No Xy Lo
n°32 - 7 january 2014
• Editorial: relying on our own
|• Echoes of the Great War
• Humour of the “canarde enchainée” (tied to her desk)
• Agreed normal weekly hours in the EU Members’ civil services in 2012
• New price increases for apartments in Luxembourg
• Competition notices
• Key dates
• Join U4U
Editorial: relying on our own strengths!
The Commission is coming to the end of its mandate in a position of weakness. It is adopting a passive stance and failing to leave its stamp on key issues for the future of the European Union – witness the example of the 2014–2020 financial perspectives which accompany the economic decline of the EU and its social regression. It is not exercising its right of initiative effectively.
The Commission has proved incapable of retaining control over the management of its administration. It has failed to resist outside pressures. For example, instead of negotiating an overall package of reasonable savings and finding ways of achieving those savings thanks to a social dialogue that respects staff, the Commission – 9 years after the 2004 reform which generated savings of around 20 billion – proposed without any real justification a cut of one billion in its budget, then accepted an additional reduction of 4 billion during budget negotiations which resembled more a diktat, then a further 25 billion while tolerating the Council telling it how and where these cuts should be achieved. It has even shown itself to be incapable of negotiating the payment of the 2011 and 2012 pay increases.
The scope of the disaster in terms of staff management is momentous (see below), as is the risk of staff subject to constant controls and pressures becoming demotivated and demoralised. It appears that some senior figures, aware of these developments, are at long last poised to initiate major staff management projects. Better late than never!
We do not intend to confine ourselves to lamenting the belated opening of negotiations on certain issues. We will participate actively in them and put forward the proposals which we have developed over several years with our partners. We will be demanding as regards the social dialogue, in order to ensure that it does not become a travesty.
To that end, it is necessary for staff to remain mobilised and above all united. That is the prerequisite for achieving genuine change.
Nominal staff salaries in the institutions will fall for the first time!
January 2014: nominal staff salaries will fall for the first time in the history of the institutions as a result of the pay freeze in 2013 and 2014 and the introduction of a 6%–7% levy for high-level management – representing on average an amount which is more than double that of the former crisis levy.
The Commission has failed in its appeal to obtain the salary increases due under the old method. It has not had the courage to resubmit its appeal on the basis of a correct method (the old method, or that negotiated within the framework of the new Staff Regulations).
Instead of reiterating its request for increases of 1.7% for 2011 and the same percentage for 2012 (or 1.4% for 2011 and 1.2% for 2012 according to the new method), the Commission has proposed two arbitrary increases – 0.9% for 2011 and the same percentage for 2012 – thereby breaking with the tradition of thoughtfulness which has been the cornerstone of our institution’s approach in this area.
Although it would appear that the VP in charge of administration, as well as the highest echelons of the Commission, have suggested the same approach as U4U – at least submitting a proposal in accordance with the new method – the President of the Commission has imposed the arbitrary approach, with the complicity of five commissioners who have refused to recommend a salary adjustment. In the interests of transparency, U4U will request the Commission to make known how the members voted. U4U hopes that the five commissioners in question will have the courage to acknowledge politically the position adopted by them.
poor reforms and almost no good ones!
Here is an overview of the Barroso Commission’s staff policy record:
• arbitrary reduction
of staff numbers, without taking account of actual needs
• feverish restructuring, without any explanations given to staff
• institution of monstrous proceedings for professional incompetence
• persistence of long-standing disparities in the Staff Regulations and the creation of new ones for future recruits
• ineffectual or inexistent social dialogue at central and local levels (in DGs)
• 4-year salary freeze
• very substantial increase in working time without any quid pro quo (working week increased to 40 hours, leave entitlements reduced, the retirement age increased)
• lack of a participatory management culture at the level of change management
• shortage of places in kindergartens, day nurseries and European schools
• under-utilisation of the promotion rates guaranteed by the Staff Regulations for certain grades
• lack of a career management and talent detection policy
• lack of management policy for contract staff
• reduction of nominal salaries
• implementation of 25 billion of savings at the expense of staff instead of the one billion provided for in the Commission’s initial proposal for the reform of the Staff Regulations
• attack on the rights of Commission staff outside the EU
• obstacles to access to end-of-career grades
• various measures amounting to harassment, such as restrictions on flexitime, etc.
Moreover, U4U supports the new CDR ("REC"), less condescending than the old one, welcomes the recognition of some of its demands for contract staff (the extension of contracts to 6 years and internal competitions) and supports internal reclassification competitions intended to reduce the disparities introduced by the 2004 reform.
However, U4U regrets the Commission’s over-cautious and hesitant attitude with regard to real reforms. The latter has only very belatedly and partially respected the promotion rates and collective guarantees in respect of promotions, and has artificially restricted the frequency of internal competitions, thereby reducing the scope of this measure. Moreover, it has organised only one reclassification competition, whereas at least three were needed to make real progress in the fight against disparities.
These outdated reforms, which are meaningless in institutions such as ours, are the outgoing President’s gift to thank the staff who have served him during his two terms of office and to wish them a happy new year in 2014. It is true that Mr Barroso knows that he will not have to implement them.
