Le Lien - The Link
syndicalisme européen, citoyen, participatif et unitaire
September 2013 – n°35
• Editorial: Reinstating
quality social dialogue
The amendment to the Staff Regulations has gone through without any real social dialogue taking place, as least since 2012. A number of additional wordings have also been put forward or even decided upon with no trace of social dialogue, and sometimes without even the benefit of upstream information. Social dialogue has broken down, increasing tension and producing a negative effect on the quality of the texts finally decided upon.
With this in mind, U4U has decided to suggest to the Commission that it launch a form of initiative to analyse exactly what social dialogue should mean within the institutions.
U4U maintains that dialogue is a consultative process within which staff associations are allowed to have their point of view seriously considered, as stated in article 27 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Such dialogue undertaken in good faith should mean that it would be possible to exert some influence on the content of the wording as finally adopted.
In order to achieve this the following would be required:
- staff associations would have to be supplied in advance with working documents which were sufficiently detailed for them to be able to grasp the matter in hand;
- a suitable number of consultation meetings would have to be scheduled of sufficient length for meaningful talks to take place. A timetable of the meetings should be planned;
- both sides, institution and staff representatives, would have to be empowered and enabled to negotiate, so that genuinely operational delegations would be set up;
- minutes drawn up should be acceptable to both sides, explaining and justifying the starting positions and the final points of agreement and dispute.
We can detect no sign that the Commission is willing to indulge in social dialogue, despite the deterioration of the social climate within the institutions. It prefers to act in its own interests by brute force, at least as long as the costs of an authoritarian approach are not excessive. In particular, U4U will be disputing texts produced from the unsatisfactory procedure in this area before the Court of Justice.
Initial indicators emerging from the Commission regarding talks with the GIPs on application of the new staff regulations are not promising.
The U4U proposal will mean that we can see whether the Commission (and more generally all the other institutions) really intend to return to a healthy form of negotiating with staff.
And it must be repeated yet again – the support of all staff in this procedure is an essential condition for the reinstatement of true social dialogue within the European institutions.
Better late than never ?
“The European Commissioner responsible for the Budget, Janusz Lewandowski, remains furious with the EU draft budget for 2014 to be submitted in October to the European Parliament and which has just been given the green light by the 28 Member States.”
So says the “Les Echos” newspaper in light of Mr Lewandowski’s words in a comments column published on his personal website at the European Commission.
“The Commissioner is criticising a budget which, according to him, will affect a large number of programmes, particularly in the innovation and research areas. This draft “has left me quite mystified”, he said.”
Is it not paradoxical that the Commissioner in charge of the budget is offended by the “lack of good sense” on the part of the Member States while the Commission has dropped his – already very slight – proposal from negotiations on the multiannual framework, and has agreed to propose a historic and continuing reduction in Community budgets up to 2020?
Where was the Commission’s and the Budget Commissioner’s “good sense” when they reassured us that this was a realistic and ambitious draft budget? Has it already been forgotten that the President of the Commission went in the company of the President of the Council to call on the European Parliament to withdraw its – equally modest – proposal for financing the Union between 2014 and 2020? Have we also forgotten that the Commission managed to avoid supporting the European Parliament proposal, the result of which was that the European Summit of February 2013 was able to ignore the initial proposal made by the Commission as well as that of the Parliament?
These budgets, which U4U has repeatedly insisted are inadequate in the light of challenges Europe must face, budgets which are neither realistic nor ambitious, reveal that it is not a lack of good sense which it at issue – it is an absence of ideas, of vision and of willingness to promote the Community project.
Is it actually the case that the present Commission, just reaching the end of its term, would prefer not to have to implement its disastrous decisions, has given up hope of re-energising the European project and would be much happier to dump the consequences of its failure to accept its responsibilities before Member States on the next Commission and the next European Parliament?
It is, in fact, quite obvious that if the draft budget is not re-examined, budget problems due for 2014 are set to be repeated throughout the programme period, up to 2020, so that year after year it will become tougher to implement Community policy, because it will be impossible to mobilise fresh resources or even to meet the totality of the obligations already contracted (committed credit amounts down by 6% from 2014 and a shortfall set to become worse year on year in credit payments).
