Newsletter from U4U : September 2015 – n°44
We are faced with a number of challenges as the end of the year approaches.
The Commission appears weak and to be out of touch when it comes to some crucial issues. When it is given the chance to take action, it does so with less urgency than the situation requires.
The inter-institutional debate on the subject of economic governance risks, if it ever finishes, causing further cutbacks. Will the Commission avoid seeing its financial resources further reduced at the next mid-term budgetary discussion?
The trade unions are failing to have issues that matter to staff included on the agenda of the social dialogue, and are even less successful in getting any concrete results: inequalities, career monitoring and talent-screening, reform of staff representation, organisation of mobility, including inter-institutional mobility, etc.
U4U has put together proposals for each of these issues (see our programme). We've started to discuss them with other unions, in order to develop a stable majority of ideas for the next three years and beyond.
In 2014, U4U decided, in a context of a reduction in the EU budget for 2014/2020, to support the citizens' initiative 'New Deal for Europe', which was based on a special investment plan, funded by own resources to revive economic activity on the basis of sustainable investments, in order to ameliorate the despair of Europeans, particularly young people, faced with unemployment and job insecurity.
The stance we took reflected our policy of support for European integration, without which the European Civil Service can only get weaker. This project also strengthened the European institutions, particularly the Commission and the European Parliament.
This initiative was part of the broader movement of ideas that led to the 'Juncker Plan', albeit a much less ambitious plan, since its financing appeared to be nowhere near substantial enough to attract private funds. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Plan has been slow to develop and, therefore, to produce any results. Private investment cannot, in fact, be mobilised solely on the basis of adequate savings, or even 'easy money', encouraged by constantly falling interest rates or unmet social needs. There must be the prospect of profit, which in the current climate can only be guaranteed by public subsidies added to private investment. The Commission is well aware of this approach, which focused its action on preparing the enlargement.
That is why the New Deal for Europe European Committee decided to approach the European Parliament, asking it to take the opportunity provided by the revision of the multiannual financial framework to define at last a serious budget to stimulate investments. Indeed, we can see that the ECB's Quantitative Easing policy, albeit necessary and welcome, is not enough in itself to start a recovery, in spite of the fall in the Euro and the price of raw materials, particularly those related to energy supply.
It is therefore essential to support this policy with a plan for recovery through investment, combining public subsidies, guaranteeing real investment profits, with private funds, so that Europe can equip itself to restore its competitiveness.
What reason is there to think that the EU, faced with the migrants crisis, can come up with a worthy response when its economy is incapable of integrating the newcomers? Economic recovery becomes absolutely crucial to prepare a decent future for all Europeans. This recovery, as the facts have shown, cannot be driven at national level alone. Action must be taken throughout the EU to reinvigorate the single market. The Member States must finally allow the Commission and the European Parliament to play their role.
You can find below the petition sent to MEPs by the European network "NEW Deal4EU".
Petition to the European Parliament 04/09/2015
LETTER TO THE MEPs WHO HAVE SUPPORTED THE CITIZEN'S INITIATIVE “NEW DEAL FOR EUROPE”
Dear members of the European Parliament who have supported the ECI “New Deal for Europe”,
As you know, last July the European lawmaker has adopted the regulation establishing the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), known as “Juncker Plan”, which should allow to promote a 315 billion private and public investment plan over three years for financing strategic projects across the EU.
The European Committee ND4E which has promoted, with your support, that of National Committees ND4E, numerous personalities, and civil society, trade-union, political, Europeanist and federalist organisations salute this result, which represents a significant step forward towards the relaunch of investments and job creation within the EU.
The European Committee ND4E and several personalities and organisations who have supported the ECI (some of them not having confirmed their commitment yet), are pleased about the improvements made by the EP to the EFSI governance with regard to the initial proposal of the European Commission. We note, however, that the adopted regulation does not include a revision clause allowing the European lawmaker to re-examine the amount of financial resources of the EFSI in case they would be lesser than expected. Moreover, as you know, the European Council has decided to transfer only to Greece a more important sum of money to stimulate job creation.
