With the cooperation of
No Xy Lo
n°35 - 25 November 2014
• Editorial: "Fairer gender
representation in senior management staff? Whatever!"
|• Appeal against the Staff
• Near, next steps: the U4U-Near, U4U-Devco, U4U-Elarg position
• DG ENV workshops
• Upcoming meetings
• Comitology: clashes of interests and sabotage of EU policy
• An inevitable ageing?
• First-hand account: exchanges of officials
Editorial: "Fairer gender representation in senior management staff? Whatever!"
Our Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva says that she is eager to better guarantee the place of women in the European Commission, in particular as regards executive positions. The target: at least 40% women in middle and senior management positions by 2019, that is to say, before her departure – which shows she means it.
Women may well outnumber men within the Commission, but, as things now stand, they represent less than one-third of the "senior managers", less than one-third of the "middle management", less than half of the administrators, but nearly two-thirds of the assistants, not to mention the contractual agents. Despite best efforts and some encouraging results, the old inequalities linger on.
The causes are many and varied and need to be analyzed in a participative action and in social dialogue. This is the first step that has to be taken if things are ever to change at all.
Among the avenues that we can explore together, we note the absence of a human resources management policy, talent scouting, and professional career guidance or coaching. The absence of such a policy does not serve the cause of professional equality between the sexes.
We might also mention the increasing workload in the context of 40 hours, making more difficult the shouldering of responsibilities by female colleagues who, in point of fact, still have so much to do around the home despite positive developments in recent years. Nor does the absence of a careers policy facilitate the return of women to their responsibilities once their children have completed their compulsory state education, as they usually continue to be looked after by their mothers.
Besides which, and perhaps even more importantly, it is a case of mechanisms and attitudes at work within our institution that do not favour equality between men and women. The institution inclines towards male professional behaviour. The examples are too numerous to mention.
When we speak of the position of women in the institution, we must not retreat to our hierarchical bunkers but, rather, think of all women now experiencing and undergoing a process of professional devaluation compounded by some unfortunate managerial practices in a context of reduced workforce. For these female colleagues, as for the men who have suffered the same fate, we must engage mechanisms for professional restoration and the re-evaluation of occupations.
40% of women attaining senior management roles is a good thing; improving the lot of all women working in the institution is better. This will also be about enhancing non-hierarchical career paths.
Juncker Commission already under fire
The Juncker Commission does not seem to be pleasing everyone. The declarations of its President – "I am not a capital man", " My Commission is the last chance", "We need a plan to restart the EU economy ", "I'm not in the pay of the Member States" – have clearly caused displeasure and drawn fire. The first flak was not long coming and – to no-one's surprise – from the minions of the far right, wedded to the eurosceptics, who rejected a vote of censure that was supported by 75 MEPs.
The Council has refused to grant the Union budget until the outstanding debts have been paid off. EU debts are increasing, from 11 billion in late 2011 to nearly 30 billion between now and the end of 2014. The European Parliament and the Member States squarely oppose the 2014 European budget. The legislative conciliation procedure has run up against the Council's refusal to extend the European budget.
The European Union budget seems once again to find itself in a dead-end, making it difficult to implement the recovery plan hoped for by the Commission. Is this really the solution they were looking for?
The European Parliament for its part gave the go-ahead in the 2015 budget to an agreement on the settlement of part of the unpaid debts of the 2014 budget. The Member States refused to inject into the EU budget 5 billion euros from penalties or infringement of the EU rules of competition; these sums are customarily refunded to the governments. The European Commission had proposed to reallocate them direct to the European budget in order to contain the accumulation of unpaid debts, placing the EU in a precarious legal situation.
The European Commission must now submit a new proposal before 15 December. It hopes to complete negotiations before the end of 2014. The new proposal from the European Commission will have to be ratified by the European Parliament during the plenary session from 15 to 18 December, final deadline, otherwise the EU will have to observe the provisional twelfths system as of 1 January.
VP Kristalina Georgieva in charge of budget and personnel meets the trade unions
On 21 November, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva met all the trade unions and personnel committees and lent a listening ear.
The VP wishes to maintain and develop the level of excellence of staff of the Commission. She is keen to assist the progress of a career based on merit and on excellence. She will promote policies of mobility and career development. Moreover, she is aiming to increase the proportion of women in management to 40%. One of her main focuses will be the improvement of "corporate talent management". She is also aware of the problem of wellbeing at work, an issue on which she means to press ahead with her discussions with the staff and their representatives.
