Julien* was recruited three years ago on a limited-duration contract, and he hopes to apply for an indefinite contract post next year. However, he’s in the midst of a dispute with his supervisor. He’s thought about contacting the Ombud to talk about it, but he’s hesitant and decides to talk to his colleague and friend David*. “Won’t the Ombud want to meet my supervisor afterwards? How independent is he? Can he really remain neutral? I don’t want to be seen as a trouble-maker: won’t it come back to haunt me later?” David reassures him: “Going to see the Ombud can never count against you. It’s a completely safe environment and he won’t take any action without your prior consent.”
David is completely right.
Any conversation with me has an inviolable guarantee of professional secrecy, just like a conversation with your doctor or lawyer. For example, if I discover during a conversation with Julien that he has flouted a procurement rule, my position prevents me from taking any action on my own initiative. It will be up to Julien to correct his behaviour.
I am here to listen and, in my office, you can speak freely and with no subjects off limits: whatever I hear, I never make judgements. I don’t take sides, no one is wrong or right; I just see two parties caught up in a dispute that I must try to resolve in the interests of all concerned.
Even though I am a CERN employee, I am completely independent in the work I do. I am not answerable to the Management, nor is it my job to defend the interests of the personnel; other bodies are responsible for that. My position gives me the freedom to take any action I judge necessary to help resolve the disputes that people bring to me, without there being any consequences for me. The only limit is your prior consent. At the end of my mandate, I will leave CERN.
Finally, coming to see me is an informal act: there are no deadlines or protocols to be followed and no reports to write. Everything remains between us and I will destroy my notes once the problem is resolved. A consultation with me puts you under no obligation to do anything against your will: at all times you decide what happens next.
In summary, the Ombud’s office offers every guarantee of confidentiality, neutrality, independence and informality that you could reasonably expect in helping you to effectively resolve your disputes.
If you’d like to comment on any of my articles or suggest a topic that I could write about, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Ombuds@cern.ch.
*Names have been changed