Le Lien The Link
syndicalisme européen, citoyen, participatif et unitaire
August 2014 – n°40
Although the Commission seems to want to review the social dialogue, we do not yet know whether it simply wants to make cosmetic changes or intends to truly reform the system.
For its part, the union representation at the Commission has opened discussions with a view to adopting a joint approach. Better late than never.
Dialogue within a European institution is important. It is necessary to manage the frequent changes within the Commission and other institutions. It is also necessary to avoid arbitrary imposition of rules. It is necessary in order to ensure that rules are respected and improved in the interests of both staff and the institutions, whose interests are mutually dependent. It must be implemented at all levels, including locally, during reforms, restructuring, changes in the definition of policies, etc.
An effort must be made on both sides to make it more efficient.
The Commission (the College) needs to be less dogmatic and view this dialogue as an investment and not simply as a cost, or even a constraint or necessary evil.
The social dialogue needs to be galvanised within our institution which should focus more on reaching an agreement with social partners and adopt a participatory management approach for its services.
In addition, the social dialogue should be better planned to make it less ad hoc and to provide for staff consultation.
The College is not sufficiently involved. Union proposals are too frequently rejected, even when they are consensual. The unions are not given the opportunity to influence its agenda, even with sound proposals. Too often, when it exists, such an agenda is not respected by the College. The political context is, of course, challenging, but this factor alone cannot explain certain shortcomings.
For its part, staff representation must be in a position to propose necessary operational improvements, present insofar as relevant joint proposals or at least be allowed to express divergent views. On this question, there is a lot of work to be done.
U4U has already publicly expressed its views on the steps that need to be taken. We also have new proposals, which we will unveil first of all to our partners so as not to pre-empt current inter-union discussions.
The most important thing for the moment is to give a joint inter-union approach every chance of success.
If you are still satisfied with our services and actions and want to support us:
Why not join U4U and pay a membership fee, if you are not yet a member, or pay the support contribution which is €60 a year instead of the customary rate of €15 a year?
You undoubtedly follow some of our publications. They reflect our determination to help you understand the challenges and complexity of the issues facing us, and are published on a regular basis, in FR, then systematically in English.
Our small, but very committed team is active in various joint committees where our voice is heard and makes a difference. We also report regularly on our actions.
We are present in several Directorates-General, and are close to you, in a very concrete way. Our actions are often effective.
In order to enable us to continue to operate efficiently, we need your support as members.
Your membership enhances our legitimacy among unions and vis-à-vis the administration. It supports us and gives us strength to continue, despite the difficult context of the social dialogue at the Commission, and it enables us, in material terms, to meet our costs.
For example, this year, we lodged an appeal with the Tribunal against annex X of the Staff Regulations and the absence of social dialogue. We have incurred significant legal expenses.
Not everyone agrees on the utility of the social dialogue in the institutions. Yet, every year, our colleagues at DG EMPL publish a state of play report on the social dialogue in the European Union. This year, this report underscores the essential nature of this dialogue as a means of reducing the costs of industrial disputes, sharing and facilitating a better understanding of the reasons for and objectives of change and improving the quality of jobs.
For U4U, the primary function of the social dialogue is to enable all members of a complex organisation such as the Commission to gain a better understanding and to make sense of how it works. Today, the decisions taken are more quickly becoming obsolete: we are in a process of constant change, which continuously throws up new challenges. It is necessary to adapt, understand the issues and change with the world (ideally ahead of it) without losing either our soul or our values, since we want to conserve the solidarity which is the cornerstone of the European project. The social dialogue is an opportunity to ensure greater adherence to change by all stakeholders, provided that this dialogue exists and is of good quality.
That is what we are endeavouring to achieve, for everyone.
And that is why we ask you to continue to support us, as a member (€15) or as a donor (€60).
Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme: what should we do?Persistent rumours have been circulating for some time about our sickness insurance system. There are claims that it is in deficit and that something has to be done urgently.
However, the reality is quite different: the 2012 deficit is approximately 9 million Euros, while we have a reserve of around 270 million Euros. This means we have enough money for at least 25 years, even if the deficit continues, which remains to be seen. There is no need for any panic measures.
