Le Lien - The Link
syndicalisme européen, citoyen, participatif et unitaire
October 2013 – n°36
Version française déjà envoyée
Staff regulation reform will finally be passed by the Council on October 10. After that, negotiations about the GIPs (General Implementing Provisions) will be taking place, more or less every day, between the Commission and the Staff Associations.
Staff regulation reform is taking place under stringent external constraints, but this will certainly not be the case as far as GIP talks are concerned. This is why we are calling on the College to commit to engaging in these negotiations by taking an approach which is favourable to the staff. We are also asking for the talks to respect the dignity of the social dialogue process, which means providing documentation in advance, giving the Staff Associations time to consult with the personnel themselves, and so on.
In keeping with this approach, negotiations at the Commission should also involve the departments, our EEAS colleagues and the Agencies, since there is no reason why these groups should have different rules applied to them. And where matters concern non-Union staff, non-Union staff representatives should be present when the negotiations are taking place.
And it must be understood that the GIPs will not cover everything which must be done. We are asking the Commission to set up a social dialogue on two Communications to be drafted on the matter of implementing a careers policy – which actually does not exist but has been made necessary by the changes imposed upon the ends of officials’ careers by the new staff regulations – and an inter-Institutional contract staff management policy, setting out a new framework for the development of careers, internal competitive examinations, staff mobility and so on.
We shall see.
2011 salary adjustments: the conclusions of the Advocate General of the Court of Justice, in cases C-63/12, C-66/12 et C-196/12
The Commission proposed that EU officers’ and agents’ salaries and pensions be raised by +1.7% as of the end of 2011. The Member States pleaded the crisis as grounds for rejecting the Commission proposal and called for the application of the exception clause.
The entire discussion here turned on the Commission’s powers of assessment in the area of economics, the Councils’ associated powers in the area of salary adjustments in exchange for the payment of a contribution and the role of the Parliament in this procedure.
Faced with the Council’s refusal to pass the salary adjustment proposal, the College lodged an appeal on grounds of insolvency and an appeal that the case be quashed, with a view to ensuring that the Member States’ obligations arising from the staff regulation be respected. At the same time, the Council lodged an appeal against the Commission, which the Council claimed should have to adhere to the Council’s political assessment.
In his submissions presented on September 12 2013, the Advocate General recommended that the Court should overturn the Council’s decision and its refusal to adjust salaries as of 2011.
Based on these submissions, the Court should pass judgement in late October/early November 2013. Theoretically, on the basis of precedents, it would be expected to adopt the opinion of the Advocate General. However, this is not 100% certain, and the Court may see things differently.
If the Court accepts the Advocate General’s conclusions, the Council should adopt the Commission proposal to adjust officers’ and agents’ salaries and pensions by 1.7% based on 2011 levels. But the Member States may dig their heels in and refuse to accept this ruling, although this would be unusual. The Commission would then launch another insolvency procedure.
This decision does not concern salary adjustments based on 2012 levels, which the Member States also rejected, or the two appeals still pending regarding the adjustment of the pension contribution rate.
If the ruling
accepts the position of the Commission, U4U will ask the College to:
Returning to DG Agri after the summer holidays should wake staff up to the realities of their jobs. This is not always easy.
The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not yet on course. The final political agreement at the Council and the Parliament will lead to their taking on the heavy workload, already in preparation, of setting up the delegated acts and execution acts as well as passing the new rural development programmes.
The longer it takes to establish the political agreement, the more complicated staff duties will become. And as usual, people will be depending on the departments to offset the delays caused by foot-dragging on taking the political decision.
The restructuring which tragically involves the reform of staff regulations also affects this DG. AGRI must be in a position to meet the challenge of the new CAP in a context of shrinking staff numbers.
To succeed, it is essential to re-think normal work methods. This means that the colleagues in the DG must clearly understand the issues and take an active part in the change procedure. This is why the U4U section at DG Agri had already approached the previous Director General, to persuade him to take part in the analysis upstream of the design of a new organisation. It is high time for our senior management to meet with all the staff to inform them of the general outlines of the upcoming restructuring and to listen to their opinions.
The September 25 meeting with the management is a first step which should lead to the establishment of a broader process of analysis within the departments. Rumours and uncertainty do not lead to the kind of calm approach we need to tackle the issues which face us. The ‘fait accompli’ strategy causes frustration and discouragement. The opportunity to establish a motivated staff body in DG AGRI, with a high level of professionalism, should be a reason for the management to encourage a participatory management approach. Open and constructive dialogue should mean that initial ideas can be tested which is bound to lead to the emergence of suggestions and initiatives from the colleagues.
