Le Lien The Link

Pour un syndicalisme européen, citoyen, participatif et unitaire
Building a new kind of staff representation based on participation, unity and defence of the European project

January 2014 – n°38


Content :

Version française déjà envoyée

  • Editorial: Cynicism and trivialisation at the Commission
  • Pensions and pay: what is the current position?
  • Early lessons from the reorganisation at DG RTD
  • Action before the Court of Justice concerning the lack of social dialogue
  • 55+: forging ahead!
  • JSIS – Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme: Our fund is everyone’s business…
  • CAs: Let’s shape our professional future together!
  • Interinstitutional crèches: satisfying needs through unity between staff and users!
  • The SFIE joins U4U and USHU in the Trade Union Alliance!
  • U4U at your service

In December 2013, U4U drew the attention of all staff to the shortcomings of the hurried and haphazard reorganisations that gave rise to numerous problems for staff made subject to mobility schemes without any consultation. There are unfortunately many examples of such reorganisations (see the article later in the newsletter). We received numerous complaints from various DGs making their staff subject to mobility schemes without any consultation, or with only a semblance of it.

We have to wonder about the widespread implementation of such schemes, which are virtually identical to what is happening in the private sector, though often worse. The reality is that these are top-down decisions taken without any internal dialogue, without social consultation and in which the workforce is thought of as a passive element to be adjusted as required. After all, why would the Directors-General bother with discussions with staff when the example of non-consultation comes from the top, from the College itself, as we have seen in the recent reform of Staff Regulations? In addition, the Commission contains powerful Council connections which serve as a vehicle for an intergovernmental policy to weaken the European Civil Service. There is only one practice being implemented clearly and cynically, because, as in the private sector, it is possible to relocate to lower salaries (executive agencies), break contracts (contract agents) and to silence the rest of the staff by intimidation. The new rules concerning professional incompetence, adopted without any appraisal of the rules established in 2004 and implemented retroactively in 2014, make it possible, on the basis of a single instance of incompetence in one of the three elements monitored for staff appraisal (achievements, skills and conduct), to block seniority advancement and to lead to dismissal on completion of a five-year period. In the process, the Commission demonstrates a curious conception of the independence of the Civil Service: namely, that this could exist without any guarantee of the independence of civil servants.

Some will tell us that this is not possible, that we cannot continue in this way without having a negative impact on staff motivation! How wrong they are. In such a system, it is unnecessary even to consider staff motivation because, as in any post-Fordist organisation, we encourage and rely on the professional conscience of the staff, from whom we demand a job well done, such as successfully meeting a budget while salary cuts are being implemented, abandoning promotion prospects and accepting forced transfers. The Commission is implementing the latest canons of management gurus based on neo-liberal individualist presuppositions, which neatly avoid the need for any critical reflection while appearing to be modern and intelligent.

This development signifies the end of a claimed difference. The Commission claims that there is a difference, not only in its organisation but also in its practices and ideologies. This has been suspended for the time being. The Commission is becoming an organisation like any other, nothing more and nothing less, so why would it be treated otherwise? Indeed, how can it be shown that there is still a need for a European Commission?

Now we are at the start of 2014, we need to take stock of the situation regarding pay and pensions.

Pensions: the current situation.

The situation with regard to fixing pension contributions is looking a little brighter.

The Council has finally agreed to adopt the contribution rate for 2012 (with effect from 1 July 2012). On that date, it was set at 10.6%.

The Member States have also agreed on the Commission’s proposal for 2013 which fixes the rate at 10.3%, with effect from 1 July 2013.

The pension contribution is therefore fixed at 10.3%, to be deducted from the gross salary in the payslip for January 2014.

For 2012, the recovery amounts to 18% (18 times 1% – from 11.6% to 10.6%) of the gross salary. It has already been paid. Colleagues at the Commission will find a corrective payslip in Sysper 2 (see 2013 payslips) showing the individual calculation. This amount was paid in January 2014.

For 2013, the recovery should be 1.8% of the gross salary (6 times 0.3% – from 10.6% to 10.3%). This sum will be paid to colleagues in February and will also be the subject of a corrective payslip.