Statutory representation of staff: the way it works needs to be changed rapidly!
Commission staff are represented by trade unions and, at statutory level, by the staff committees which make up the central committee. The staff committees follow the implementation of the Staff Regulations, appoint representatives to sit on the joint committees, such as for example the promotion committee, and issue opinions on all staff management matters. The trade unions form the lists for the staff committee elections, negotiate new rules and manage any social conflicts.
U4U considers that we can and should improve the way staff representation works, both as regards the statutory representation and the role of the unions. This article focuses on the statutory dimension.
U4U has recommended on many occasions a change in the way the statutory representation of staff works, in order to improve it and to meet staff expectations. It is particularly important to focus on changes which all the unions can support, since the Commission has its own vision of things: it is preparing its proposals and will impose them if staff members do not present a united front on this issue.
- organising the election of the local staff committees at the same time, with the same rules, with the same voting system (preferably proportional) and with the same rules for the appointment of their representatives to the Commission’s central staff committee, to avoid the trade unions conducting election campaigns all the time and to avoid a majority on the central committee fluctuating in line with local elections, which hampers the stability which is necessary for dealing with current issues;
- setting up local staff committees on all the sites where there are Commission services – at the current time, Seville does not have a local committee – and allocating to them a number of elected representatives to the central committee corresponding to the number of staff represented (at present, staff outside the EU are under-represented).
We also need to remedy the lack of resources allocated to staff committees. Their budget is inadequate for both transport and training. The service exemptions are very low: 30 exemptions for an institution present in 28 Member States and in 139 countries outside the EU and for 35,000 people. There is less than one exempted person for more than 1,000 colleagues (this figure is divided between the trade unions according to their representativeness). The representatives do not have a budget to meet colleagues in locations where there are no exempted elected representatives. The number of exemptions should be at least doubled, as should the operating budgets allocated to the staff committees.
Lastly, the local committees of the executive agencies must also be represented on the Commission’s central staff committee. These agencies are, as it were, departments of the Commission, which appoints their directors, sets their rules and determines their workload and work programme. A portion of the additional service exemptions must be allocated to them, since the local staff committees of the agencies are currently operating without any resources.
The social side must not be considered as a cost but, on the contrary, as a priority for the institutions, above all in these crisis periods when colleagues are shunted around and substantial demands are made on them.
U4U will propose to its partner unions to adopt a joint approach to these issues.
CGAM: No need for urgent action!
For several years, negative thinkers have been campaigning for a reduction in the benefits provided by our sickness insurance scheme and/or an increase in contributions, on the grounds of the chronic deficit of the said scheme. What is the situation?
It is true that the scheme has been running a deficit for several years. Moreover, this situation has been exacerbated by the blocking of the method. If the salary increases had been granted since 2011, the deficit in 2012 would have been around €300,000, which is minimal relative to the scheme’s reserves which amount to 270 million euros. Even with an annual deficit of 10 million euros, which is not currently the case, it would take more than 27 years to exhaust the scheme’s reserves. This leaves enough time to observe the positive impact on the balance of the CGAM of recent changes introduced with a view to balancing the accounts (for example: an increase in the retirement age, an increase in the number of years served by contract staff, an increase in levels of remuneration and therefore in the contributions of staff recruited after the 2004 reform, an improvement in the age pyramid, changes in long-term interest rates, a reduction in the dependency ratio and the result of actions currently being implemented to reduce the over-invoicing for medical products and services suffered by European civil servants, in particular in Brussels and Luxembourg, etc.).
Finally, the current political and economic context is not propitious to an increase in contribution levels. Any request to that effect to the Member States would impact negatively on us. In the short-term, priority should therefore be given to capitalising on the time afforded by the high level of reserves to put the accounts on a healthier footing.
RTD: together we need to defend our working conditions and dignity at work!
The Senior Management of DG RTD keeps saying at staff seminars that they need the support of all DG staff. However, there is a large gap between words and actions as we see non-professional practices being developed by the Directorate in charge of Resources.
Since the announcement of the reorganisation, U4U has received many emails from colleagues complaining about the way they are treated. In particular:
The reorganisation, which has been postponed several times for unknown reasons,
is now implemented at such a pace that many staff are obliged to accept a
transfer without explanations;
2) The Director for Resources and Unit R1 have ignored the rules governing transfers at the Commission which require the agreement of both the staff member and the Unit of destination, as well as meaningful job descriptions (this also applies to contract agents);
3) A lot of staff feel badly treated as they are requested to accept transfers to other services without being consulted and without any consideration for their actual competence.
This situation is alarming. It is sad that the hierarchy of a DG with recognised experience in staff mobility through “Chambres d’écoute” and professional guidance has completely ignored this asset. Considering that outsourcing to agencies will entail many moves, this is a rather worrying precedent.
This situation is unacceptable and this is why U4U has asked to meet the Director-General as soon as possible in order to discuss these issues and return to a more reasonable approach to human resources in DG RTD.
Commission: is it guilty of doublespeak?