She pointed out the drag imposed by the present economic and budget situation and recognised the difficulty of doing more and better with fewer resources. However, she feels that the institution really has no other choice. She warns that improvement in one particular area may sometimes have to be balanced by less in another.
On the whole the Vice-President appears to be open to dialogue, including where there is disagreement, and ready to tackle employee’s career challenges.
In her address, the representative of U4U stressed the following elements:
· U4U supports the position of the President of the Commission, the VP / High Representative and the VP in charge of the budget and staff: it is a case of not disappointing the hope kindled by the highest-ranking persons in the College;
· While it may be true that "the 507 million citizens of the Union are the true patrons of the European public services" (statement by the VP), it is all the more necessary to implement policies that are useful to society and that meet its expectations. This will restore among the members of the European public services a professional pride that they lost somewhere down the line over the past few years. This will justify increasing resources and strengthening the European public services. That is the very reason why U4U supports the citizens' initiative "A new Deal 4 EU", which argues the case for the use of an additional 400 billion euros in favour of long-term development and youth employment. Such an initiative must be managed by the Commission;
· For five years now U4U has called for the introduction of a human resources policy, a policy for careers, the detection of talent that is key to extending working life, motivating staff, and increasing the numbers of women in the upper echelons;
· U4U supports an energetic policy designed to reduce disparities, risks and inequalities: to that end we have adopted concrete and ambitious yet realistic proposals;
· U4U believes that the Commission needs to guarantee the promotion of a unified personnel policy for all services that more or less depend on it such as, for example, the execution agencies and the EEAS;
· The success of all these various drives requires the development of an active dialogue policy at all levels: there is no way forward other than participation in the discussions to unleash the creativity and energy of our personnel.
U4U at DG AGRI
U4U AGRI is a branch of the trade union platform U4U, a trade union that places the European project at the heart of personnel management (missions and needs) and that campaigns for local trade unionism, allowing the emergence of solutions tailored to each DG, agency, office or representation. Accordingly, U4U AGRI will regularly consult the heads of the DG, in the interests of good cooperation, on numerous subjects concerning our colleagues.
To this end, U4U AGRI is proud to have rallied nearly 300 colleagues to support the Director-General AGRI in his negotiations with the IPO on the issue of reduction of spaces and relocation. We can say with satisfaction that the DG stood its ground on the question of returning space, keeping to its proposal, less reductive than that of the IPO, and that our request not to allow the moves to coincide with the workload peak of our colleagues in rural development was accommodated.
The DG AGRI kitchen garden
Following an administrative decision the IPO may no longer be involved in spatial planning without prior consultation with staff concerned by the changes. This decision of good (and basic) governance is good news.
Last winter, staff occupying the LOI 130 building were consulted regarding the redevelopment of the inner court, with enough time to stop, think and put it all in words. This yielded three ideas: extension and redesign of the canteen terrace, more "greenery" and … a kitchen garden. The IPO heeded and actioned these requests (delivery of kitchen garden 15 July) with the support of the DG Human Resources.
This kitchen garden is a special project with tangible results. It expresses the need to work the soil and get close to where life begins; it points the way to urban and community farming (along the lines of models such as "incredible edible"). Everyone speaks of the joy and pleasure of sowing and reaping together. The project allows specialist agronomists and amateurs in DG AGRI to exchange their know-how and experience with their new colleagues, educating them on aspects of their jobs. It creates a space for sharing and relaxation and strengthens the link within the DG between the "gardeners" working in the different units and employees invited to pick the cultivated plants. The kitchen garden visually enhances the space by offering a touch of "nature" in a court surrounded by concrete, the only view for half staff of the DG.
To lay out the AGRI kitchen garden, colleagues set aside working time to attend meetings to found and organise the collective. They have a dedicated website on the DG intranet. This opportunity for numerous colleagues in the collective to demonstrate their practical skills reveals a rich and varied range of talents that, through the very act of expression, increase the feel-good factor and contribute to the enrichment and the education of all concerned. It is a useful communication tool, every bit as efficient, if not even more so than certain team building or publicity drives, as it gives the DG an image of openness and puts us in a good position to encourage inter-DG mobility and attract talent.
For U4U, the tasks performed by those responsible for coordinating and driving this project should be included in their professional assessments, to recognise not only their contribution to better joint operations and the atmosphere of the DG, but also to enhancing these equally vital horizontal skills – skills that a working collective needs.