What is really ludicrous in all this sad story is the way the Commission – having played its part in the creation of a falling European budget, blind to the pain suffered by European citizens struck by the crisis – criticised the budget and then organised an on-line dialogue with citizens to see what they think of Europe. This sort of participation is nothing more than marketing, pretend-politics to kill time on the run-up to European elections completely devoid of any issues, since budget resources and Union policy have already been decided for a time frame which goes beyond the term of the next Parliament. Could we please have no more crocodile tears about the growing disaffection of citizens, since it has actually been orchestrated by the very people claiming to fight it
The Vote the Change list proposed by U4U and the FFPE will be presented for your approval at the upcoming elections in Luxembourg. A General Personnel Meeting will be held in Luxembourg on September 17 for the elections. It is vital for you to be there, since this will be your chance to vote for a fair and democratic electoral system, one in which all personnel are represented.
At the GM on September 17 we strongly recommend that you vote for a proportional electoral system, that is, the proposal which will be put forward by a number of staff associations with the aim of putting an end to the current system which for far too long has crippled any effective defence of interests of the personnel.
This is the draft programme for the Vote the Change list:
CLP Luxembourg electoral campaign –
1. Defence of the European Public Service
2. Improvements to working conditions and support
for new colleagues, and environmentally friendly transportation
3. Combating insecurity and employment disparity
4. Promotion of a career policy
5. Participatory management
6. Schools and crèches
7. Health care
8. Balancing the 10% purchasing power difference
between Brussels and Luxembourg
9. Private law contract employees
10. Reinstatement of social dialogue
Our method: Give back the staff their right to speak
1. Proportional vote in statutory elections and
consultation as part of the system
On July 26 last, the Commission [DG EMPL] published the results of an assessment (quality balance sheet) designed to identify such excess loads, overlaps, lacunae and inconsistencies which may have appeared since the adoption of three EU directives concerning the provision of information and consultation facilities for workers. This assessment concluded that these three directives* are relevant, effective, consistent and mutually reinforcing.
The balance sheet did, however, reveal a number of inadequacies, particularly in Member States with less progressive traditions in the social dialogue area. It recommended a greater degree of information and consultation [I&C] for workers in the public sector in order to achieve a more accurate definition of the role which I&C plays, or could play, in the restructuring procedures in progress in the public sector. This is an issue to be discussed at the sector-orientated dialogue committee where the central governments’ administrations (and the Commission) meet.
In April 2013, the DG EMPL published its report 2012 on the status of social dialogue in Europe in the private industrial and public sectors. The DG EMPL noted that in Europe, at the start of the 2010 recession which mainly affected the private sector, governments and social partners often worked together to ease the negative effects it had on employment. Since that time the crisis has deepened, reaching out to other sectors of the economy, particularly the public sector. The financial crisis turned into a sovereign debt crisis, forcing fiscal consolidation to be become a key goal of macroeconomic adjustment policy. This created a context inimical to the development of social dialogue, which became more acrimonious in some countries, a trend which was particularly noticeable in the public sector. In response to the public debt crisis, national governments dramatically accelerated and intensified structural reform of the public sector. The methods chosen to implement these decisions often excluded recourse to social dialogue. Even though the Commission had always stressed the importance of social dialogue and the independence of the social partners in the respect for national practices, reforms were not always supported by really effective social dialogue.
Of course, this report concentrated on Member States’ industrial relations in both the private and public sectors. However, given the basic principles of social dialogue, it can be assumed that what is appropriate in that case will also stand for the European Public Service. And this is one good reason for casting an interested eye on the fact that this report states that the social dialogue mechanisms and tools which have served Europe so well for decades are also very appropriate means for combating the crisis and creating conditions favourable to growth and increased employment. Leaving aside national industrial relations systems, social dialogue is a key feature of the social model of the European Union. Its essential role is recognised by the Treaties of the European Union, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Social dialogue, be it in the public or private sector, is essential to conflict management and for seeking negotiated solutions in problematic circumstances. In order to be effective, it must develop in a climate of trust and mutual understanding which is supportive of economic effectiveness, motivation, productivity, worker development, etc. The Commission is committed to promoting support for social dialogue in the EU, while fully respecting the independence of the social partners and the diversity of national industrial relations systems.