Taking all this into consideration, the European Committee ND4E, on behalf of its supporters and partners, has decided to send a petition to the EP (please see the annex) asking to draw up a proposal for a revision of the multiannual financial framework of the EU, in order to endow the EFSI with additional own resources coming from the European budget. Such resources could come from a Financial Transaction Tax and/or a tax on polluting emissions and/or the emission by the European institutions of Euro project-bonds. This revision proposal should be submitted to European Assises expected for 2016 on the occasion of the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework.
The European Committee ND4E, on behalf of its supporters and partners, wishes that the MEPs who have supported the ECI “New Deal for Europe” endorse the petition addressed to the EP (herebelow), as far as it corresponds to a constant claim of the EP for granting new own resources to the European budget (see, among others, the Lamassoure Report voted by the EP in 2007). We note, on the other hand, that granting new own resources to the European budget would be coherent with the recently formulated proposals regarding the strengthening of the economic governance of the Eurozone and the creation of an autonomous budget of the Eurozone.
We thank you in advance for informing us about your personal stance.
The European Committee “New Deal for Europe”
Mrs Georgieva announces her guidelines to the College in a context notable for strict budgetary constraints.
Mrs GEORGIEVA presented to the College the new approach that the Commission intends to adopt to talent management. This is an initiative that our union welcomes, particularly as our Vice-President is making progress with the difficulties encountered and the issues to be addressed. Here is an initial comment to stimulate an essential dialogue with the Commission.
In her communication, the Vice-President underlined the quality of the Commission's staff and explained that this new human resource management strategy is intended to ensure that the right person is in the right job at the right time. It is up to us to decide how this is done and to what extent colleagues will have the autonomy to define their own career paths.
In her report, Mrs Georgieva reveals an interesting statistic. The Commission's staff currently includes 33,197 agents, of whom 22,516 are officials, 1,152 are temporary agents and 6,401 are contract agents. She notes the upward trend in the numbers of temporary and contract staff, without however commenting on the Commission's expectations in this area. With regard to the ratio of men to women – the workforce is composed of 45% men and 55% women – she observes that women are under-represented in the senior and middle management positions – 28% and 31% respectively – which must be redressed. However, in this area the Vice-President appears to focus only on the category of women in management. What is the situation regarding female employees in other posts? What about the imbalance concerning junior posts dominated by women? These questions remain unanswered for the moment.
Mrs GEORGIEVA also insists on the importance of being prepared to listen to staff. She refers to a recent survey indicating that 65% of the Commission's agents believe that the institution is not concerned with their welfare, that 55% feel they have no control over the development of their careers, and that 52% consider that their superiors do not communicate enough. This creates a bad atmosphere within the departments. It is not certain that the Commission is handling all aspects of this matter.
As a response to these concerns, for example, it is at an impasse concerning the manner in which the reorganisation of the departments is taking place, often brutally, top down, without any staff consultation or consideration of their preferences. It is also ignoring the way in which the last two reviews of the Staff Regulations were carried out, from which staff were excluded in spite of the fact that for a review to be successful, it needs to be based on joint findings and to define solutions which everyone can support. The participation of the staff in the life of the institution, the ongoing changes, the reflections on the future of European politics and policies, constitutes an important driving factor for satisfaction. The staff are also motivated by their work and the feeling of being part of an organisation with a direction. They want to make a significant contribution that draws on all their talents. The staff therefore want to be part of the decision-making process and not simply an implementation tool.
The Commission is making less and less progress on these questions and does not follow its own best practice policies on this subject. It restricts itself to explaining that its new approach for better staff management is based on three pillars:
· well-being at work, sometimes reduced by the Commissioner to a secondary matter, without explaining how that can happen in a context of increasing hours and workload;
· better talent management: a goal we share, but we appreciate the difficulty for the Commission to acquire the tools, skills and resources required for this purpose. It must also apply this policy to the contract staff, often neglected, although their role is of growing importance to the institution;
· better internal communication. The aim is to achieve a knowledgeable, skilled, flexible and networked organisation. The danger here is believing that poor communication is the only reason staff are not satisfied.
Mrs GEORGIEVA then announced that the various components of the new strategy will be deployed in phases between 2015 and 2017, without for the moment describing the different phases and how they are related. By way of example, she referred to:
· the advisor and management functions will now be accessible from grade AD8, which will rejuvenate them and open them to more staff members, without, however, specifying the requirements for taking on these responsibilities in terms of mobility, experience and training. The goal for U4U is not so much rejuvenating as professionalising access to Head of Unit and Advisor posts. Although the administration has proposed a new training policy, nothing has yet been done on this subject.
