Blog Week 17: Brussels disputes and resolutions.
Sunday 19 March 17.51
Lisa's actual, formal farewell followed the usual Friday-evening-everyone-standing-in-a-conference-room pattern:
- speech from Bill saying how wonderful Lisa is and how everyone wished her well and she should keep in contact; followed by
- speech from Lisa about how she had enjoyed working at the office; followed by
- gift, flowers and polite applause; followed by
- everyone attacking the alcohol (well it was pretty much the weekend after all).
But instead over the wine-and-cheese a number of people were complaining about the latest action by Coditel - the local (and only) cable tv distributor in central Brussels. Coditel had suddenly announced (by post that morning) it will stop broadcasting certain channels (Rai Uno, TVE and BBC 2) in a few days time. Some days later these channels will be available again - but only with an upgrade to a digital service and all the hassle that entails.
A couple of Italian and Spanish lawyers were furious about Rai Uno and TVE not being available. I can understand why: it is ok speaking other languages in the office or around the city, but at home everyone wants to be able to speak their own language.
But no BBC 2! What a disaster! How am I going to keep watching the Apprentice?!
Apparently the irony is this monopolist is based a street or two away from the Commission's DG COMP and yet behaves as it likes without concern for its customers.
Someone was calling this sudden action a scandal - but maybe that was just the drink talking.
Monday 20 March 23.18
Spock is having a Commune administration problem. (Translation of my Brussels-speak: a Commune is like a city hall-type administration and there are about 19 of them in Brussels).
I bumped into Spock in the kitchen this morning and he looked really pissed off. After he had told me what had happened I understood why.
Like most associate lawyers in the office Spock is self-employed. Sounds strange, but it is the way these things are arranged in Belgium. Spock got up early this morning to go the Commune to get his permanent residence permit (something all foreigners here have to get).
The relevant Commune official said that as Spock had not already supplied proof of his social security payments to the Commune, Spock must now leave Belgium.
Spock told the official how the Commune's action breached EU law. The official just shrugged his shoulders, said someone else had taken the decision and he was just doing his job. Spock asked to see the official's boss, but she was even less helpful than the first official.
Spock has made the payments, he just did not have the proof - the piece of paper - with him. He offered to go home and get the proof, but the boss said it was too late now as the administrative order had been served.
This is not a joke. I saw the administrative order telling Spock he must leave within a few working days. In fact this matter is crazy - or "Radio Rental" (mental) as Mockney calls it.
A local lawyer is going to be instructed to file an appeal with the Ministry of the Interior against the Commune's action. Does life here make any sense?
Tuesday 21 March 23.38
Spock was still fuming this morning. I bumped into him in the corridor and he said he was also contacting the European Commmission to complain about this breach of EU law. I think this matter is going to turn into a personal crusade ...
Yoda's presence raised its head again. I think there is some sort of action she is bringing against the office. Pierre seems no longer to be involved in it and Bill is the one having to sort out the dispute.
Beats me why Yoda is taking this action. Surely she would be better just moving on with her life?
Wednesday 22 March 23.44
Weirdo had to do reception cover today. I was walking through reception late morning and I heard her on the phone with Yoda!
If there is some litigation going on, it does not seem right that Weirdo is in contact - from the office - with Yoda.
I am not sure whether I should say anything to Pierre or Bill or just stay out of it.
After all Yoda and Weirdo are probably friends and they are allowed to talk to each other - right?
This time, I think I'll keep my head down and not say anything.
Thursday 23 March 20.46
Spock's commune problem seems to be heading towards resolution. He saw a local lawyer specialising in this issue today - she seems to think everything will be sorted out soon. She told him these sorts of problems are not unusualin Brussels - some Commune official throwing his/her weight around, even when they do have the power to do so.
Whatever was going on with Yoda seems to have finished. Bill, Rodney and Cherie were celebrating something this afternoon and it seemed to relate to her. Well whatever it was, may the Force be with her!
Out-of-the-blue, we were told about an office meeting tomorrow. Something to do with the office relocation I think ...