In other words, the Commission is asking people to do what it says, not what it does, Indeed, what was so noticeable about the recent reform of the staff regulations was that it was a further turn of the screw on a reform which had already been implemented in 2004, which was now to be operated on again, not to correct its corrosive effects, but to degrade career and working conditions still further, along the lines of the practices of certain EMs, as the report stated. No-one had asked the Commission to re-examine the staff regulations with a view to making savings. The Commission would have done better to listen to the OSPs, and particularly U4U, which were suggesting genuine ways to save rather than turning on its own staff who had already paid their share in the 2004 crisis.
Another observation in the report, which under pressure from the Council the Commission could not ignore, was that of the deterioration of social dialogue. It is true that the OSPs and the Commission did in fact talk until December 2011, but from the moment that the Council rejected the Commission proposal, insisting on 2.5 billion in savings instead of the one billion offered, the Commission no longer met with the OSPs to discuss the new demands. In addition to the fact that it did not withdraw its proposals as it had promised to do in case of distortion, doubtless assuming that moving from 1 to 2.5 billion would have no effect on the form of the proposals, it ceased holding meetings with the OSPs to discuss future savings to be proposed. It was content merely to invite the OSPs for information sessions when there were three-way meetings to be held, meetings during which at no time did the Commission see fit to discuss serious issues with the OSPs.
The very least that can be said is that social dialogue at the Commission, albeit deemed essential to conflict management in order to arrive at agreed solutions in problematic circumstances, has not developed in a climate of trust and mutual understanding, which is supportive of economic effectiveness, motivation, productivity and worker development.
As the DG EMPL so justly states in its report, social dialogue is a key factor in the social model of the European Union and its essential role is recognised by the Treaties of the European Union, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is because this social dialogue has been held in such contempt by the very institution responsible for monitoring good behaviour at the European level that U4U has decided to bring an action before the Court of the European Public Service. It will be the Court’s job to decide whether the concept of prior consultation can be confused with informing and whether the personnel of the European Public Service are justified in a feeling disregarded by institutions which so casually discard their good principles when they get in the way of their plans.
* A directive relative to multiple retrenchments, a directive covering the transfer of businesses and a directive setting up a general framework relating to inform
On July 25 2013 the Commission passed a decision setting aside the following obligation in article 3, paragraph 1 of the Commission decision dated March 2, 2011: "No-one may be hired as a contract agent unless he or she has satisfied the selection procedures as laid down in attachment II, or as an auxiliary contract agent if he or she has not fulfilled the selection procedures as laid down in attachment III. "
In actual fact, this decision only concerns contract agents with a fixed term contract (3 years maximum), and only for general profiles. The agencies, offices, etc., recruit contract agents on open contracts.
The Commission justified this decision on the grounds of a shortage of candidates, but it also claimed that the permanent selection system is not ready. It should be stated that this provision is limited in time, standing until December 31, 2014. The Staff Commissioner may cancel this decision as needed and in any case the situation will be reviewed appropriately on the basis of a report by the Commission Human Resources DG.
U4U is amazed that the Commission can adopt such a position, as it can open the door to all kinds of moves, since it means no more and no less than the selection of contract agents on the basis of their CV, with no check via a CAST (selection procedure) or an examination which guarantees equality of treatment, anonymity and respect for procedures. As far as our organisation is concerned, it is a pity that the OSPs were given no opportunity to negotiate this measure, and we shall be asking the Commission for an explanation. This is yet another example of the weakness of the social dialogue situation within the institutions.
It should also be noted that recruiting contract agent staff without the benefit of the CAST will introduce differences between these workers and those who satisfied a CAST, since the contract agent staff will be able to pass internal competitive examinations.
On the matter of recruiting CAs between now and the end of 2014, the Commission should give priority to the rehiring of contract agent staff whose three-year contracts had expired during the negotiation of the reform of the staff regulation and who had been promised a further three year contract upon the adoption of the reform. These former contract agents had indeed satisfied the CAST and thus fulfilled the requirement discussed above.