· the management skills of the supervisory staff will be subject to a 360° assessment, something we have been demanding for years, although not just by peers but also by working teams. Although this is a good initiative, it must be accompanied by support measures for managers and remediation systems – which must remain respectful of the managers concerned – in the most serious cases. Above and beyond these displays of intention, the institution must be questioned on the measures planned to ensure that this 360° assessment has a real impact on the management methods within the Commission;
· the possibilities of alternating supervisory and non-supervisory functions will be facilitated: while it is good to plan non-supervisory careers, or even the succession of supervisory and non-supervisory posts, U4U asks that this objective does not result in the weakening of the independence of the Civil Service guaranteed by, among other things, the strength of the supervisory positions;
· better integration of temporary and contract agents within the departments, developing career prospects and internal mobility for these agents. It should be noted that the documents produced within the framework of the ongoing discussions are vague on this subject;
· the learning and personal development strategy aimed at encouraging mobility, particularly between directorates-general: after one year with the new Commission, nothing has been put forward on this subject, it will be necessary to stop the wishful thinking and propose concrete texts to the social dialogue that also address inter-institutional and European mobility, with the national and territorial administrations;
Mrs GEORGIEVA ended her presentation to the College by stating that the long-term objective is to reinforce the feeling of being part of the institution and providing staff with the tools that enable them to maintain high performance levels throughout their careers. An ambitious project that will need time, resources, the involvement of staff and an intense social dialogue. What is needed to motivate staff is the definition of policy objectives and priorities.
Since the last revision of the Staff Regulations came into force, the discussions on the future of the ASTs have magnified. The main motivation of this debate is the uncertainty hanging over the careers of these colleagues. With a population of 10,148 colleagues, equivalent to just over 30% of the total population, the ASTs are now an essential workforce for the Commission. To these ASTs must be added the AST equivalents, particularly the contract agents GF I, II and III who occupy equivalent posts, i.e. more than 3,000 colleagues. However, it is among these members of staff, especially in the category of AST officials, that the Commission is imposing the job cuts required by the Council.
In place of the current silence, a debate has become crucial to give these colleagues prospects for the future. Indeed, in the absence of special measures it is impossible to judge today whether the Commission has really got to grips with the problems facing our colleagues, and if it is working on proposals for career definitions for them.
The most obvious issue is that of the future of the AST jobs. The main difficulty in identifying the AST occupations is their great diversity. There are numerous ASTs in horizontal support and coordination duties (particularly in the DG HR, EPSO, OIB, EPSO, OIL, PMO, OP where the ASTs comprise more than two-thirds of the officials).
There are also many ASTs occupying special roles in ICT, finance, communication, audit, programme/project management, human resources, etc., where they carry out tasks at levels of responsibility that are sometimes identical to those of their AD colleagues doing the same jobs.
We can, finally, see a large number of overqualified AST grades whose actual duties are not adequately suited to their training and aspirations.
Two trends put the AST grades between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, technological developments have reduced the importance of administrative assistance jobs. On the other, the pressure of competing groups in the AST jobs, particularly the new AST/SC officials, means that the usual professional options for ASTs have been reduced.
The confusion over jobs is significant. The 2004 review led to a logic of merging the former categories B and C by gambling on the fluidity and transferability of skills and jobs. The 2014 review has taken a step backwards by recreating three categories, as was the case prior to 2004.
Four main problems have been noted:
· the arrival of a new category of AST/SC employees who could be used by the European institutions for a 'levelling down' of the European Civil Service;
· the questionable categorisation of posts preventing the mobility of people and talents;
· the shortcomings of the certification in terms of the number of certified candidates and the quality of the competition procedure;
· finally, the hiring of contract agents enabling the reduction of posts for AST grades.
1) The category for secretarial workers (AST-SC) has reappeared, despite the fact that only recently it was being shouted from the rooftops that their jobs were to disappear. It would appear that, especially under pressure from the Council and Parliament, this new category is simply a way of introducing full-scale recruitments, but with low salaries to limit the wage bill. In view of recent developments (e.g. the advertising of AST/SC posts in Sysper 2 in areas other than secretarial) and the announcement of AST/SC competitions in a field such as auditing or finance, the latter hypothesis seems more likely. It is therefore all the AST jobs that are threatened by the arrival of the AST/SC grades, including in technical areas.