The sum paid in 2011 is yet to be recovered, i.e. 12% gross. The case is before the Courts. According to our information, however, the case has been suspended by the Court at the request of the Commission pending negotiations on the 2011 and 2012 adjustments. In addition, concerning the adjustments for 2011 and 2012, the Commission’s corrective proposal sets the adjustment at 0.9% for each year. If it is approved, this could lead to a change in the pension contribution rates for 2012 and 2013. Once more, the Commission could be led to decide on a new proposal, to be adopted by the Member States.

Pay: the current situation.

The results of the Method for 2011 and 2012 produced an increase of 1.7% for each of these years.

Following the Court’s ruling on the 2011 adjustment requiring the Commission to adopt its proposal on the basis of the exception clause, the College adopted two new proposals for 2011 and 2012, with an increase of 0.9% for each of these years.

This position seems strange to us for the following reasons:

• The Court rejected the Commission’s case on the basis of a procedural problem. It gave no ruling on the merits of the case or on the level of the adjustment;

• The College had the option of maintaining 1.7% for both years, in line with the Eurostat calculations, or at worst proposing 1.4% and 1.2%, in line with the application of the new Method coming into force on 1 January 2014. The second solution would have been a move in the direction of the Council, while providing a solid base for the Commission’s proposal;

• The figure of 0.9% does not correspond to anything and can be nothing more than a maximum at best, given that the Member States and Parliament appear to be undecided with regard to observing the law and implementing the results of a Method for which staff have paid a very high price and which already reflects the negative developments of national civil services.

The Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament has already examined the College’s proposal, considering that it constituted a starting point. It authorised the Chair of this Committee, Mr Lehne, the Rapporteur, Mrs Roth-Berendt and the co-rapporteurs to begin negotiations with the Council.

There was no adjustment for 2013, though nor did the staff pay the contribution. We are still waiting for the figures to determine what the loss of purchasing power was for staff on account of this lack of adjustment.

For 2014, civil servants will pay a gross contribution of 6% (7% for senior officials), double the average between 2004 and 2012 when the Regulations froze salaries, in line with the conclusions of the European Council of February 2013. In this regard, U4U considers that it is a disguised and illegal additional tax which we will oppose. The implementation of this new tax on 1 January 2013, with nothing granted in return, will lower the net salary of all civil servants and agents who have no prospects of advancement. It will have an impact beyond 2020, including on future retirees. This decrease will be very slightly mitigated by the reduced pension contribution, down from 11.6% to10.3% of the gross salary from 1 January 2014.

In a recent announcement to all staff, U4U drew their attention to the failings of the reorganisation at DG RTD during December 2013: forced mobility, a lack of transparency in allocating grants, doubts over the future of contract agents – all the ingredients of a failed reorganisation were in place. The biggest surprise for observers was the precipitous nature of this reorganisation, causing the fundamental principles of the process of change management to be forgotten. What is more, this situation resulted in the Central Staff Committee (CSC) taking on the case and requiring the Director General of DG RTD to come and explain the situation at the end of January 2014.

In the meantime, U4U held a meeting with DG RTD staff, which confirmed the main criticisms. The most surprising fact was the staff’s lack of direction. Many staff members complain of having no clear view of the reasons and objectives of the reorganisation or even of their own future. We can see here one of the usual paradoxes of internal communication. The communicators are convinced they are being clear and therefore, if the message does not get through, it is because the intended recipients are not sufficiently attentive. Yet, in spite of the best intentions of everyone, the recipients do not understand! Or rather they understand the official communication, but it is interfered with and distorted by unofficial contradictory messages, which are amplified by the organisation and not always mere rumours. For example, a few days ago the Director General highlighted one aspect of the personnel policy at the Commission: no member of the DG RTD staff will be relocated against his/her will. And yet there were many staff members put under strong pressure to move against their will, or even transferred to another authority unwillingly. It is therefore clear in a simple case such as this that there is a difference between the principles stated and those in practice.

