On October 21st our local Trade Union office received my C17 'retirement application form'. And then the long wait began. Colleagues who were going through the same procedure, had been told that the average wait was 6 to 8 weeks!
Imagine my surprise when on Friday November 13th, the day of the terrible events in Paris, I received a letter bearing the Trade Union's logo. I was thrilled! However, my joy was short-lived. The envelope contained two sheets of paper, the second of which was my C17 form! The first was an accompanying letter with just two lines on it:
We can't treat your retirement application as you are not a member of our organization. For more information please present yourself at your local Trade Union's office. Best regards ...
I beg your pardon!? I've been paying my monthly fees since 1990. I was flabbergasted and furious. By then it was almost half past 12 and the header of the letter mentioned that the Friday opening hours where from 9.30 to 12.30 .... I had no intention of rushing to Leuven where the offices are located, but tried to phone them instead. I was in luck, after pushing number 4 for ..., followed by number 2 for ... in short, an endless list of multiple choices, I finally reached the stage where you get one of these sterile 'ping-ping-ping' melodies - like a kid doing piano exercises, interrupted every 30 seconds or so by a female voice repeating over and over again "All our operators are busy. Please hold the line. Your next in line".
The caller before me must have had a serious problem, because it took almost 20 minutes before the music stopped and I heard ringing on the other end. By then it was 5 minutes to half past 12. Hopefully the operator wasn't too hungry and trying to get out of this last call before lunch and the start of the weekend ...
As a matter of fact he was very professional and helpful. When I explained my problem he asked for my membership number. I heard him put it in his computer. I waited holding my breath. "Yes, I see what went wrong. We don't have your national register number in our data base." Every Belgian citizen has one. It is unique and is mentioned on our identity card. Of course, they could have looked me up using another data, such as my birthday or ... shoe size (just kidding, but Big Brother know almost everything here in Belgium, so I just figure that my shoe size might be in their records too).
He advised me to go to the Leuven office asap to put things straight and re-introduce my C17 retirement form. He gave me some more useful tips. By then he had started addressing my by first name, a common habit among Trade Union people apparently ... but just a trifle too familiar for me. I thanked him for his help and wished him a nice weekend.
I could do without a morning or afternoon in the waiting room of the Leuven office. I would have to take the day off from work. Going over the notes I took during our phone conversation, I started brooding over a way to make up for the four weeks that had been lost between my initial request and the return letter.
(more to come)