However, at the behest of some staff representatives, a dangerous letter was sent to various department heads (our system is common to all institutions) proposing an urgent increase in the monthly contributions we pay from our salary, and that the PMO should be instructed to stop paying for certain services. Other ideas were proposed, such as (again) additional insurance at our expense.
Our sickness insurance scheme is funded by our contributions, in other words, our indirect salaries: 1.7% from the employees (1/3) and 3.4% from the employer (2/3). This system has been subject to an operational deficit for some years.
U4U believes that the current situation is not of immediate concern and that our present system must be retained, and indeed improved. In fact, with a substantial reserve (270 million Euros) and regular increases in contributions – due to progression through the grades, promotions and the results of the future method from 2015 – our system has firm foundations.
A modest deficit compared to the reserve, caused by temporary problems
The main reasons for this modest deficit are as follows:
a) The 2004 reform, by lowering starting salaries, deprived the scheme of some of its expected revenue for a time; the 2013 reform struck it a further blow by slowing down and halting careers.
b) Freezing index-linked salaries contributes to the fund’s deficit by keeping salaries, and therefore contributions, at a lower level.
c) The retired population is experiencing a demographic peak, so it is natural that this sector is consuming more in terms of healthcare than the working population.
d) It should also be stressed that the widespread practice of over-invoicing (+15% in Luxembourg, a little less in Brussels) increases the operating deficit.
This operating deficit is also limited by the financial revenue of the Sickness Insurance Scheme’s reserve.
Faced with this situation, it seems incomprehensible that some managers are inclined to act quickly:
a) by increasing revenue through raising contributions. This method is inappropriate at the moment, because an increase, even a slight one, would be difficult to bear in the current context of budget cuts;
b) by reducing expenditure through introducing measures intended to lower the reimbursement for some medical services. High-expense sectors under the microscope include: long illnesses, hospitalisation, etc., i.e. those sectors most important to staff faced with a serious illness.
Balancing the books
These measures are unnecessary as, even in the short term, we can see that the situation is likely to improve and that the books will be balanced:
a) The new method of adjusting salaries. When we see the positive effect of the slight increase of 0.8% for 2012, reducing the predicted deficit for 2013 to slightly below 3 million Euros, it is reasonable to assume that this deficit will be substantially reduced by the salary increases in the coming years.
b) The careers of staff hired in the lowest grades since 2004 are in the course of developing and the process of promotions and steps means they are now reaching better paid grades, which will boost revenue.
c) The retirement of the ‘baby boomers’ of recent years is in the process of natural correction; the age pyramid will resume a more normal shape over time.
d) Extending the retirement age (as deplorable as it is) will also have the effect of increasing contributions to the sickness fund from the full salaries of staff nearing the end of their careers.
There is therefore no need for urgency. The sickness insurance scheme has a total reserve of approximately 270 million Euros, which will last the system for many years (at least 25). In any case, this reserve allows us to take the time to see if the positive changes referred to will have a real impact on restoring the financial situation.
The initiative taken by some staff and retiree representatives in writing a dangerous letter is totally unjustified. Paying higher contributions, reducing the services covered by the PMO or moving some reimbursements to an additional insurance paid for by us as a supplement are not avenues to be explored lightly.
A considered proposal
U4U therefore proposes the following approach:
a) Not to take any hasty measures at the moment, while making sensible savings where possible, particularly by establishing agreements, taking measures to prevent over-invoicing, etc.
b) Specifying the mandate for the group of experts responsible for setting up simulations to take account of the developments referred to above and other external factors (e.g. level of expenditure on health).
c) Continuing to provide the same quality service as at present.
Annex : Table of changes in the deficit since 2003.
In recent months (December 2013 - May 2014), the Staff Regulations Committee has not been able to discharge its functions.
In the light of the intention of the institutions to implement a freeze on step progressions from 2014, on the basis of an assessment made in 2013, the staff representatives considered that this position violated the principle of non-retroactivity. The Staff Committees therefore withdrew their representatives from this body, considering that the institutions were not playing the game.
It should be noted that during the review of the Staff Regulations and its implementing texts, the Staff Regulations Committee had almost no input with regard to amending the text, compared with the role that it had played at the time of the 2004 reform.
