First of all, a big THANK YOU to all my readers for sharing my joy and relief over the prospect of early retirement. But we're not there yet! However, it is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel of my professional career.
Let me tell you what I had to do to get the by now notorious document.
After receiving the letter claiming that I wasn't a member of this TU, I started rounding up all the proof I could to show that 1) I was a member and 2) that I have been working and paying taxes and social security since 1980 - uninterrupted. I put the file together - something the TU normally should have done during the past 4 weeks and sent it off on November 21st as a registered letter. I used the Post's tracking tool to learn that it was delivered on November 24th.
During the first week of December I received an email from a colleague who's going through the same procedure with his TU's local office in Brussels. He told me that his request had received a 'positive evaluation' and that he would have the required document within the next 48 hours. He advised me to contact my TU's office to find out the status of my file. I did, and ... got yet another cold shower!! The woman on the phone claimed that they had not received my registered letter!! Although I had no paper receipt of the letter's delivery, I decided to play some bluff poker, saying that I had written proof and demanded to talk to a manager. Of course, 'they were (conveniently) in a meeting'. At this point I lost my patience and temper. Not proud to say so, but I demanded to have them call me back before 4 p.m. And then slammed down the phone.
They called back at 11 a.m. saying that my request had had a 'positive evaluation' (so they apparently had found my letter) and that the necessary documents were being drawn up at that very moment to be send to the local unemployment agency for approval the same day. Yet one more hurdle to take ... But they told me not to worry. I would have my document before the end of 2015.
By the 16th I guessed it was time to check one more time on the status of my file. The unemployment agency - who I called this time - confirmed the 'positive evaluation' and stated that the document would be sent back to the TU that same day. More waiting ...
From then on, I checked my letter box every day. In vain. On the 28th, I had had enough. Time for another call. To the TU again. The woman in charge of my file wasn't working on Monday but she would call me back the next day. Not having an answer at 11 the following day, I called again. This time the phone was answered by a woman with a Dutch accent. She confirmed that the letter had been sent, but she would send a copy, to make sure that I got it before the 31st. I suggested sending a scan by email. She said she would do so.
It was almost noon when the mail arrived! My friend C. was there when the screen of my PC lit up saying 'new email' and I think I almost strangled him when I hugged him for joy! The next day I had the two letters (written proof) in my letter box: the original and the copy that had been sent by the Dutch woman.
Blood, sweat and tears, the latter first out of frustration and later for joy.
But this is just the first step towards early retirement. There is still a long way to go, including more red tape and the actual date being sometime well into 2017.