It is quite astonishing to see the Commission acting so thoughtlessly, its left hand unaware of what the right is doing.
In previous articles on the subject (The Link, May 2012 and February 2013, NoXyLo May 2011 and April 2012), U4U drew attention to the work done by the DG HR, the OIB and the CPRE (Joint Committee on Restaurants and Staff Shop - comité paritaire des restaurants et de l'économat) to draw up the specifications for awarding contracts for self-service restaurants and cafeterias for the Commission in Brussels, since the contract held by the EUREST company had reached its expiry date.
The call for tenders was published on 11/12/2012. The contract as envisaged is different from the previous one in that the self-service restaurants and cafeterias in Brussels have been divided into three sections. The DG HR preferred the idea of having several service providers for the whole site rather than one, so that healthy competition and emulation could be stimulated between them. The Rond-Point Schuman zone was divided in such a way that colleagues, whether from the Berlaymont, Charlemagne or the EEAS, could choose among a range of offers. This would obviously be much less the case with the more distant colleagues who would still be dependent on their self-service restaurants (eg Beaulieu, Geneva) unless they were willing to take a longish trip. There is obviously room for speculation as to what a better self-service restaurant would do to cope with demand if it were really successful, but we have not yet reached that situation. It would be a safer bet that they would all do their utmost to retain their customers, this being the only way to be sure of their income.
The contract has, in fact, just been awarded and the OIB is in the process of signing the contracts. The EUREST contract has been extended until 31/12/2013 to give the new service providers time to set up. EUREST stayed in the race and has been awarded one of the divisions. Details of the allocations are not yet known, but we are sure to hear them from OIB at the end of the holidays.
Some people might think that we only worry about canteens when we have nothing more important to occupy us. However, at U4U we believe that food is a crucial matter, and it happens to be covered by quite a number of Union policies: agriculture, environment, climate, consumer health, trade, R&D&I, transport, and so on. Food means a lot more than just our nourishment, even though that is of course, the primary concern.
This is reason enough for us to keep an eye on the case, quite apart from the fact that the new contract between the Commission and its service providers also contains some novelties.
Without wishing to prejudge the quality of the products to be supplied by our new service providers, this call for tenders, despite its efforts to factor in some of the proposals of the 2011 petition (see below), is by no means an in-depth reform of our approach to consumption (purchasing strategies, healthy produce, short circuiting supply lines, processing without additives, etc.), which is why U4U has suggested, in the CPRE, that we meet with professionals who can advise and support the groups in their journey towards healthy and sustainable eating. Currently it would seem that the proposal has met with indifference if we are to judge by the lack of reaction. We do realise that the Administration did have other fish to fry during the entire process of the call for tenders in which, despite the request lodged with the OIB, staff representation via its representatives on the CPRE was not invited. The Commission is a touch schizophrenic. On the one hand it lays down the law about reduced pesticide use, more concern for the environment, better quality in agricultural produce, a more healthy approach to life, and so on, while at the same time, when it comes to its expenses and also its staff, it dumps its ambitions and the efforts necessary to comply with its own goals.
You may recall that at the initiative of colleagues in the DG CLIMA, a petition was circulated in May 2011 calling for a better standard of food in our self-service canteens et restaurants. U4U had forwarded this petition with its over 3,000 signatures and wrote to the DG HR to sum up concerns then being expressed about the quality of products being consumed and the need for food which was healthier and more environment-friendly, both as regards production and also with regard to matters related to supply and the way products were processed into cooked dishes. This petition, and the concerns it expressed, was all the more relevant an issue since the Commission was then working on framing the specifications for the call for tenders for the self-service restaurants and cafeterias in Brussels, as the subcontractor’s contract had reached its expiry date.
Last June, our colleagues who run the Cancer Support Group, in the context of their awareness-raising activities in the anti-cancer field, expressed the same desire for better food, both for the Commission canteens and for those of the European schools, since the impact of what we eat on our health is massive. Such a statement is so obvious that some analysis of our restaurant facilities is now vital.