This situation is very regrettable, since the committee’s members are experts on matters relating to the Staff Regulations and have a role to play in ensuring the legal consistency of the texts and compliance with relevant legal principles which underlie the European civil service.
The inescapable fact is that the institutions, in general, and the Commission in particular, did not allow the committee to operate efficiently, in that they rejected any changes to the text and required their representatives to vote en bloc, systematically in agreement with the texts proposed by the Commission, while refusing any amendments proposed by the staff representation which could only be accepted if they were also supported by the administration.
It is regrettable that the Staff Regulations Committee was unable to work freely on the review of the Staff Regulations and its implementing texts since its contribution would undoubtedly have improved provisions in several areas, in particular as regards transitional aspects.
The Staff Regulations Committee has recently resumed its work.
U4U calls on the Commission and institutions to do everything possible to improve the way in which this committee works and to re-establish the necessary climate of trust to enable it to function efficiently.
4 schools: Frankfurt- am -Main(Type I), Karlsruhe (Type I), Munich (Type I) and
RheinMain (Type III)
Summary of type II and III schools
At present, there are 9 “accredited” European Schools; others have applied for accreditation (in Croatia for example).
In 2013, the Mediation Service received 266 new requests, 31 of which were declared inadmissible (18 of them were referred to other services). It also continued its investigations into 91 previously reported cases (19 cases from 2011 and 72 from 2012).
These 326 cases can be divided into two categories:
• Financial and non-financial rights and obligations (193);
• Relationship disputes or infringements of personal dignity in the workplace: allegation of harassment and disputes (133).
Typology of cases in 2013
Source : document SEC(2014) 384
Summary of “Un New Deal pour l'€urope – Croissance, euro, compétitivité” (A New Deal for €urope – Growth, Euro, Competitiveness)
The New Deal (in French “Nouvelle donne”), launched in the 1930s by Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the 1929 Wall Street Crash will resonate with Europeans faced with the effects of the crisis in certain eurozone countries .
In March 2013, two economists, Michel AGLIETTA and Thomas BRAND, published a weighty tome entitled “Un New Deal pour l’€urope – Croissance, euro, compétitivité” . After having analysed the background to the Euro (incomplete currency without budget or fiscal policy), the nature of the ECB (a monetary body not placed under the authority of any sovereign power), the impact of the financial crisis on the eurozone, economic and political errors committed in management of the crisis (in particular the “Fiscal Compact” and the “Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance” (TSCG), the authors emphasise the conditions and instruments for boosting growth and ask the question: “What political union for the eurozone?”.
Numerous declarations and analyses of economists and experts increasingly
highlight that mobilisation of existing resources, at both European and national
levels (use of the EU’s Structural Funds, and participation of the European
Investment Bank in joint financing programmes with States), are insufficient to
stimulate growth and reduce unemployment in several eurozone countries. Without
the political will to launch a vast public investment programme, there is a risk
that the building of Europe may be undermined. This conviction of the authors
has been confirmed, if further proof was required, by the rise of populist
movements, Euro-sceptics and Europhobes of all persuasion, observed in the wake
of the European elections last May.
And the authors conclude: “(…) There can be no institutional progress capable of saving the eurozone without a new social contract. (…) It is not a matter of quantifying one GDP growth rate over another (…), but rather a matter of defining a sustainable development contract capable of reviving innovation. Such a contract involves at the same time European institutions in the financial area, European strategic programming via a reform of the pricing system and a territorial decentralisation of industrial projects which could be under the control of citizens. Trans-regional projects not based on inter-State relations would act as the vectors for emergence of a feeling of belonging to Europe.
A Europe undergoing renovation in accordance with this social contract would rediscover a prominent role in global governance which is indispensable to meet global challenges. On a political level it could avoid the fate attributed to it by its geographical situation and economic decline: that of being an appendage of Asia.”
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI): “New Deal for Europe”
Motivated by the convictions of Michel AGLIETTA, Thomas BRAND and many other economists, as well as the stakeholders in citizen movements (unions, civil society organisations and others), an initiative has recently been launched which runs counter to current austerity policies, namely an extraordinary European public investment plan and a European solidarity fund for the creation of jobs, in particular for young people, financed by new own resources of the European Union. The name of this initiative is “New Deal for Europe”. Consult the ECI website.