Change is always resisted, particularly when it is poorly understood, and the DG is not going to be the exception which proves the rule. But if actions take place with respect for everybody involved on a basis of transparency, with participation encouraged and dialogue facilitated, our institution may emerge from the exercise stronger than it went in. It could gently and effectively cope with the direction change implied by the twin reforms, CAP and staff regulations.
The NEAR group of staff associations (RS U4U USHU, Alliance, FFPE) wrote to President Barroso to ask for the opening of talks on improving the social protection system for local agents.
The EEAS and Commission administrations have ignored our previous requests on this matter, which forced us to write to the President to ask him to unfreeze the case.
The Local Agents are personnel who are essential to the functioning of the delegations of the EU. And the fact is that the grim way they are treated is frankly a scandal, as they are likely to find themselves shorn of any effective rights to social cover or a pension, depending on local conditions.
We are awaiting a response from President Barroso, hoping that the EU might finally adapt its action to match the values which it officially promotes.
On September 11
2013, President Barroso gave the last speech of his term of office on the
state of the EU. On the matter of the financial crisis, he memorably stated:
“We are fundamentally reforming the financial sector so that people's
savings are safe. We have improved the way governments work together, how
they return to sound public finances and modernise their economies. We have
mobilised over 700 billion euro to pull crisis-struck countries back from
the brink, the biggest effort ever in stabilisation between countries. […]
September 15 was the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the event which sparked the greatest financial crisis and most serious social crisis since 1929. There are now 26 millions Europeans out of work (10.7% of the workforce), causing despair among the young and those over 50, and justifying the criticisms of welfare systems.
European taxpayers are being hit hard: 13% of the European Union’s GDP went to pay the banking sector between October 2008 and the end of December 2011, some 1,600 billion euros in state aid between October 2008 and the end of December 2011. This support for those who were actually guilty exacerbated the recession and unemployment.
And the thousand billion euro question is this: is the banking system going to be protected from a systemic weakness from now on?
The answer is no.
The so-called “Basel III” rules, glaringly inadequate, will only be applicable in 2014, and their implementation will be scaled up until 2019, at least if European regulation is actually set in place. American and European banks are dragging their heels. The European Banking Authority (EBA), which includes all European decision-makers, still has to supply the documentation needed for the completion of the regulation.
On January 6 2013, the Basel Committee announced that the liquidity rules in banking regulations were to made more flexible, which mean in English that banks are to be allowed to lend more in comparison with the capital they hold than Lehman was doing when they collapsed!
The derivatives market continues to flourish, out of control1. These are the very products which led to the sub-prime mortgage banking crisis, because they have no value in themselves: it is extremely difficult to assess the value of the products they back, and this value fluctuates wildly depending on economic circumstances. Also their value is very sensitive to the operators’ degree of confidence, and this can evaporate in an instant.
The financial sector’s resistance to effective regulation is based on a surprising argument: strict regulation would restrict competition and inhibit job creation or even the retention of jobs! As though the absence of this regulatory framework were not the direct cause of the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs throughout Europe and a crisis which has led the States to adopt austerity policies so merciless that they are actually threatening the structure of society itself!
We should not forget the tragic comment made by John J. Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley in 2009 : “We cannot control ourselves. You have to step in and control [Wall] Street.” He was damning any possible argument in favour of self-regulation by the financial sector.
The EU must adopt strong, cautious regulations. Banks which are too big to fail should become too big to exist. The very least that we can say is that this is not the track that is being followed.
This is, however, a debate which really ought to be aired during the next European elections campaign. Again, in the words of President Barroso: “ In 8 months' time, voters across Europe will judge what we have achieved together in the last 5 years.” During those five years, Europe has not managed to find a credible answer to banking system risks, to prevent our jobs being stolen and our social model being destroyed.
Our U4U staff association is looking for a colleague to take charge of administrative and financial matters. Computer literacy (Excel, websites, etc.) would be desirable. Partial exemption from duties may be possible.
Contact Georges Vlandas for more details.
Luxembourg : Vote The Change !
DG HR has just published its report on the administration of Human Resources at the Commission in 2012. We recommend that you view it online, but we have in any case chosen a few extracts for your information.
We do, however, make one comment on this report. It sets out just exactly how the Commission sees its responsibility to its employees: it manages them in the administrative sense of the word. They are recruited, paid, promoted, allocated to this or that department, and when policy requires disparities to be adjusted, quantitative objectives are set and are respected. Or not. In the latter case, information is abstruse or non-existent (as with handicapped staff at the Commission versus the UN agreement).