So we are now asking everybody to help, and we need your absolutely full support to assist us in getting things moving. You could make it possible for us to turn this matter into the kind of subject really tackled by Commission representatives from the points of view of quality, health and ecology, so that it is not just a matter of an effective service at the lowest possible cost. We shall keep you informed as to how this case proceeds.
Did you know?
Unlike the EP and the Council, the Commission is unable to pay a top-up on the price of a meal: its budget does not provide for it, and since it cannot be posted under administrative expenses, given the current climate, cuts which have been made and those still to come, there is no chance of it happening. In other words, the price will be paid in full by the customers, and since this is of necessity held down to a “democratic” level, quality matches the price paid. Elsewhere, the institutions are able to make up the cost, which means that more attention can be paid to quality. Even so, we at U4U are of the opinion that when it comes to foodstuffs (as well as other items) it would be a good thing if consumers got used to paying the real price of products, assuming, of course, that their quality is genuine and that they really do reflect positive external factors, particularly the environment and climate.
Apart from the cost of ingredients, the cost of a meal paid by staff members at the cash desk must also include rental of the premises, equipment maintenance, care and cleaning of the premises and plant, plus, of course, the entire cost of dining-room staff (cooks, cashiers, technicians) and logistics (delivery to various locations of canteens and cafeterias). In actual fact, self-service dining-rooms essentially run at a loss, and subcontractors make up the balance through cafeterias and banqueting services.
The most recent customer satisfaction surveys have been positive on the whole, although they only included diners who use the canteens, not those who avoid them. Question: if more of us used these facilities, would the premises/infrastructure be adequate?
Humour: Email: quantity is the enemy of quality.
Those who may have stayed at their desk throughout the summer will have noticed the number of emails they received plummeting. You start to feel rather left out, and there is even a temptation to check more often than is sensible that the inbox is still operating before the calm suddenly begins to be positively healthy; it’s hard to kick a habit, whatever it may be!
Just think for a moment how email has changed our relationship to our work, and not just email per se, but the fact that it arrives in such quantity and so constantly. Like the telephone before it, it has forced its way into our lives, distracting us from our work and destroying our concentration. You have to have a will of iron to control yourself to the extent of only checking the inbox twice a day. You can be sure that anybody who tries to do so gives it up pretty quickly.
How often do we pick up the phone only to find that a colleague is calling to ask: Have you received the email I sent you a quarter of an hour ago? Yes, we reply, we’ve got it – why? Because you haven’t replied. And then there’s the co-worker expressing irritation because immediate action is called for, and you’re not onto it because you haven’t seen the email yet (and worse luck still if that co-worker happens to be your boss). But it isn’t only impatient colleagues who need to learn some self-discipline; there are also those with an irritating tendency to respond to all recipients of an email to indulge in a discussion with a limited number of them. The outcome is 20 message exchanges that you didn’t want to be involved in, sent all over the place and which block your space and irritatingly appear at the bottom of the screen whether you like it or not – and it’s just distracting. The worst thing about these contaminating exchanges is the tone of some of the messages, clearly inappropriate for some recipients, the fact that the subject changes without notice, and all too frequently the stupidity of some of the content, hardly benefiting our collective image.
And of course, there are the colleagues who are afraid, who are very, very afraid, that the information will never reach you. They send it to you, while the secretariat of X committee has already sent it to you personally, the secretariat of your unit who was also on the CC list has sent you a copy, and your unit head who wants to know what you think about it did the same. If they could have taken the time to read that CC list, they would have noticed that you had already received that precious message!
And this does not count successive deliveries of intermediary versions of a document which arrive with a long explanation to the effect that these are extremely provisional because sections 5, 6 and 7 still ought to be jointly agreed to, and that section 40 has recently been amended and that the amendment has not been taken into account, and so on.
Did I leave out emails which are sent by a chain and you have to scroll down for half a mile before you can actually read the message or find the attachment? Or those sent with no comment at all so you have to stare at it for some minutes just to understand what it is about and even whether it has anything to do with you?
And in the meantime you have lost your train of thought, time has flown, you have been interrupted umpteen times to do something else that you had seriously intended to do. But you have to come up with a result, so you start to hurry, you pass the document on to whoever needs it and who has been desperately waiting for it while you handle the score of little glitches which have forced their way into your work, and just as you send the email you remember the paragraph you had forgotten to insert because you were interrupted… you remember it all, but there’s always an email addict who has already opened it and will see that you didn’t quite get it together.
