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  • Dear Readers!

    The refugee crisis, caused by the war in Syria, has awakened Europe from a deep slumber. Individual member states are outdoing each other – introducing one uncoordinated measure after another as they attempt to stem the seemingly never-ending flow of people desperately seeking help. Whilst Chancellor Merkel is hoping to bring about a European solution, others are closing their borders and seriously thinking about exiting the European Union. No matter where you look, people are saying the party is over. It is time now for facts rather than emotions to be brought to the table. Germany has around 81 million inhabitants and its economy has never been so good. Approximately one million refugees had entered the country when the state elections were held in Baden-Württemberg, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Pfalz on 13 March. To use the same metaphor: if 81 people are invited to a party and they are joined by one international guest, then the party is by no means over. On the contrary, there is a great opportunity here for the new guest’s culture, experience and vitality to enhance the event and make it even more interesting. 

    As Germany’s population continues to fall, demographers are assuming that the country will need around 500,000 new immigrants every year simply to keep its social security system functioning. In the future, therefore, we may find ourselves being grateful each time a migrant decides to stay and do an apprenticeship in our country. What is needed is genuine integration. The Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rainer Schmeltzer, recently published a brochure in four languages so that refugees could find out how the public transport system works in the district of Unna. Whilst talking to one of REMONDIS’ board members, he called on the recycling sector to do something similar. The majority of the migrants have little or no experience of using different coloured bins to separate waste. REMONDIS has stepped up to the mark and published a flyer in German, English, French, Farsi and Arabic. We would also be very pleased to receive applications from registered refugees wishing to do an apprenticeship at our company, for example to become a professional truck driver. 

    If the state of North Rhine-Westphalia were to be a country in its own right, then it would be among the top 10 European nations when it comes to population figures and economic power. The latest waste management report shows that our industry has become one of the biggest drivers of growth. Whilst traditional industries, such as coal, steel and energy, continue to decline, an ever increasing number of people are working in recycling, industrial and municipal services and water management. REMONDIS is both a driving force and the backbone of this really pleasing development. And what makes REMONDIS what it is, is its 32,000 employees who work for their local inhabitants and their municipal and industrial customers in 33 countries every single day. Looking at all this, it is a shame that politicians would appear to be paying so little attention to the IFAT exhibition which is being held in Munich from 30 May to 03 June. REMONDIS is going to be there even if the Federal Minister of the Environment is not. We look forward to seeing you there!

    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann

Great approval – both then and now

  • 25 January 2006 most certainly was a red letter day. This was the day that the representatives of the 25 local authorities belonging to the Wasserverband Lausitz water association met to vote on whether or not to grant a 20-year contract covering the technical and commercial operations of their plants and facilities to a private sector firm. 97% of those present voted in favour – the beginning, therefore, of their collaboration with the newly founded Wasserverband Lausitz Betriebsführungsgesellschaft mbH (aka WAL-Betrieb), a fully owned subsidiary of REMONDIS Aqua GmbH & Co. KG from Lünen.

    The contract was then officially signed in the ceremonial hall in Senftenberg Castle on 17 February. Ten years have passed since then and there are plenty of reasons for celebrating this anniversary. Despite the falling number of inhabitants in the region, WAL-Betrieb has succeeded in keeping fees and charges stable and has established itself as a particularly family-friendly employer.

Thanks to the PPP, the fees and charges paid by the local residents have remained stable for 10 years now.

A Europe-wide tender

Several years had been needed beforehand to draw up the contract. First the resolution had to be passed by the association, then the project had to be put out to tender across Europe (a three-stage process) and finally the extensive contract had to be drafted. The association had decided to take this unusual step because its municipal business was going through such a difficult period at the turn of the century: high levels of debt, a continuous increase in fees and charges, an urgent need to invest in new machinery and equipment, a falling population and – according to a report compiled by a firm of consultants – a workforce that had too many employees (135 people).

  • Positive track record to date

    Halfway through the contract and the situation is looking really good: all of the targets set out in the contract have been met by REMONDIS Aqua. There were two main points that were right at the top of the list when the decision was taken to hand over the technical and commercial operations to the privately run WAL: first that the plants and facilities should remain the property of the local authorities and second that the fees and charges paid by the local inhabitants should remain stable over a long-term period. The following goals were set for the external operator:

    • Fees and charges should remain stable for a minimum five-year period, despite the fact water consumption was expected to fall and prices to rise
    • The business should become more customer friendly and improve its services
    • There should be no job cuts and apprentices should be allowed to continue their apprenticeships
    • The company, based in Senftenberg, should extend its operations to other regions and strengthen the local and regional economy.

The results speak for themselves

After just ten years of running the business, REMONDIS Aqua’s subsidiary WAL-Betrieb has already achieved all of these targets – winning over even the biggest sceptics.

  • The fees and charges for drinking water and wastewater have remained stable for over 15 years and continue to cover the costs, even though the number of people living in the region has fallen and water consumption has dropped considerably.
  • WAL-Betrieb has been awarded and re-awarded certificates for its business processes, in particular for its quality, environment and energy management systems, as well as for the way it enables its employees to have a good work-life balance.
  • Over 90% of the company’s customers pay via direct debit, putting it at the top of the list of the 28 firms taking part in the system in Brandenburg. A sure sign that the customers trust the business and are satisfied with the service they receive.
  • WAL-Betrieb has not only kept its promise to keep all jobs and continue the apprenticeships but has gone much, much further. 160 employees now work at WAL-Betrieb. Moreover, the company was recently presented with a prize by the German state of Brandenburg in recognition of its above-average commitment to training young people and helping them choose a career. 36 apprentices have successfully completed their apprenticeships at the company since 2006.

The privately run WAL-Betrieb has succeeded in increasing the size of its workforce.

Continuity & quality

  • WAL-Betrieb has been operating beyond the borders of the WAL Association for a long while now. Besides extending the number of commercial and technical services it offers in the drinking water and wastewater sector, it also provides clients with planning services. Mention should be made here of the support it gives numerous local authorities and utilities companies, helping them to set up and manage geographical information systems (GIS). Moreover, WAL-Betrieb in Senftenberg runs an international training centre which students from all over the world can visit to learn more about water management. The company has already welcomed many specialists from, for example, Turkey, Egypt, India and China. Dr Roland Socher, who has headed the association for fifteen years now, appears to be very relaxed whenever he is asked about the next ten years: “We had some very precise expectations of WAL-Betrieb when our cooperation work began and it has fulfilled them all in a truly impressive way. Credit must go to our employees for moving from the association to WAL-Betrieb and credit must go to REMONDIS. This development can also be put down to the great way the contractual partners work together.” His forecast for the next ten years: “We have a highly competent water management company at our side. This fact will guarantee continuity and quality for our customers over the coming years.”

    Norbert Rethmann (4th from right) with the WAL board members and the management team and shareholders of WAL-Betrieb

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