Staff are reflected in numbers and statistics, but there is little in the way of qualitative assessment, and it is this which is to be regretted: the absence of information which explains how human resources are managed from the point of view of well-being in the workplace being understood as much as the quality of the environment, the quality of management and the organisation of the work. No information is provided on the quality of services or the management of careers, whether intended to offer vertical or horizontal responsibilities, or movement in a lifetime career in a constructive and coherent manner, to the profit of the agent and the institution.
Nothing is said about the motivation of the staff members, of their levels of job satisfaction, of the problems occasioned by political decisions taken in the past or those yet to come. Why is nothing said about the challenges which arise and which, contrary to the old-fashioned perception of work and duty, are not put in terms of work times and task division, but are seen as goals to be achieved, the quality of results, of real collaboration, intelligent communication and motivation whereby every individual has the direction needed to satisfactorily do the job and achieve personal fulfilment? The Commission does, however, assess itself (to some degree) and it asks us to offer an opinion (to some degree) on these subjects. Where are the results? This report reveals us as an ageing administration. Is that a strength or a weakness? If it is a strength, what career development policy exists for agents over 50? Do we need their memory? How can we capitalise on it? Do we need their experience? How can we benefit from it? Or do we assume that everybody is interchangeable when it comes to performing a task and that the older ones are a dead weight because they are less flexible than the young, and particularly insecure and unwilling to rebel because by the time they come to realise how they are taken advantage of, they have already gone? What are they offered which is of any value in terms of human dignity and service to the community?
It was very refreshing to find that the provision of data in figures also included suggestions for future analyses. Shall we be encouraging teleworking to improve the work/life balance for those who want it? Or shall we cut it back, since now we have to do more with less, so we want them under our eyes for the full 40 hours, with no concern for the relevance of this timetable in the light of what we also know about the number of men/years the agents donate to the Commission in terms of overtime worked and never charged for?
Human Resources management is delegated by DG HR to the DGs, but not in a standardised framework. The report tells us that only 36% of the resources allocated to HR at the Commission are allocated at local level in the HR departments of each DG. But we are told nothing about their tools and results. Each DG is at liberty to implement modern work organisation techniques, to review obsolete management structures which are no longer relevant as regards goals and the personnel employed. There is no law against being creative in an administration. Ours is terribly conservative, a real dinosaur which hates change, is afraid of drawing attention to itself and perhaps being questioned. It cultivates a strange schizophrenia between what it says and what it does. How many times is it to be caught in flagrante delicto failing to adopt its own recommendations1? But as Einstein used to say, you can’t solve a problem using the same thought patterns that created the problem. Who was it who decided to re-examine the staff regulations in order to present a method which was independent of it? Yes…
We also learn, in passing, that job reductions have already begun and that redeployment is under way. Management in the departments is already rejecting leave deals, applications for CCPs [protection certificates for medication, etc.] or asking (forcing?) their staff to give up part-time working. And yes, the stark reality of the time credit situation per DG in their forecasts is pressing on means versus goals. And having swallowed the reform without any objection, they are now coming to realise that it will cost them dear. Now it’s up to us! What is the secret deal? To give up doing a good job to maintain quantitative goals? Or to go into reverse on the social by making the staff pay for the poor management of public finances of some and the guilty conscience of others?
The report devotes almost a page to the hundred or so cases of listed "malpractices", and a paragraph to the 5% of positions planned to be dropped per year. It’s all a matter of proportion and yet again it shows what we have become: control freaks, afraid of the slightest risk, always on the look out for breaches, but definitely not great thinkers from the kind of society we would like to establish, for ourselves and future generations, and of which we should set an example. We keep very quiet about the fact that we must pay for our security of employment so dearly because we are lucky to have jobs, compared to those who haven’t. So is this the way to help civilisation to advance, by abandoning our ambitions? By accepting the race to the bottom? We will end up with the careers we deserve since we were unwilling to defend our work.
The report is silent about all this, and about many other matters. So what you are is about to go out of existence? How very convenient – and how false! Beware of bombs with long fuses: they always go off in the end.
As far as the Commission is concerned, as with all the other institutions, staff allocation begins with the allocation of resources by the budgetary authority via an employment credit establishment plan. The 2013 plan for the Commission established 29,944 positions for officers and temporary agents. Between 2011 and 2013, the Commission was the only institution where the number of employment credits shrank.
Since 2007, zero augmentation has been the order of the day for the allocation of human resources at the Commission. With the exception of the EU 10 and EU 2 enlargements, the EC has asked for no new positions, and has done its best to do more with less. The new financial framework provides for a cut of 5% in staff numbers by 2017, that is 1% per year, making the equivalent of 250 positions per year between 2013 and 2017. New activities will be covered by improvements in effectiveness and redeployment. 114 positions have been granted for the incorporation of Croatia.