2) The categorisation of existing AST posts in AST or AST/SC was very badly received by our colleagues following an incorrect internal communication from the DG HR. The reality is that the ex-Cs and ASTs recruited in AST1 have seen their posts transformed into AST/SC. This clearly goes against the spirit of the 2004 review and reintroduces distinctions between AST colleagues. Symbolically, those AST employees recruited between 2004 and 2014, like AST 1, are "downgraded" as AST/SC. The DG HR swears that this is not the case, but if not, why have these posts been artificially recategorised as AST-SC? This "symbolic" measure is very serious, as it has the effect:
• of considerably limiting mobility within the AST grade and therefore ruling out the mobility of talents (that the Commission promotes through its employment policy); and
• of negatively influencing promotions by stigmatising employees in AST/SC posts.
3) Certification has become a costly and derisory exercise, as much for those administering it as for those taking the exams. It provides some with an opportunity to move from the AST group to the AD group, but since 2005, only 910 candidates have been admitted to the competitions, and of the 855 who were successful, only 568 found an AD post. Too often, certification translates in practice into a penalty for promotions. There are therefore only 70 AST colleagues per year on average who become AD. Not only is this figure very low, but the not very transparent selection procedures for candidates accepted for training are extremely questionable. It is most undesirable for the decisions on access to training to continue to be taken in such a lack of transparency.
4) Finally, the recruitment of thousands of AC staff, under-graded and doing the work of AST grades, makes the viability of this category of employees uncertain and barely visible. This impression is strengthened by the fact that at the time of the staff cuts decided in the 2014 reform, it was clear that they mainly concerned the AST category, reaching critical levels in some DGs, in the words of human resource managers.
The gender imbalance
Another striking characteristic of this group is that it is composed of two-thirds women and one-third men; the statistics show very clearly that women are seriously disadvantaged in their careers compared to men. Suffice to say that in the three highest grades (AST 9,10 and 11), this 2/3-1/3 ratio reverses in favour of men (with 783 men in these grades) compared to women (445). What can you say when you see that in the latter AST 11 grade there are only 27 women as opposed to 135 men?
The nationality imbalance
27% of AST staff are of the same nationality, which draws attention to the historic trends of recruitment procedures in force at the Commission in these grades. Once again, this type of situation highlights the fact that the search for talent is unsatisfactory. There is no doubt that the salaries and employment conditions offered at the Commission fail to persuade candidates from some countries like Germany or the Nordic countries, and what is more, the cost of living in Luxembourg is so high that the AST 1 salary remains particularly low by comparison with average salaries there. However, aside from these cases, the AST careers at the Commission are inadequately promoted.
To respond to all these questions, while bearing in mind the constraints of the Staff Regulations, U4U proposes 7 measures to re-energise the careers of AST colleagues and equivalent. The following measures should be taken:
1) Under the aegis of the DG HR establish an interdepartmental group responsible for preparing an analysis of the jobs and careers of the AST grades and proposing a comprehensive career management policy, including the identification of existing or new jobs reserved for AST staff and the development of suitable training plans;
2) Arrange and encourage mobility between the DGs to use AST skills more effectively, in particular by ceasing to categorise as AST/SC the jobs of colleagues who were already in post on 1 January 2014;
3) Make transparent the promotion procedures to grades AST 10 and AST 11 and provide adequate planning for posts to these two grades; improve training and access to team leadership positions;
4) Reform the certification by making it more transparent, more targeted, and less expensive; systematically and rapidly guarantee an AD post to successful candidates in the six months following the certification;
5) Promote internal reclassification competitions for the AST staff to different grades in line with the demographic characteristics of the populations concerned and with the appointment competitions and exams for changing categories for contract agents.
6) Introduce an active gender equality policy in the AST promotions to provide, in the next 5 years, better positioning for women in the higher grades.
7) In the countries least represented among the AST staff, conduct vigorous information campaigns to remedy the geographic imbalance in recruitment.