U4U therefore met with the Director General of DG RTD. This amicable and constructive meeting allowed us to find and share some common approaches. First, the DG confirmed that staff will not be subject to forced mobility: colleagues in the Personnel Unit (R1) are in the process of consulting those colleagues affected by mobility, along the same lines as a Chambre d’écoute (a listening room). Next, in view of the many changes expected in 2014 and 2015, internal communication will be improved. This will also mean that it will sometimes be necessary to acknowledge concerns (related, for example, to the changing policy of the Commission or to teething problems with the Agencies) rather than giving the impression that everything has been planned for and is under control. Better to have identified doubts than to display misplaced or misleading confidence. Finally, it will be necessary to consider these inevitable changes and develop the tools, such as an internal job exchange for civil servants and an internal and external job exchange with the Agencies or other Commission services for the Contract Agents, in order to enhance skills and maintain motivation.

These positive measures will be introduced at the DG RTD early in 2014.

The wording of the provision amending the Staff Regulations published at the end of October 2013 will be the subject of numerous legal challenges by members of staff and their representative organisations.

It will be necessary to distinguish between two options:

• contesting the wording, in that it is directly applicable and adversely affects both natural persons and legal entities, before the Court of Justice of the EU within a period of two months from the date of publication.

• contesting the actions of the AIPN (the Appointing Authority) in accordance with the new regulations by way of article 90 and, if necessary, by taking the case to the Civil Service Tribunal. By assumption, these actions cannot take place before the wording comes into effect.

This article concerns only the first of the two options.

U4U and USHU, members of the Trade Union Alliance, have decided to bring an action against the Staff Regulations before the Court of Justice in order to seek sanctions for the absence of a social dialogue.

In fact, contrary to obligations contained in the agreements, the employer has not allowed trade unions and staff associations to carry out their responsibilities concerning consultation and negotiation. This action constitutes a major precedent. Indeed, a trade union organisation has never taken a case to the Court because such grievances normally concern natural persons. In this case, however, the grievance concerns staff representation. If we win, this will be an acknowledgement of the need for social dialogue as an incontestable tool for the regulation of social affairs within a public administration.

The submission of these actions has given rise to choices intended, as far as possible, to ensure their admissibility and their pertinence.

With regard to admissibility, we have in fact brought two actions to improve our chances:

• one on behalf of natural persons. It is based primarily on substantive arguments and secondarily on the lack of social dialogue;

• the other on behalf of the unions and one natural person (the President of a trade union). This case is based primarily on the lack of social dialogue. Indeed, the admissibility of a case brought by a union will require a change of direction in terms of case law, with the Court of Justice of the EU being particularly reluctant in this regard, unlike the national Courts, which recognise the rights due to the trade unions.

As far as pertinence is concerned, a particularly obvious example had to be selected from the wording, in terms of both form and substance. We have chosen to contest the reduction of leave entitlements for staff in delegations, as set out in annex X of the Staff Regulations. This provision was, in fact, only included in the text at the last minute and it will be difficult to dispute the fact that the unions were neither informed nor consulted on this issue. What is more, with regard to the substance, this provision flies in the face of many legal principles. In the action brought on behalf of the unions, we have also challenged the blocking of AD career progression on account of this being introduced at the start of a trialogue. In addition, it was not the subject of consultation and adversely affects the future careers of our younger colleagues.

Readers might be sorry to see that other, more outrageous, elements of the Staff Regulations have not been included in these actions. However, we wanted primarily to ensure the clarity of the arguments and deny the employer any opportunity to confuse the issue. For example, the blocking of AST career progression was in the Commission’s initial proposal and, although the social dialogue proved to be no more than a mockery, this would be difficult to prove in the face of the employer claiming the opposite.

This does not, of course, presuppose any other Legal actions that might be brought against decisions of the Appointing Authority (AIPN)on other issues.

See the following cases:

Action on behalf of natural persons: this action was brought with the assistance of U4U and USHU, with the significant support of R&D and the FFPE. This action is based primarily on arguments of substance and secondarily on the lack of social dialogue.  