“Indeed, the priority analysis conducted as part of this study demonstrates that the Commission should focus on improving both line-management and employee involvement (for example, ensuring that employees feel that their opinions count, and that they feel involved in the decisions affecting their work) as these score relatively poorly but are seen as highly important by employees." (Extract from the Commission Staff Survey 2013)
This needs to be compared with the processes used in reorganisations (recently at the RTD).
The Commission’s heavy-handed communication policy
At a time when the European elections are expected to be somewhat unfavourable to the very concept of European integration, the Commission has seen fit to close Presseurop, the press review service whose objective was to disseminate information among all European citizens. Moreover, the cancellation of this service is less the result of a clearly stated political will than the result of administrative confusion, combined with a misguided initial ambition (that of extending this service), hastily abandoned for fear of criticism. Presseurop was, however, a unanimously popular tool and an effective means of sharing information.
Furthermore, according to a leaked document, the Commission has proposed to the Member States a communication policy concerning the transatlantic trade negotiations. In these times of budgetary cuts, the document proposes being economical with the truth, by asserting in particular that the agreement was not intended to relax the standards ensuring the health and safety of Europeans. Unfortunately, it seems that Commissioner Karel De Gucht had not carefully read the document when, addressing MEPs, he spoke of his fears concerning the consequences of the US/EU negotiation for health and environmental protection, defined by the REACH regulation.
It is true that the CETA agreement between the EU and Canada, signed on 18 October 2013, but not yet approved by the European legislator, is still highly confidential, undoubtedly because its contains unconscionable clauses, such as the prohibition of any “violation of legitimate investor expectations”, protecting investors against "unforeseeable political change”. Obviously, this clause is on the agenda of the TTIP negotiations, just as it figures prominently in the ALENA agreement.
The leaked document declares that it is intended to address the public’s concerns about the consequences of the US/EU negotiation for the European social model. The least one can say is that the Commission is doing what needs to be done for these concerns to be transformed into certainties.
Once again, once too often, on the eve of European elections which are of crucial importance for the European Union’s very existence, this European Commission has forgotten that European integration is based on shared values and principles. We urge everyone who is a European in their heart or their head to ensure that at the next elections the new Commission upholds and guarantees the principles of the common interest.
Echos of the Great War
According to press reports, the Commission does not intend to organise any commemoration of the First World War (1914–18) for fear of stepping on toes and provoking nationalist reactions. There are, however, ways of remembering the centenary of the First World War in a truly European spirit.
For example, Arend Van Dam, a Dutch artist, has succeeded in doing this with a few pencil strokes:
The Commission would do well to display this drawing on the Berlaymont. That would set the record straight to some extent.
Humour of the “canarde enchaînée” (tied to her desk)
Dear Trade Union,
I do not know if it is the same for everyone, but we received yesterday a large, brand new microwave oven, obviously a Christmas present from OIB. We immediately baptised it “our 40-hour friend”.
The problem being that we have not been supplied with an American fridge…
Is it the Commission’s plan for all of us to live off Picard microwave meals, so as to increase not only our productivity, but also our blood pressure and cholesterol levels? The question of the risks of obesity are also entirely valid (between Picard and cafeteria chocolate, needed to keep the spirits up while the children dine with the nanny).
Stay positive: I also deduce from the time needed to heat up a meal in the microwave that we can now legitimately reduce our lunch break to 10 minutes. Is this provided for in SYSPER 2 and in our biblical Staff Regulations?
Agreed normal weekly hours in the EU Members’ civil services in 2012:
proof that the Commission leads the way amongst the least progressive countries!
Source : https://eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn1305017s/index.htm#hd2
Average collectively agreed weekly hours
New price increases for apartments in Luxembourg
The Housing Observatory has recently published statistics on apartment sales in the third quarter of 2013 in Luxembourg (16/12/2013). Apartment prices have increased by 1.6% versus the previous quarter. This result can be attributed partly to the prices of apartments under construction (+2.9%), which have increased strongly in the south-central region, including the capital.
Compared with 2012, the prices of apartments (all types together) have increased by 6.5%. For apartments under construction, the increase is 8.4%, versus 5.3% for existing apartments. These increases have to be seen in the context of the salary freeze faced by staff in addition to, from January 2014, following the new reform, the introduction of a fresh levy of 6%.
AST-SC Secretaries: +/- February 2014
AST Building Technicians AST3: +/- March 2014
AD Generalists AD 5: +/- March 2014
AD Audit AD 5: +/- April 2014
AST Nuclear Inspectors AST3: +/- March 2014
Do you want to prepare for a competition? You will find details of our range of training programmes on our website u4unity.eu.
15 January, 12:30:
Staff general meeting at ISPRA
organised by U4U and FFPE
16 January, 12:45: Meeting of U4U with the staff of DG RTD
21 January, 12:30: Conference on the economic and social situation in the EU, with GRASPE and Europe Solidaire
22 January, 12:30: U4U get together
23 January, 12:30: meeting with the staff of SEAE organised by U4U, USHU, R&D, Conf. SFE
23 January, 12:30: meeting of U4U with the staff of DG Budget, Enterprise, SANCO
29 January, 12:30: General Assembly of the Contract Agents’ Collective supported by FFPE, U4U etc.
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