The ambition of the kitchen gardeners is, of course, to keep the initiative going. The court is big and wide, and the kitchen garden could expand (there is no shortage of demand), but each BAC infrastructure costs €300. U4U can only encourage DG AGRI to find the necessary means to financially support this activity that combines wellbeing, continuous education and teambuilding for the mutual benefit of DG AGRI and all its colleagues and staff.
AC social dialogue: talks between trade unions and administration start at last
More than five years after the start-up of the Contract Agents’ Collective, supported by U4U and other forces, which, upon reform of the Staff Regulations, allowed:
· the extension to 6 years of contracts in central institution services;
· the right to take internal establishment competitions;
· the promise of a new contractual human resources policy;
DG HR has announced three meetings to hammer out HR policy and the content of the general implementing provisions (GIP). The proposed dates are:
· Selection and recruitment, 27 November
· Career, 03 December
· End of contract, 16 December
The success of these negotiations will depend on the trade unions and government departments. Staff demands are likewise shared by executive and managerial staff, keen to motivate colleagues, avoid "turn over" and retain top talent.
Furthermore, the Collective's appeal has thus far been signed by 5,010 colleagues with the support of several trade unions. This appeal did much to trigger discussions with DG HR. The inter-union public meeting of 18 November was an opportunity to check that all trade unions were in agreement with the demands cited in our appeal.
All the more reason to sign and get others to sign
U4U, for participatory trade union action
To better target its action, U4U consulted staff on the policy texts drawn up by groups of members. Based on the feedback, U4U has improved and corrected its aim. We have thus embarked on consultations on IMCD, on internal competitions, on working hours and vulnerability. Your answers steer our actions.
More recently we started two consultations. The first concerns proposals to be made to the Commission concerning the reduction of inequalities and disparities over the short and the longer term.
The second concerns our trade union philosophy. Our considered opinion is that to divide staff is nothing more nor less than to thwart one's own interests. We advise working clearly towards staff unity.
While the first consultation enjoyed quite considerable support (90% for), the second incited more opposition (25% against, 10% abstentions). This prompted us to refine our action on this latter subject.
Promotions 2014: 4,600 promotions to the Commission
The list of employees promoted during the financial year 2014 has now been published. This year some 25% of staff will be promoted. Now that's what we call a result!
In order to balance promotion opportunities more fairly, the Commission decision on promotions will have to be adjusted so that only colleagues who actually have two years of seniority may be promoted, saving the rare cases of exceptional applications accepted or rejected by the Promotions Board.
In a more general way, U4U declines a categorical approach to the matter, favouring an approach that defends ALL staff as regards promotion, whether contractual, pre- or post-2014, pre- or post-2004. This is why we hope the upcoming promotions review committee, scheduled to meet soon with DG HR and with the OSPs, will look into the application of the promotion rates in Annex 1B and the collective promotion guarantees (% of promotions per grade of normal career).
Unless these indicators are duly respected, U4U and the other OSPs will press the Commission for corrective measures to remedy the situation.
Appeal against the Staff Regulations
The European Court recently ruled inadmissible a direct appeal against the Staff Regulations (as it happened, against Annex X - Case T-23-14), thus confirming its very restrictive jurisprudence on the right to directly oppose texts of general application. This ruling does, however, confirm that the Civil Service Tribunal must examine the appeal against the Staff Regulations following claims under Art. 90. The CST is therefore not competent to rule on the merits of the case.
Furthermore, the Tribunal has not yet delivered a decision with regard to the appeal on the same issue, made on behalf of the trade unions (T-17-14). This case turns out to be somewhat more complex, since the trade unions as such do not have access to the appeal claims process.
A direct appeal (T-20-14) against the provisions relating to expatriation allowances and travel expenses was also dismissed for the same reasons; the Tribunal gave it to be understood that an individual official may not invoke the procedural guarantees of the Staff Regulations as far as concerns social consultation, which is, in part, the subject of the sub judice appeal entered on behalf of the trade unions.
The administration also systematically dismissed the claims against application of the Staff Regulations under Art. 90. The unions involved in the collective action therefore chose this emblematic class act and took it to the CST. Some members of staff felt frustrated that their own case had not been selected but, lest we forget, the Tribunal, had it been flooded with similar appeals, would have proceeded in exactly the same way: suspending all appeals against a court decision in a representative case.
The trade unions therefore chose to examine the representative case themselves and, by so doing, avoided the rather substantial additional legal costs. In case of a successful outcome the effects would, of course, be one way or another extended to all concerned.