Action on behalf of the union alliance (RS) Action brought by U4U and USHU alone for the time being. This action is based primarily on the lack of social dialogue.

At a social dialogue meeting in October 2013, VP Šefčovič wanted to give a positive response to the question from the U4U/RS representative concerning the position of staff aged 55 or over by asking him to voice our thoughts on this matter. The context of the recent reform of Staff Regulations, in particular the increase in the retirement age and changes in access to higher grades, provides us with an opportunity for reflection.

The aim of this text is to present the conclusions of a U4U committee.

These situations vary according to the individual, but they are woefully real and the problems are more serious and more widespread than we could have imagined, or would have wanted to, with significant physical and psychological repercussions for those concerned and sometimes having a negative impact on the entire Unit to which these colleagues are assigned.

However, these problems are not merely related to (or, to an increasing degree, a result of) the career policy (or the lack of one) implemented over the last few years. Indeed, the marginalisation of these individuals, many of whom are skilled – and sometimes very skilled – and who have valuable experience and are capable of putting cases into their historical context, reduces the strength and authority of the Commission in the face of rotating Presidencies. This disregard of knowledge and skill reflects the relative political decline of the Commission over more than a decade.

The problems encountered by these colleagues therefore constitute one symptom among many others of a political and institutional problem that is otherwise more serious and profound: once the Commission renounces a certain number of political skills, it no longer has the use of numerous individual skills that these people can provide. Modern managerial practices, only the most negative of which have been incorporated and implemented by the Commission, have given the sidelining of those who constituted its collective memory and were custodians of its expertise an outwardly objective character.

Let us return to how these individuals can best be used. The SCOP [the Central Service of Staff Orientation] of DG HR has identified the growing obstacles to the mobility of staff aged 55+ and the underuse of these experienced and specialised individuals as major problems. The logical “managerial” consequences of the circumstances referred to above are: the lack of recognition of knowledge, skills, experience, commitment and performance and the absence of measures intended to compensate for objective difficulties.

The central problem seems to lie to a large degree in the fact that after +/- 20 years of service, a civil servant aged around 50 who has not reached a managerial position finds himself faced with the prospect of continuing to work until retirement (now delayed) without the possibility of further advancement, including the possibility of a (difficult) mobility in the same grade.

In addition, the failure to observe promotion rates in recent years is another aggravating factor for colleagues approaching the end of their careers.

The high priority now given only to management positions to access higher grades is merely a manifestation of the overall decline in the role of the Commission to the status of an executive body. A paradoxical development in view of the fact that the Commission is at the same time proposing to multiply the number of Executive Agencies at a time when the efficiency of those that already exist is increasingly being called into question...

Within the framework of the 2014 Staff Regulations, the problems of some become the problems of all due to the increased length of career, but also the limitations being placed on careers. Many colleagues in their forties risk seeing their careers reaching a ceiling despite having more than 15 years of working life ahead of them. This situation is aggravated by the 5% or even 10% reduction in the workforce, further restricting mobility options. It is also exacerbated by the lack of resources in positions made available to the SCOP (nevertheless available due to the overload), whose role and usefulness are unfairly reduced.

The problem has now been complicated by the extent to which it has grown over time due to the strategy of benign neglect, but also because it affects all aspects of the personnel policy. That is why it requires a serious analysis, a reassessment of the managerial practices and human aspects (do we need to stress their importance again?). This analysis must bring together all concerned parties, including the staff, in order to find solutions that are effective, agreed, long-term and heuristic.
The future of staff aged 55+ must now be planned for at the time they are recruited by the Commission and form part of well-organised, long-term career management; an identification of ability that must no longer be left to the vagaries of chance.

We know this problem is of concern to senior figures in the Commission. By means of this reform, DG HR is in the process of creating a policy for this particular section of the workforce. This new policy cannot be developed or, in particular, implemented without a dialogue with staff intended to identify shared views, common solutions, gradual implementation and shared goals.

Subject to these conditions, and in order to contribute as far as we can to the success of this next new policy, the 55+ committee of U4U has two sets of proposals for discussion:

• the first, including solutions that are specific to this category of members of staff, to be implemented immediately;

• the second, for longer term consideration, concerning changes to the career policy, relating to all staff, but in particular to those aged 55+.