We wish to remind readers that Article 11, paragraph 4 of the Treaty of Lisbon (Treaty on European Union -TEU) stipulates: “Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.” (See the home page of the Commission’s website, which provides detailed information on the state of play of these citizens’ initiatives).
Certainly, only a handful of the proposed citizens’ initiatives have so far successfully jumped through all the hoops put in place by the Treaty (to date, three out of 40 ECI!).
The “New Deal for Europe” ECI, involving among others a number of young citizens from as many as ten Member States to date, is particularly worthy of success and, above all, of our support.
Please sign the initiative! To sign the European Citizens’ Initiative...
 In November 2013, Pierre LARROUTUROU had formed in France, ahead of the May
2014 European election, a new party called “Nouvelle Donne”, with key figures
which promotes proposals for economic and social reform.
The aim of this agreement concluded on 5 February 2014 is to strengthen legislative cooperation between these bodies. It contains in particular a section concerning staff to develop the European Parliament’s legislative analytical capacity (directives, regulations) throughout the legislative adoption procedure, in the framework of creating a service for research.
This new service will help to provide legislative support to the two Committees. The agreement contains precise information on the various staff deployments which will affect in particular the joint translation service of the two Committees.
The Parliament’s capacity to analyse and amend legislative proposals will thus be reinforced.
The following items were discussed at the last technical Group meeting:
- Survey on the operation of the day nurseries:
- Survey among parents on day nursery opening times.
- Flat screen TVs for internal information
- Car parking:
- Fire alarm system at Clovis:
- Medical service:
Relocations to DG AGRI: taking the personnel into consideration
The recent negotiations regarding the EU budget have not only succeeded in cutting Commission staff costs, they have also shrunk its office space. Between now and 2023, the office pool is to be reduced by 8%; in other words, rather more than the number of positions eliminated (5%).
The DG AGRI has not been spared, but its timetable is quite demanding: it is required to give up the space which the OIB, responsible for calculating, recovering and organising space, is demanding by the end of 2015!
Why the rush? Because quite independently of the planned reduction, the OIB has failed to lease the buildings needed to house the colleagues occupying offices with leases terminating in 2014, which need to be accommodated, in time. This is a mistake which will have to be paid for in part by the AGRI staff.
As a basis for its space-saving calculations, the OIB decided to assume that the minimum number of square metres laid down in the Accommodation Conditions Manual [manuel des conditions d'hébergement – MCH] would also be the maximum number of square metres to which anyone had a right. By applying the same rule to all the Commission buildings in Brussels, the following unjust situation has arisen: 1m² of a new building, one where the ergonomics have been established to meet modern working requirements, is not the same as a m² in an older building with an obsolete structure, like that of the DG AGRI. You only have to take a stroll through the various EC buildings to see that not everybody is in the same boat, even if they do have the same number of square metres.
At a time when reform has squeezed everything – salaries, careers, rights – this haste to cram us into spaces which are not only smaller, but uncomfortable, and sometimes even unhealthy, is being taken very badly by the DG AGRI staff.
U4U AGRI has launched a petition on behalf of the AGRI personnel to be forwarded to the OIB and DG HR.
We are calling for the implementation of measures to alleviate the pressure which the extension of working hours in cramped spaces will inevitably be felt by all involved.
- We reject the idea that the
minimum space set down in the MCH should become the maximum applicable.
DG AGRI : Let's participate to the debate
As you perhaps remember, U4U has always asked for consultations of the personnel when we are concerned. The future of the CAP is a clear field of concern. This is why we support the initiative taken by our hierarchy to consult us on the challenges for European agriculture beyond 2020.
Many of us have something to say about CAP. We could, obviously, be critic with the questionnaire but it has the big merit to be there. If you don't like the answers proposed, do not hesitate to use the box "others" to explain your opinion.
Take time to share your point of view, to be active actors of our common future. Participate!
We hope that the results of the consultation will continue to be part of a credible and open exercise
U4U AGR: Kim Slama et Tomas Garcia Azcarate
AST and AD promotions: what should be done and how?