The CST has not yet announced its decision in these cases. Staff will of course be kept informed of developments.
Near, next steps: the U4U-Near, U4U-Devco, U4U-Elarg position
Back to the Commission again, new structures with new Directorate Generals coming, others going, mergers, hive-offs and transfers… These reorganisations will most likely induce "the search for synergies", resulting in a reduced workforce and an increased workload.
A new DG NEAR is being created. It will be created from the whole of DG ELARG, which no longer exists as such, plus a large part of DG DEVCO, more particularly its Direction Voisinage, the most affected. The "Turkish Cypriot" Task Force – part of DG ELARG – will be transferred to DG REGIO.
This internal restructuring throws up potential problems, not only for fine tuning relations with the DG, but also for the professional and personal lives of each and every one of us.
In this particular case, restructuring will involve a first stage of splitting and merging the different departments, but it is quite probable that a second stage of internal reorganisation of the new DG NEAR may prove to be necessary a few months later. At present nobody has much of an idea regarding the scale of that second phase.
The words of President Juncker: "You personify the spirit of our institution, and I'm counting on you, your experience and your professionalism, …" addressed to all staff, should immediately be followed by the introduction of efficient mechanisms for communication with staff. At least right here and right now, with all who are directly affected by these new reorganisations and, needless to say, also with the trade union organisations that represent them.
U4U encourages you to get in touch with these contact persons in the various DGs affected by this restructuring who can listen and effectively communicate your ideas and concerns up through your hierarchy.
U4U is also asking the DGs concerned to reserve rooms in which to discuss with staff in order to best reconcile the restructuring and the organisation’s needs with individuals’ needs and interests.
The DG ENV workshops
In DG ENV, nobody waits around for 'top-down" directives to conceive and propose activities designed to raise awareness and prevent psycho-social disorders (DG HR estimates that these conditions are the leading risk for future sickness expenditure by the Common Health Insurance Scheme!). In DG ENV, the HR unit favours listening to the needs expressed by staff as part of an instrumental vision of how wellbeing can boost performance.
That is why the team in charge of training has set off yonder in search of examples of pioneering initiatives (Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l'Environnement – IBGE and Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos). In 2014, a programme was rolled out focused on a set of subjects concerning DG HR and medical services (prevention of burn-out, nutrition, wellbeing) associated with some original activities modelled on those put forward by the IBGE. Nutrition workshops were proposed for the Thursday evening: experts explained the relationship between products and nutrition, between nutrition and health, nutrition and balance, nutrition and the prevention of depression. Walks in the Forêt de Soignes are organised once a quarter to understand the life cycle of the forest, how to benefit from a walk in the woods, relax, really take time out.
These initiatives have met with great success and are very popular. The HR unit has since set up a representative test group comprising ten colleagues of all grades and statuses, all taking part in developing the programme. At the moment lunch-box workshops are offered to impart the simple pleasure of a good, healthy meal meeting the needs of the working day.
U4U pursues a policy of going out and meeting staff, wherever possible at their work places. Some upcoming events:
· Tuesday 25 November: proximity meeting DG AGRI (12:45 hrs);
· Wednesday 26 November: proximity meeting DG DEVCO (12:45 hrs);
· Friday 28 November: proximity meeting IPO (08:45 hrs);
· Saturday 29 November: meeting with J.J. Rabier, Principal Private Secretary to Jean Monet (16:00 hrs);
· Tuesday 9 December: proximity meeting DG DGT (12:45 hrs);
· Wednesday 10 December: debate meeting about a book on Jacques Delors (12:45 hrs);
· Friday 12 December: proximity meeting DG CNECT /REGIO /ENV / CLIMA / (12h45);
· Monday 15 December: U4U end-of-year drink (12:45 hrs);
· Tuesday 16 December: meeting to discuss and examine the European schools;
· Wednesday 17 December: meeting to debate our Graspe theoretical review of the future of the Juncker plan;
· Wednesday 17 December: meeting to discuss and examine the career situation of the assistants in the Commission (room Loi 80 2/209, from 12:30hrs to 14:00).
Comitology: clash of interests and sabotage of EU policy
The European patent which, if truth be told, caused all kinds of labour pains, has now become somehow monstrous after the many ramshackle compromises that attended its birth: will it be killed at birth?
The new European patent, approved by all the Member States except Spain and Italy, must be integrated in national legislation before it can enter into effect. However, the rules relating to the new patent jurisdictions and scheduled charges for registering and renewing them remain the subject of ongoing discussion.