We hope these proposals will be useful and provide food for thought, but also and above all that they have tangible results in the short and medium term.

Among the solutions to be implemented in favour of civil servants aged 55 and over, we suggest the following:

In the short term:

• For cases where the positions occupied are not considered to be “sensitive”, or when the positions do not relate to activities which will be done away with; in other words, for positions which do not pose a problem of service, the compulsory mobility rule should be reviewed in order to encourage the accumulation of knowledge and avoid the frustrations related to forced transfer;

• In cases where those concerned are prepared to move:

- Establish ex ante planning sections in the HR units, which will be available in the short term (over the next 6 to 12 months), inside each DG/service, as well as an advisory service able to suggest/encourage interdepartmental transfers for these colleagues, taking account of their experience and expertise.

- Using SCOP or, by creating a special inter-DG cluster belonging to a single category, establish a network of HR representatives with the means to identify in which other DG a specific profile is located or required.

• Consider specific occupations centred around positions occupied and plan new profiles such as:

- the mentor (or counsellor): provide a specific post in the management of each Directorate-General to be filled by an experienced colleague specially trained to prepare and pass on policy, cultural and procedural reports/files of this Directorate to newcomers (whether they are transferees or new recruits).

- the expert in a particular field, able to represent the position of the Commission on specific issues in all sorts of instances (particularly associations and other NGOs and stakeholders operating in these fields, etc.).

• Create new positions for experts, mentors, heads of department or deputies, to enhance the experience of these colleagues and allow them to put it to use in the organisation of their units/departments.

• Give a positive image of the position of Counsellor/Mentor, distinct from that of an expert, by reassessing this valuable role which can provide important support to senior management and increases the institution’s capacity for analysis and initiative, as required by the Agreement.

• Provide the SCOP with more resources and promote its correct interaction with the human resource units of the DGs to identify and prevent distress situations at work.

• Also, provide the SCOP with the job resources to facilitate some transfers.

• To establish in the DGs and services lists of Ambassadors comprised in particular of colleagues aged 55+ who are able to “bring Europe to its citizens” at schools, universities, associations, in the media and other target groups… This could even become an occupation and be carried out as voluntary service by retirees.

• The assignment of promotions to end-of-career grades, in line with promotion rates and in compliance with the ruling of the Court of Justice, would also be a just and motivating measure for the staff concerned.

• Review the criteria for awarding managerial positions in terms of seniority, experience, previous mobility, special training, etc.

In the medium term:

• Prepare and implement a change of culture, transforming the management of human resources into a permanent instrument adapted to the objectives of the Departments, Directorates General and to the Institution, rather than a random policy often implemented on a case-by-case basis!

• Develop a genuine strategy for human resource management which requires, among other things, regular meetings between colleagues and HR officials in order to provide life-long career guidance for colleagues. This requires the essential collaboration of all the HR units in all DGs in order to be able to identify the vacant posts and the profiles attached to them, to identify talent and to support mobility.

• Develop a training strategy which allows for forms of learning other than a training course or distance learning, such as short-term immersions or mentoring, specific to each occupation, in order to make learning more dynamic and enhance it with practical experience.

• Develop other forms of working together which correspond to the conceptual and technological changes in our societies. Explore the time/work relationship, think in terms of goals rather than in terms of hours worked, encourage types of inter-DG collaboration by cluster, by interactive platform, and think of innovative activities designed to stimulate/promote creativity, motivation, pleasure at work, etc.

The sickness insurance fund is the property of the European Civil Service, all institutions included. The sickness insurance scheme is common to all the institutions (except the ECB, the EIB and European Members of the European Parliament). Other than temporary employees, all staff members of the European institutions, regardless of their status, pay contributions to the Sickness Insurance Fund for identical cover. Former civil servants are the only retirees who pay contributions to and benefit from the Fund.

