myself on these new subjects, I easily fill the 25% I decided to devote to the SA this year.

In these difficult times, how is it going with your daily work at CERN? How are you organizing yourself with this period of confinement? Do you have any tips to give, advice for our readers?

Since my children are no longer at home, I have decided to work part-time.

I take school holidays and volunteer one day a week. I dedicated two days to my work for the beam instrumentation and two days for the SA. In this period of confinement I often connect by ZOOM and it is true that I find it much more tiring, especially meetings with cuts, chopped sound and often in English.

My suggestion? Take breaks and vary your activities. For the working day to be efficient, it is important to organize it before you even start teleworking. This helps you manage your workload and prioritise optimally. The ideal being to have a dedicated workspace at home, personally I have made my son's room (since he is no longer at home) my office, a space dedicated to work that allows me to make a physical break in my home. During this period of confinement and teleworking, the balance between professional and personal life is usually put to the test and you have to find some time to either find yourself a little time to refocus on essential things.

Beware, telework is neither a day off nor a time of professional over-investment. Even if at the beginning of the confinement, teleworking allowed me to work even more than usual, I had the impression that I was even more efficient than in normal times but I quickly realized that it was not the solution. Instead, you have to be reasonable in your work, do it properly and allow yourself some well-deserved breaks.

What can you tell us about your experience as a delegate?

Unlike my work as a software developer in the operations group, where the work is ultimately very solitary and individual, my first impression at the SA is that the notion of team is very present. This is something I appreciate very much and, in my opinion, the Association would be well advised to export this model to CERN as a whole.  In short, teamwork is a source of motivation, commitment and creativity. It allows us to develop more ideas, communicate more effectively and achieve better results in a more pleasant working environment.

The final word?

I can only recommend that as many people as possible have the experience of being a staff representative. It's a real eye-opener and it allows you to meet extraordinary people and to feel really useful in representing and defending the whole staff.


by Staff Association