The issue of price is currently being examined by a special committee of the European Patents Office, made up of representatives of different Member States. In the view of European industrial representatives, the national patent offices would be tempted to fix their costs at very high levels so as to protect their business within the Member States.
Under the cloak of anonymity, a specialist explains: "At the present juncture, a clash of interest is emerging within the committee of the European Patents Office; the office is trying to reach an agreement to fix the price. Well now, this committee is made up of numerous national patent offices. They all have every interest in fixing a price that will not decrease the number of patents being registered at the national patent offices."
The very principle of these committees, peopled by national experts having a vested interest in protecting their powers and scuppering European policies, must be fought untiringly. The list of conflicts of interests of any kind, that citizens would not suspect because no-one ever bothers to inform them otherwise, is long indeed. The upshot is that many European policies have been defused or robbed of their substance. For example, the "Single Sky", guided by committees consisting of national ATC service-providers who managed to keep hold of their activities and profits to the misfortune of the consumer, who ended up paying an exorbitant extra cost, estimated at 50% of the total invoice.
An inevitable ageing?
Today 5% of the staff of the Commission are over 60 years of age, 17.2% over 55 and one-third of staff over 50 years of age.
The effects of the extension of retirement age to 66 will not be felt immediately, thanks to the transition periods provided by the 2014 Staff Regulations.
Against the backdrop a reduced workforce (5% according to the Staff Regulations), the departures will be less than offset by the recruitment of younger persons. However, the abolition of age limits on recruitment, the job qualification requirements and the labour market situation only favour a rise in the average age of recruits (a phenomenon incidentally aggravated by the skew between qualification and grade, since the entry grades remain the same).
Still, if we consider that personnel management will last over the long term, the effects of a prolonged working life – with the slim possibilities of early retirements, combined with low recruitment levels – will, inevitably, result in a new greying of the civil service. All the more reason to also introduce a careers policy for the over-55s.
First-hand account: exchanges of officials: time to move up a gear?
The legal framework of the European Commission allows for exchanges, within the time limit of two years, between European officials and officials working in a Member State at regional or national level. In principle, this possibility is reserved for European officials wishing to organise an exchange in a country other than their country of origin.
Having been lucky enough to benefit from an exchange with a Spanish official from Aragon for two years up to May 2014, I can speak of an experience that was, on the whole, very positive for my colleague and for myself. After twenty years of working in five Directorate Generals of the European Commission I learnt a great deal about the reality out there in fields where I was able to contribute true European added value. I now hope to give my colleagues and superiors the benefit of my new experience. On the Spanish side, the regional authorities were pleased to have the opportunity to draw on the services of a European official over a two-year period and to be able to welcome back at the end of that period a colleague who had enhanced his expertise at European level.
This balance, on the whole – it must be said – very positive, does have certain limits all the same. The existing legal framework does not encourage the salary plan for officials coming to work in Brussels. The European Commission gives only a very low visibility to the system that it has set in place. In any event, exchange would require substantial investment in preparation so as, among other things, to make certain of feasibility and then to persuade line managers and families, a strong motivation then.
At a time where there is renewed focus on the growing divide between the European institutions and the "grassroots", which is a factor that drives Euroscepticism, as well as a certain "institutional fatigue" which can have an adverse effect on the motivation of European officials, why can we not dream of a new European Commission which would be guided by the policies that it promotes (mobility, lifelong learning and innovation) and would apply them vigorously to its human resources policy? Why not design a policy which would consider that European officials should in principle participate in at least one exchange during their career, in particular in the case of officials recruited without prior experience at national level? Why not develop an active policy of promoting exchanges and capitalising on the benefits of the resultant exchanges, at both national and regional levels? Innovation requires a significant modernisation of public administrations… let us set a good example! This certainly applies in respect of all the European institutions, and not for the European Commission alone. I am more than willing to share my experiences with any interested colleagues as well as the Administration.
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UNION FOR UNITY – U4U
Éditeur: Georges Vlandas
Comité de Rédaction: Fabrice Andreone, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, Patrice Grosjean, Sylvie Vlandas, Kim Slama,
Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Victor Juan Linares, Helen Conefrey, Philippe Keraudren, Catherine Vieilledent,
Olivier Brunet,Stephane André, Carmen Zammit, Bertrand Soret, Georges Spyrou, Tomas Garcia Azcarate, Jean-Paul Soyer
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