The promotion procedure commenced on 14 April. Since the entry into force of the revised Staff Regulations, this procedure now has two components: the normal promotion procedure and the end of career procedure.
For the normal promotion procedure, the promotion rates of the Staff Regulations have been maintained. We want them to be fully used or, failing that, when they cannot be exhausted for a given grade, the unused budget resources should be used for the lower grades. This “cascade” (transfer) mechanism would help to reduce disparities more quickly, in particular those which affect the post-2004 staff and staff working in small DGs (whose promotion opportunities are fewer in proportion to their numbers compared with the large DGs).
For the end of career staff, the 2014 Staff Regulations significantly restrict the careers of:
• AD12 and 13 staff who do not have management or adviser status.
• all AST staff, who are now restricted to grade AST 9.
Staff in these end of career grades are therefore ineligible for the normal promotion procedure.
However, the Staff Regulations provide for some degree of flexibility with regard to these career limits; the Commission must implement these rapidly, as the other institutions are doing.
U4U therefore calls on the Commission to take the following steps as a matter of priority:
- to fully use the promotion rates of the Staff Regulations in each grade; failing that, to transfer the available budgetary resources to the lower grades, in order to accelerate the reduction of disparities;
- before the end of 2014, as provided for in the transitional measures of the new Staff Regulations, to assign 600 AD 12 and AD13 staff to "equivalent" Head of Unit/Adviser posts, to enable them to participate again, as quickly as possible, in the normal promotion procedure and thus pursue their career;
- to rapidly publish "Senior Assistant" posts in order to enable our AST 9 colleagues to pursue their career towards grades 10 and 11. An identical approach will be adopted for "senior administrators";
- to ensure that this procedure as a whole is implemented on an equal footing with the participation of the staff representatives.
Mendoza / Commission decision of February 27 2014
With reference to this decision, the EU Public Service Tribunal was in full agreement with the Commission and EPSO on a number of important aspects of the organisation of the competition:
- The fact that a candidate has passed the written test earlier does not stand as a disadvantage or even breach of the principle of equality of treatment. In fact, the Tribunal has adopted the position since 2008 that candidates are assessed on the basis of skills and not knowledge. In this new system the order in which steps are passed is of little importance;
- The stability of the jury is still important, but must be refined according to the stage of the competition: in other words, it is important for the jury to have a full meeting every two or three days for the allocation of the final marks.
U4U organise une conférence sur le thème :
Bien gérer son stress professionnel
Avec Dimitri Haikin, Psychologue, Psychothérapeute d'orientation analytique, formé en EMDR et en Tapping énergétique, Dimitri intervient depuis plus de 15 ans en tant que formateur dans différentes institutions en Belgique et en Suisse. Il est spécialisé dans le développement personnel du travailleur : estime de soi, confiance en soi, assertivité, gestion émotionnelle, du stress et des relations d’équipe.
Comprendre les mécanismes du stress :
8 septembre 12h30-14h00 Grande salle du CCP, Loi 80
Le Comité belge de l'initiative
U4U et la plateforme pour une Europe solidaire
organisent deux conférences-débats avec Michel AGLIETTA
Spécialiste des questions de régulation économique, Michel Aglietta a en particulier travaillé sur les nouvelles stratégies boursières sacrifiant l'emploi à la rentabilité et leur impact macroéconomique. Il est l'auteur, avec Thomas Brand, de l'ouvrage intitulé : Un NEW DEAL pour L' €UROPE (Édition Odile Jacob, Paris, 2014)
U4U is an active union that maintain close contact with colleagues via workplace meetings, including outside Brussels. It participates in negotiation with the administration. We have an up-to-date informative website and we publish regular newsletters, which are systematically translated into English. We will defend you individually before the administration and before the Civil Service Tribunal.
All this has a cost. Help us to meet it.
If you are not yet a member of U4U, join us because we need your contribution.
If you are already a member, increase your modest contribution of €15 to a support contribution of €60 a year.
We need your financial support. Help us to defend your interests, propose more acceptable staff management policies and challenge actions which could gravely affect us.
To join and/or switch to a support contribution, use this form on our website or contact us (list of contact persons below).
|U4U at your service|
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