I don’t know about you, but
for me this all creates stress and irritation. If I really had to carefully
read everything I receive, I should probably get nothing else done.
On September 12 next the conclusions arrived at by the Advocate General with the Court of Justice, Mr Yves BOT, will be handed down on the three cases concerning the adjustment of salaries for 2011 and 2012. A ruling is expected by late October/early November in the 3 appeals for annulment and failure to act (cases C-63/12 and C-66/12 and C196/12).
Maintaining its programme of continuous contact with colleagues, U4U is holding an information and interchange meeting on all current staff association issues on Wednesday September 18, from 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm, at the EACI Building COV 2, Room 10/204.
Colleagues from REA, ERCEA/ERC and the RTD who work in the same building are also very welcome.
U4U presence into various committees
You may contact directly our representatives, if needed.
- Kim Slama : CGAM ;
Sylvie Vlandas: (CPPT-BXL) Comité de Prévention et de
Protection au Travail de Bruxelles ;
- Tomas Garcia Azcarate , Philippe Keraudren : Groupe Ad hoc
1. Il nous faut préparer une contestation juridique concernant l'absence de et le manque de respect pour le dialogue social dans la procédure qui a abouti au nouveau statut (la Chartre des Droits Fondamentaux).
2. Il est important que cette contestation juridique soit lancée dans l'immédiate - si non le personnel risque "favoriser" les modifications du statut, puisque ces modifications seraient présentées ou comprises sous l'aspect "tout aurait pu être pire”.
3. Il va falloir mobiliser toutes les institutions derrière le principe que l'absence du dialogue social rend la paix sociale impossible , (c.à.d. participation des syndicats dans toute négotiation est primordial)
4. Dans ce cadre, il nous faut bientôt organiser une manifestation inter-institutionelle.
1. Sachez cependant que le 12 juin dernier,
U4U a réuni ses adhérents pour leur faire part de ses intentions
relativement à la réforme du statut.
En l'occurrence, entre les négociations qui avaient abouti à la présentation par la CE de sa proposition de réforme fin 2011 à 1 milliard et la proposition finale à 2.5, la HR n'a réuni les OSP que pour les informer après coup des discussions du trilogue, jamais pour discuter préalablement du fond des concessions demandées (et octroyées) qui ont amené au montant final. Entre information a posteriori et négociation a priori, il y a une nuance plus que mince que nous demanderons au Tribunal d'établir.
2. Ce recours sera introduit dès la fin des vacances, quand U4U aura finalisé le contour de sa plainte avec les avocats qui seront chargés de la déposer. Il fallait d'abord qu'elle soit approuvée pour être contestable.
3. Il serait souhaitable que les autres OSP de TOUTES les institutions s'associent à ce recours qui devrait idéalement rassembler tout le monde, mais de cette information je ne dispose pas à ce jour. Quoiqu'il en soit, U4U se battra, de préférence avec tous, sinon avec ceux qui le jugeront nécessaire, au pire, seul. Si dans ce travail de sensibilisation pour pouvez nous aider au Conseil, vos forces sont les bienvenues.
4. Je laisse votre dernière idée en débat à mes collègues, à leur retour.
Vous souhaitez réagir et contribuer au débat ? Utilisez ce forum.
To deal with the constant attacks against the Staff regulations, to fight against the institutionalization of job insecurity, to protest against the downgrading of our working conditions, us, the staff, must be strong and needs to rally together.
That is why we urge you to join U4U now. We need members that will support us; we need members to help us develop our positions and to carry out our actions.
Without your strong and determined membership we have limited influence as a union. The more we are united, the stronger we are and the more we are ready to rally people together.
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Participate in our actions, contribute to our projects, let your voice be heard !
responsable de la rédaction :
équipe de rédaction : Paul Clairet, Fabrice Andreone, Sylvie Vlandas, Tomas Garcia Azcarate, Kim Slama, Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, Rafael Marquez Garcia,