This fund is financed by the contributions of its members (72,460 in 2012), comprised of 2/3 from the employer and 1/3 from staff contributions. These contributions are deducted from our gross salaries and the repayments from the Fund constitute derived salary. It must be understood that this is our money and that it must be managed and spent responsibly. This fund, which was created together with the institutions and relies on them alone, has established a reserve fund managed by the ECFIN. Although this reserve amounts to approximately €270 million, it must be kept in mind that, as it is a portfolio, its real value is that of the value of its shares at the time they are disposed of.

Through its joint management committee (SIMC), the various departments of the institutions and the staff, via their representatives, protect the interests of this fund so that it can maintain the quality of its sickness insurance cover. Each year, the sickness insurance management committee (SIMC) publishes an annual report on the fund’s activity, which provides, in particular, a statement of income and expenditure, though also of their changes, analyses trends and proposes items for consideration to curb negative trends.

U4U has published some selected extracts from this report.

It is indeed important to bear in mind that this fund is our joint asset and that its future also depends on us and on how we use it. Reading this report will also help to counter certain ideas, widespread but untrue, which circulate too often to the detriment of staff cohesion. The items for consideration are proposed to mitigate the deficits observed for some years. However, some of these items are questionable, especially as we do not all come to the same conclusion about the gravity of the situation. U4U challenges the idea that the deficits are inevitable and can only be overcome by affecting the quality of cover, for example by cutting some of the elements which make our coverage an exemplary model, or by reducing the repayment threshold of some elements, or by increasing contributions. Some people also suggest transferring some costs to the department, such as preventive medicine or funeral expenses. That is a matter of opinion: preventive medicine certainly benefits the employer, but if it were reintegrated into a departmental general operational budget that had not planned for it (and which shows no sign of being allowed to increase in the near future), would it not quite simply be discarded?

The idea is circulating among the fund managers, including the ECFIN and the BUDG, that the reserve, the income from which has covered and continues to cover all or part of the deficits of recent years, must not be allowed to diminish. In support of this principle, the idea that the total amount of the reserve must not fall below the equivalent of 12 months expenditure of the fund risks placing us in an artificially alarming situation by virtue of the basis of this idea being that contributions could suddenly stop.
Others raise the spectre of a pandemic, a catastrophic scenario, to justify maintaining a strong reserve, a path that only reinforces a principle of extremist precaution to the detriment of an exemplary model which we must defend.

Because of the crisis, everyone has seized on the idea that we must cut back on the quality of everything. It was a culture of solidarity which created the social model that has allowed a section of society to rise up and have a better quality of life. And it is a trend dominated by an individualist culture which is now undermining this solidarity in order to restrict it, without seeing that the dismantling of this model affects all those it has protected. We must combat this ideology. Ensuring the durability of a system does not begin by destroying its foundations. Let us make sure that they are sustained and see which measures need to be taken.

The Fund is financed on an ongoing basis by the monthly contributions of its members. Judging by the last deficit recorded, the reserve could support it for about ten years. Although we obviously do not want to exhaust it, we believe we should take the time to consider it and try out other ways of re-establishing the balance, as there is no need for haste.

Freezing salary indexation, for example, contributes to the fund’s deficit, because it maintains salaries, and therefore the contributions, at a lower level, while the cost of healthcare continues to rise. U4U has fought with you against the reform on account of the staff cuts being implemented and the planned career slowdowns and limitations not only affecting our working conditions and monthly salaries, but also impacting on the sickness fund. Everything is connected. What we lose today will cost us dearly tomorrow. And tomorrow we will still be there to suffer the effects.

We have to insist that the administration prepare forecasts concerning the impact of losses of income on the Fund due to changes in regulations, frozen and reduced salaries and career restrictions caused by changes in age distribution, the cost of healthcare and many other factors which affect the management of the fund, though an analysis of these would enable the right steps to be taken calmly and in good time.

The increase in healthcare costs is also our responsibility. The administration must be persuaded to conclude as many agreements as possible wherever it has a significant number of staff. Transparency of cost must also be ensured in order to avoid overcharging. Everyone can check the bills they receive or, if they do not receive them personally, inform the PMO of what was signed on admission to the hospital. Correct receipts must be required from doctors. We are also stakeholders in the future of our fund. If we do not want to see our sickness cover reduced because of abuses in the invoicing for care, we must become proactive in the management of our fund.