Contract Renewal at the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)
Judgment F-34/14 of the European Union Civil Service Tribunal dated 8 July 2015
Cet article analyse la jurisprudence de la juridiction communautaire qui condamne l'agence ACER pour avoir restreint la portée d'une disposition statutaire par le biais d'une Disposition Générale d'exécution; ce qui est contraire au principe de hiérarchie des normes. En effet, une norme inférieure ne peut jamais restreindre une norme supérieure.
A recent judgment of the Civil Service Tribunal analyses the contract renewal rules for contract agents at the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and gives legal guidance that is of utmost important for other agencies that apply similar rules to contract or temporary agents.
At ACER, the Implementing Rules on the procedure governing the Engagement and Use of Contract Staff contain the following provision: “The renewal of a contract in function groups II, III and IV shall be for [a] fixed period of at least three months and not more than five years. A second renewal without interruption leading to an indefinite-duration contract may only be granted if the first two contracts covered a total period of at least five years.”
The applicant was recruited by ACER on 1 January 2011 as a member of the contract staff under Article 3a of the CEOS, in function group II, at grade 5, step 1. The contract was concluded for one year, until 31 December 2011, then, following the addition of an amending clause, was renewed a first time for a two year duration, until 31 December 2013. By e-mail of 15 March 2013, the applicant informed ACER’s Human Resources Department (‘the Human Resources Department’) that she was interested in a second renewal of her contract.
Following an exchange with his legal service and the Commission, the Director, acting as the AECE, informed her of his decision not to renew her contract (‘the non-renewal decision’). He stressed that he had taken that decision with regret but added that he had found no solution which would be satisfactory in legal terms, having regard to Article 85(1) of the CEOS and Article 6(2) of the GIP
The Court upheld the plea alleging the illegality of Article 6(2) of the GIP and annulled the non-renewal decision. It even ordered ACER to pay the applicant damages, assessed on equitable principles, of EUR 7,000.
It explained that where an institution or an agency is authorised to lay down general implementing provisions intended to supplement or implement hierarchically superior and binding provisions of the Staff Regulations or the CEOS, the competent authority may neither act contra legem, in particular by adopting provisions whose application would be contrary to the aims of the provisions of the Staff Regulations or would render them entirely ineffective, nor fail to comply with general legal principles such as the principle of sound administration, the principle of equal treatment and the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations (see, to that effect, judgment in Commission v Petrilli, EU:T:2010:531, paragraph 35 and the case-law cited therein).
The Court further pointed out that according to the case-law, the general implementing rules adopted under the first paragraph of Article 110 of the Staff Regulations may lay down criteria capable of guiding the administration in the exercise of its discretionary power or of explaining more fully the scope of provisions of the Staff Regulations which are not wholly clear. However, they cannot lawfully reduce the scope of those regulations or of the CEOS simply by explaining more fully a clear term of the Staff Regulations, or lay down rules which derogate from hierarchically superior provisions, such as the provisions of the Staff Regulations or the CEOS or general principles of law (see also judgments in Brems v Council, T 75/89, EU:T:1990:88, paragraph 29 and Ianniello v Commission, T 308/04, EU:T:2007:347, paragraph 38).
The Court concluded that Article 6(2) of ACER’s GIPs restricts the scope of Article 85(1) of the CEOS in so far as it introduces a supplementary condition for the renewal of a contract within the meaning of Article 3a of the CEOS which is not provided for in the CEOS and which hinders the exercise of the discretion conferred on the administration, without such a restriction being objectively justifiable in the interests of the service. The judgment constitutes a landmark decision for all those victims of written or unwritten rules that seek to eliminate the discretion in the renewal decision. The Court clearly underlines that the administration must always consider the possibility of a contract renewal for an indefinite period where this is foreseen in the Staff Regulations.
Flash Poll addressed to Commission Staff in Luxembourg, due to the JMO evacuation
In 1988 the Commission in Luxembourg was mainly concentrated in 2 buildings on Kirchberg. The JMO and the Wagner building. By next year, this will have increased to 8: Bech, Drosbach, Euroforum, Hitec, Maison de l'Europe, Ariane, Laccolith, T2 ( prefabricated building ) .
