Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk

Since joining Vroom Funderingstechnieken in 1979, Dirk Jonk didn’t really care what type of work he did at Vroom, as long as he was busy.

That red is his color is evident from the fact that he retired early on April 2, 2024, after nearly 45 years. Here we reflect with Dirk on times gone by. Dirk still vividly remembers the beginning of his career at Vroom. “It was hard work. We had old cranes and worked in clay and mud. Back then, pits weren’t dug as nicely as they are now, and we often worked in water because there was no drainage. We only worked with wooden piles, and the work was much more physically demanding. Protective materials were scarce or nonexistent; we put cotton wool in our ears and had to turn our gloves 17 times before they were replaced.”

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Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk
Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk
Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk
Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk
Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk
Well-deserved retirement for all-rounder Dirk Jonk

Dirk worked with Dirk de Boer and Cock Kemper on wooden piles for 25 years. “We got hold of a second-hand crane, and some parts were welded on to do our work. In the early days, it was really pioneering.” But it was also a wonderful time according to Dirk: “The construction sites at other companies were just as bad, so we made the best of it. The work atmosphere was always good, and there wasn’t a day I didn’t go to work with pleasure. The fact that colleagues from back then have passed away has made me think. I seized the heavy work arrangement, allowing me to retire three years before the official retirement age, with both hands.”

Vibro piles

When the work with wooden piles dried up, Dirk’s was assigned to a more modern pile system. “The projects with wooden piles became smaller and smaller. We regularly had projects of only 10 or 35 piles. As a result, we were almost daily at a different job site. But not only was there less work in wooden piles, the last crane also slipped into the water because of the clay under the tracks. That meant the end of my work with wooden piles.” The first time Dirk worked with vibropiles, together with Dirk Beets, he really had to adjust. “The P&H machine I always worked with was set up in 18 minutes. With the vibro crane, it took me six hours. I wondered then how many years it would take before I got the hang of setting up this crane. I always stayed under the crane. I didn’t want to become an operator. Sitting still all day is not for me.”

Where someone was needed, Dirk was there. “I was a real jack-of-all-trades. If someone was absent, I filled that spot. So, I became more of an all-rounder. For example, I worked with Chiel Willemsen in prefab for years. I found everything fascinating and went to work happy every day.”

Away from home

Dirk’s wife is used to Vroom coming first. “She took my work into account and always said: ‘It’s your job, you must organize it yourself’. And I did so with pleasure. As projects grew bigger and further away, I was away from home Monday to Friday: 25 weeks at the Maasvlakte and one of the last jobs was 10 to 12 weeks in Winschoten. My wife didn’t like it at first, but she adjusted, and fortunately, the children were already older and more independent when I started staying away more frequently. My wife got used to me being away a lot. When I came home in the evening and needed to burn off some energy, I would go for a run for a few hours. On Saturdays, I often went to Schoorl for a run, and on Sundays, I played indoor soccer. My children are also good at sports, so I often spent weekends driving them to running events.”

Fitting work

For the last 2.5 years, following two knee surgeries, Dirk worked as a spotter on the construction site, among other roles. “I monitored safety on the construction site. I am thrilled that they found a suitable job for me where I could be useful and stay close to my usual work. I not only kept an eye on safety but also helped my colleagues with whatever needed to be done. I am happy with that because it made the day fly by. If you only get to walk around and observe, the day lasts forever. Sitting still is not in my vocabulary, and this was the perfect solution.”

Heart for the cause

When the personnel association RAM IN was looking for a new treasurer, Dirk took on the role. “I did that for about 25 years until I had been with the company for 40 years, which was a good moment to pass on my position. The cash audit was always a pleasant occasion. We would meet in a café or restaurant, finish the formal part in fifteen minutes, and then have a nice drink and meal. I would submit the bill directly to Meindert, and it was never a problem.”

Looking back

From the early days in Middelie, with limited materials and equipment, to the Vroom he is now leaving, much has changed over the years. “You see the company change, but you grow with it. The materials we worked with changed, the equipment became more diverse and larger, and more regulations were introduced. I used to know everyone by name, but at staff parties now, I don’t recognize many people anymore, except for the guys I grew up with and worked with. I will keep in touch with those guys. When we see each other, it takes only ten minutes before we start talking about Vroom and all the great projects. Looking back, it feels like I’ve worked for one long month. It flew by. Vroom is a wonderful company, and I have always enjoyed the work, regardless of strong winds, pouring rain, or freezing cold. It’s part of the job, and you just did it; get the job done!”

Looking ahead

Now that Dirk is enjoying his retirement, it doesn’t mean he’s sitting still. “I have always had good contact with the management and direct colleagues, and that won’t change. I have always been a big advocate for a good (work) atmosphere. If I see a crane nearby, I won’t hesitate to stop for a coffee, and I stay updated via the app. It’s great that I’m still welcome at parties and events after my retirement, and that way, I stay involved. As soon as the first IJsselmeer eel is caught, I have an agreement with some former colleagues that they’ll come over for dinner.”

At home, Dirk also keeps himself busy: “I have converted the largest bedroom into a gym, with a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill, and cross-trainer. I spend a lot of time there until my wife tells me it’s enough. On Fridays, we look after our grandchildren, aged 4, 2, and 1 year. They are a handful. They arrive at half-past five in the morning and are picked up around eight in the evening, and I could already go to bed by seven,” he concludes with a proud smile.

Heavy work scheme

To be eligible for the heavy work scheme, site and UTA employees must have worked in the construction and infrastructure sector for at least 20 of the last 25 years under the Construction & Infrastructure collective labour agreement. Additionally, employees can choose to combine the scheme with early retirement if they desire a higher income. Employees can utilize the scheme up to a maximum of 3 years before the state pension age, with the option to enroll available until 31 December 2025. More information can be found at zwaarwerkregeling.nl.

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