To summarise: it is true that there is a deficit and that it has been aggravated for a number of months by the blocking of the Method. If salary increases had been awarded since 2011, the deficit in 2012 would amount to around €300,000, almost nothing in terms of the fund reserve of about €270 million. Even with an annual deficit of €10 million, which is not presently the case, our fund would have more than 25 years to use up the reserve: enough to allow us to observe the impact of recent changes in progress working in favour of rebalancing the accounts (for example: the increase in the length of the working life, the increased number of years worked by contract staff, the higher level of pay (and therefore of contributions) via promotions of staff recruited after the 2004 reform, the change in age distribution in the European Civil Service, the changes in long-term interest rates, the long-term decrease of the inactive to active ratio, and the results of actions in progress aimed at reducing the overcharging of which the European Civil Service is a victim, particularly, it seems, in Brussels, Luxembourg, etc.

Finally, the political and economic context is not favourable to a slight increase in the level of contributions. Any request to Member States along these lines would have a negative impact on us, as the States have already tried to reduce the employer’s share of the contribution in favour of increasing the employees’ share. In the short term, the priorities are therefore to counter overcharging and the prospective study of significant trends in progress.

The contract agents (CAs), thanks to their efforts (general meetings, rallies, petition with 7,000 signatures) and with the support of the trade unions, have achieved recognition in the new staff regulations of some of their main demands and of interim measures allowing CAs to be kept on or rehired on completion of their contracts, as follows:

- the extension of contracts from 3 to 6 years in the core departments of the institutions;

- the possibility of internal entrance exams giving the CAs of all institutions, including non-Union and the EEAS, the opportunity to join the European Civil Service;

- a review of the anti-cumulation rule, which has changed from 6 to 7 years, with interim periods taken into account.

- interim measures intended to keep the CAs who have achieved these results in their jobs on completion of their contracts or ensure that they are rehired without going through the selection process once the new Staff Rules have been adopted.

These provisions are not only right in social terms; they also contribute to the reduction of professional risks in those services for which turnover is a dirty word. They produce substantial savings for the institutions, and they help to improve the geographical balance of recruitment compromised by the lack of professional prospects for CAs. Finally, they safeguard a European Civil Service undermined by the instability and proliferation of staff rules.

The Commission, like other institutions, must now implement, in its own interests, a new career policy for those staff in insecure positions.

That is why we support the new petition launched in 2013 by theContract Agents' Collective, signed by more than 3,500 colleagues to ask the Commission like other institutions and services, to act quickly in order to:

- organise an internal entrance exam in the first six months of 2014 for CAs with less than 3 years’ seniority;

- revise the 6-year anti-cumulation rule (on this point the Collective has obtained a satisfactory result: the rule is now for 7 years, with the interim period not taken into account);

- rehire as promised unemployed contract staff who took a rigorous selection test on entry (CAST), instead of the present recruitment process for contract staff who did not pass a selection on the basis of an evaluation of their professional knowledge and skills;

- organise transfers for CAs between the Commission and the various institutions, agencies, offices and delegations in order to extend the term of their employment;

- ensure the advertising of all vacant positions by the institutions, agencies, offices and delegations;

- define a new policy for contract staff covering all aspects of their careers.

 The above proposals are supported by the majority of the trade unions,

Please sign the petition already signed by more than 3.500 colleagues

The Commission decided to change the working time to 40 hours/week and cut staff by 5%, and in some cases by 10%. This is creating problems in the inter-institutional crèches with constant staffing levels where the administration wants to increase the opening hours while reducing the quality of working conditions for childcare workers and of the service provided for the children and therefore for the parents (civil servants, temporary and contract employees, etc.).
U4U/RS and its partners R&D, Conf. SFE, FFPE, have recommended an approach which merges the interests of both the childcare workers and the parents: improving the quality of care for the children in the crèche and the working conditions of the crèche staff, without which the former cannot be achieved.