Since 1988, the Court of Justice, for example, has managed to arrange 4 extensions; get the budget & the land, and complete the extensions. Plus, a 5th extension is in the advanced planning stage for a 3rd Tower.
While the Court of Justice staff are based close to each other on Kirchberg, Commission staff are located all over the Ville de Luxembourg. This has a detrimental effect on productivity, as staff may need to travel across the city regularly to work with colleagues or access services, and also this adds to the overhead costs of running buildings & services due to lack of economies of scale.
Following the evacuation of the JMO, there may be problems related to increased travel time to work for staff, problems getting children to the European Schools etc., etc.
How may we mitigate these problems? How may Commission Staff still feel 'United in Diversity'?
For example one could ask for OIL/HR to provide a regular Bus shuttle service between the various Commission Buildings. To provide a Bus shuttle service to the European Schools. To make available a large room in each building with video conferencing facilities for the use of groups of Staff, e.g. CLP committees, Trade Unions etc.
Do YOU have any suggestions? If so, please send them to us at: REP-PERS-OSP-U4U@ec.europa.eu with [JMO EVAC] in the Subject line. Thank you in advance
This is what our colleagues sometimes say. What a pity! Because the whole of Europe is nothing but the fruit of an immense, gigantic, titanic collective action. And it must remain so.
The European institutions and its civil service are in theory the guarantors of this collective action. That is why the projects conceived to make them work must be ambitious.
When the action stops being collective, led by individual interests that leave the majority by the wayside, it stops being significant.
Through successive reforms that have repeatedly fragmented the workforce by creating divisions, the Council has taken part in this major withdrawal from the amazing collective action that is the European Union. By sacrificing its staff on the altar of the scapegoat, by failing to defend the exemplary nature of its model, by pretending to believe that it had to be more austere than austerity itself, cutting back everything in a miserable manner unworthy of what it is supposed to represent, the institutions have contributed to its downfall while believing (really?) that they were saving it. It has not only damaged the trust that bound it to its staff, it has stripped all meaning from most of the missions it entrusted to the service.
Who would still want to come and work for an administration with an obsolete organisation and a mean and petty approach to its staff?
What talented young people will consider offering it their services for a career without any sense of spirit? Who can dream of a work organisation left over from a century that has long since ended? Who will inspire a mode of staff leadership and motivation that can no longer bring together the hopes of young and old alike? Who will trust a system that sets thousands of talented people against each other by placing them in an obnoxious and nerve-racking competition rather than encouraging them to cooperate usefully and calmly?
The staff are not opposed to change, it might be necessary. But the decisions taken must be considered in accordance with how they affect those they are aimed at. Planning, anticipation, support – that is what we want.
We believe in collective action, because only the determination of the majority, translated into the number of members and supporting votes, can make our action strong and legitimate when, in your name, we challenge the breaking up of the staff into competing rival categories and the inequalities in treatment that this breaking up leads to.
Europe needs to be defended, and we are its first line of defence: help us to help ourselves, collectively, for alone we are nothing.
Do you need help ?
If you have a question on your rights, if you are facing a problem at work... you are not alone. U4U gives personal support to its members.
We can answer most questions, give assistance and, in difficult cases, get legal advice from our lawyers.
U4U is an active trade union, which stays in close contact with colleagues thanks to workplace meetings, including meetings outside Brussels, and participates in negotiations with the administration. We have an up-to-date informative website, we publish regular newsletters, which are systematically translated into English, and we defend you individually before the administration and before the Civil Service Tribunal.
All that costs money. Help us to bear the cost.
If you are not yet a member of U4U, join us – we need your support!
If you are already a member, upgrade the humble membership fee of €15 a year to a support contribution of €60 a year.
Your financial support is extremely important. Help us to defend your interests, propose more acceptable staff management policies and challenge measures which will have a lasting adverse effect on staff.
To join and/or switch to the support contribution, use this form on our website or contact us (list of contact persons below).
|U4U at your service|
Union for Unity AISBL, 23 rue du Cardinal Bruxelles
éditeur responsable: Georges Vlandas
équipe de rédaction : Bertrand Soret, Georges Spyrou, Olivier Brunet, Philippe Kéraudren, Victor Juan Linares, Fabrice Andreone, Sylvie Vlandas, Kim Slama, Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, Stéphane André, J.-P. Soyer