In 2012, the Commission reallocated 255 position equivalents in two tranches, May 2012 and January 2013, of whom 32 went to ECFIN and 15 to the MARKT. 93 position equivalents temporarily allocated to DG ECFIN were converted into permanent positions. 7 positions were allocated outside the EU. 144 positions were shared out between the other DGs. The number of vacant position equivalents fell from 2,000 in January 2006 to 1,500 between the end of 2008 and the end of 2011 to fall again by 5.4% at the end of 2012, coming to rest at 1,395 vacant positions.
On December 31 2012, 32,904 people were working at the Commission. Two-thirds of them are officers.
* local agents were managed by another system before 2008. Since 2008, all staff have been managed in Sysper. Commission personnel between 2000 and 2005 did not take account of local agents.
In addition to officers and other agents, the Commission employs personnel on the basis of national legislation, mainly for JRC, ECHO, OIB, OIL, HR and DEVCO.
The competitive examination under dispute subjected the candidates to a Talent Screener test, used to determine a first batch of eliminated candidates according to a threshold calculated on the basis of the number of admissible candidates at the assessment centre. The Court of Justice found that the process used to calculate and apply this elimination threshold could not be validly based on the declarations alone of the candidates subjected to the Talent Screener.
In actual fact, the Court stated that: “The method necessarily implies that the said candidates are not being selected on the grounds of the relevance of their degrees and their professional experience, but according to the idea that the said candidates do have these things, which does not stand as a suitably objective datum to guarantee the selection of the best candidates nor even of the consistency of the selection made.”
It also declared that: “This method of selection does not provide for any check by the panel as to the relevance of the degrees and professional qualifications held by the candidates.” The fact is that the statutory procedure must “reserve for an independent panel the task of assessing, on a case-by-case basis, whether the degrees produced or the professional experience of each candidate matches the level required by the regulations and the test standard”.
Indeed, the cancellation of this competitive examination is based on respect for the role of the panel as laid down in attachment III of the regulations. This comes in the wake of the Pachtitis / Commission ruling. Contrary to what has been written in various places, this ruling does not condemn the Talent Screener system, which has been validated elsewhere by precedent. What actually happened was that the Court declared that the manner in which the system was used was invalid.
What will be the consequences for internal competitive examinations held by the Commission? A priori, none, as long as the powers of the panel are respected in the context of the internal exams and every member of the panel examines the qualifications and professional experience of each candidate.
In the wake of the Court of Justice ruling, the Commission must protect the rights of the colleagues and continue to hold the internal exams, while complying with the law. These competitive exams are important when it comes to starting to correct the situations inherited from the 2004 Staff Regulations.
We have read L’État sous pression statistique [The State under Statistical Pressure] by Isabelle BRUNO and Emmanuel DIDIER
Whether you’re an officer or just a staff member, you have to be more effective, more proactive, more independent. You will be mercilessly compared, noted, assessed. Professional activity is become a frantic race judged by figures and performance. This phenomenon has a name.
Invented in the early 1980s at the American Xerox company, benchmarking is defined as a method of management by competitive assessment. In a few decades, this little management tool has conquered the world, until now it has taken over “human resources management” in the public services. From New York to Brussels, from the Xerox files to the prefecture of police in Paris, this book shows how benchmarking became an instrument of a new relationship of domination in the hands of contemporary bureaucracies.
How is benchmarking deployed nowadays in the French administration and public services? In the police, in the hospital and the university? What are the powers of the “undefined discipline” which it exercises on the agents? But this book goes further than mere observation. The authors conclude by outlining the shape of a possible militancy by numbers: “stateactivism”.
Except across the whole of Europe, 27% of children live in poverty; even in Germany this figure is estimated at around one child in six.
Everywhere in Europe, charities are increasingly coming to the aid of the young, single women, jobless seniors, foreigners in difficulty. Again in Germany, ‘mini jobs’ paying a maximum of €450 and which give no right to unemployment insurance, now represent one job in five.
Everywhere in Europe, youth unemployment is ballooning. In Greece, it has beaten all records at 60% of young people without jobs. These figures are definitely very embarrassing, which is why in France INSEE pollsters are very badly paid. Result: the number of pollsters available is inadequate to cover the whole of the territory in the uniform manner required by INSEE. At a stroke, the number of surveys dealing with employment is slashed. There’s no need to produce figures about a disturbing reality.
And if you want to take a flight somewhere to get a different perspective, be warned: 56% of British pilots have fallen asleep at the controls, and nearly a third of them have discovered on waking that their co-pilot was also asleep. Fatigue and poor working conditions are the major airborne threat!
To deal with the constant attacks against the statute, 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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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,