That is why we have asked the Commission:

• Not to increase the number of educational contact hours of the staff;

• To double the number of childcare workers during opening hours at the end of the day in order to increase the adult/child ratio, which is currently inadequate;

• To consider the children of the childcare workers as a priority in the crèches, as is done for administrative and service staff in European schools;

• To refuse to introduce a childcare service in the crèches after 6.15 p.m. in which the children are grouped together regardless of age and without the level of supervision that applies during the day.

• To increase the evening opening hours by 15 or 30 minutes: 6.30 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and 6 p.m. on Friday;

• To this end, to increase the number of childcare workers and nurses;

• To decide on an action plan to provide a long-term solution for the lack of available places (more than 850 children on the waiting list) within two years by creating extra places in inter-institutional crèches;

• To begin a social dialogue as soon as possible with DG HR, rather than with the technical group of the OIB as proposed in some quarters;

• To invite staff delegations and parent associations to social dialogue meetings.

The demands made by U4U concerning crèches correspond to the expectations of both staff and users and are supported by some members of senior management concerned about the working environment of their co-workers.

The last social dialogue meeting resulted in crèche opening hours from 7.45 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (instead of 8 a.m. to 6.15 p.m.), without organising a childcare system rejected by everyone. The crèches are going to be audited, in particular to see if there is a need to increase the number of staff. We can see that the matter is not settled, but the main issues are on the table. They can be resolved through social dialogue if the staff remain engaged and the unions united.

The SFIE, one of the traditional trade unions of the institutions in the Commission, has joined U4U and USHU in the Regroupement syndical, the Trade Union Alliance. This trade union group therefore represents 15% of the staff at the Commission. The SFIE will strengthen our presence, particularly at the Commission in Brussels and at the Ispra site.

This membership of the RS is evidence of the drawing power of our union movement. U4U is continuing to develop both internally and externally. We thank our colleagues at the SFIE for their confidence.

U4U at your service
Georges Vlandas Président

Jean-Paul Soyer Secrétaire général
Vlassios Sfyroeras Secrétaire à la communication et à la proximité
Victor Juan-Linares Secrétaire à l'organisation

Patrice Grosjean

Fabrice Andreone (General Affairs, information, legal issues),
Jacques Babot ('Over 50' file and pensioners, GRASPE),
Ute Bolduan (Outside Union)
Paul Clairet (intellectual debate),
Trémeur Denigot (GUDEE, co-editor of Education européenne),
Tomás García Azcarate (External relations, editor of GRASPE),
Gerard Hanney Labastille (Luxembourg site),
Agim Islamaj (monitoring of statutory issues, limited duration contracts) ,
Alain Liberos – interinstitutional Affairs
Pierre Loubières (Eurocontrol),
Sazan Pakalin (Ispra),
Kim Slama (Statutory affairs)
Bertrand Soret (EEAS, HU),
Georges Spyrou (European Schools),
Brunhilde Thelen (relations with USHU)
Catherine Vieilledent-Monfort : relations avec le monde associatif
Sylvie Vlandas (Training, COPAR)
Carmen Zammit (issues concerning the post 2004 reform).

Secrétariat : Gonzalez Fortes, Isabel Victoria
Tel interne: 69 671

CCR Bruxelles: DENIGOT Trémeur, Ispra: PAKALIN Sazan
EUROCONTROL: Loubières Pierre
FPI: LIAMINE Alessandro
HR: LEONET Philippe
OIB: TOUT Brigitte, PANDUCCIO Antonio
OP : BRITES NUNES Margarida, MIZZI Joseph
RTD: Cov DUMONT Yves, KERAUDREN Philippe, CM: COSTESCU Alexandru Sorin, RTD Orban: VLANDAS Sylvie

Oui, j'adhère !                   Yes, I join !


éditeur responsable: Georges Vlandas
responsable de la rédaction : Vlassios Sfyroeras

équipe de rédaction : Paul Clairet, Fabrice Andreone, Sylvie Vlandas,  Tomas Garcia Azcarate, Kim Slama, Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, J.-P. Soyer


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