Newsletter from U4U : November 2016 – n°51
Open space at NEAR: staff consultation or a marketing operation?
The Director General of NEAR, Mr. Danielsson, informed staff last month of his decision to bring together his DG at a single site, bâtiment Loi 15, to remedy the inefficiencies caused by its being spread over 3 buildings and by the consequent lack of good communication. To achieve this, it will be necessary for all staff – himself included - to be in open space accommodation.
In principal terms, U4U is not in favour of open spaces, although it acknowledges their advantages in some cases, albeit under certain conditions.
While we think it is a good idea to unite the staff at a single location, this must not be done on the cheap, to the detriment of the staff. Even if the DG RTD leaves LOI 15, this building is not big enough to accommodate all of NEAR's staff. In other words, the intended goal would be to save space rather than create a new way of organising the work. This is a shame, bearing in mind the difficult situation in which our colleagues already find themselves, as illustrated by the analysis carried out by our organisation and by the 2016 Survey.
The open space presentation and the relocation project must be preceded by staff consultation, during which the staff must have the right to discuss, change or refuse the proposed projects. The space must initially be organised with the agreement of colleagues, as at TAXUD, where the staff ended up not being moved from their site as they were not in agreement.
Such a move towards open space must first of all obey a professional logic. That is not the case here. This logic may, for example, prove useful for teams working as part of a "task force", in translation or interpretation services, or for teams working at different sites, etc. In other words, open space is not a solution that will suit everyone, including NEAR. It is also true that this form of office space organisation has a number of negative effects and is a source of new inefficiencies, which must be weighed against the possible advantages. U4U asks that the staff at NEAR, who are the real experts in the requirements of their jobs, be allowed to decide on the final proposal.
This change should mean an improvement in the working space, at the very least by keeping the existing surface area but with a better layout, which does not appear to be the case here at the present time. In the case of DG NEAR, all we can see is a space-saving logic, under the guise of a need to bring the services together. The operation is similar to a marketing exercise with the fixed objective of convincing the staff at all costs. U4U requests the immediate start of a dialogue meeting with DG NEAR involving all the trade union organisations represented at the site.
U4U has just concluded an important agreement with the head of the Alicante Agency. The goal is to increase the share of permanent staff in the agency – via permanent agent contracts, but in particular by making agency contract agents officials – an ambitious and innovative objective. How to achieve this? By the organisation of specialised external competitions, and internal competitions open to all, including AC grades, combined with a commitment to hire staff that have passed general external competitions.
This agreement is complemented by the introduction of free training for staff, organised by U4U in partnership with the other trade union present at the site. Actions of a social nature are also planned for staff who are not awarded a permanent contract or established in post.
The example of this agreement, negotiated in the context of a difficult European construction, applies to staff in the agencies as well as those in the Institutions. It illustrates the possibilities when there is a desire for dialogue by one side or the other and when both parties concerned take on board, even if only partially, the constraints of the other. A good example for everyone.
News just in: the staff of the institutions will see their salaries and pensions increased by 3.3%, back-dated to July 2016. In addition to this, our salaries are further increased by a reduction in employee pension contributions of 0.3%. The total increase will be 3.6% per month, from July 2016.
The final milestone is that the result of the new method is applied automatically and no longer requires the agreement of the Council. Also, the Commission has just obtained the agreement of the budgetary authority for the 2017 budget.
The last consultation with the Commission was with VP Ms Georgieva on 21 November. She met staff representatives for the last time before her departure to the World Bank. This meeting ended the long series of consultations since the last reform.
These three years of negotiation have made it possible to implement some improvements to the changes caused by the last reform in 2014. U4U, in association with the Contract Staff Collective, has worked tirelessly to achieve these results. Despite the inadequacies (to which we will return in our next newsletter) and the results are in: the fixed term contracts are now for 6 years instead of 3 and, in a policy statement, the institution recognises the importance of the role played by contract staff within the institutions. Stemming from this is the statement that they have the right to an attractive career, promotions, better consideration of experience acquired before they were hired, internal appointment competitions (every other year in principle), entry competitions for function groups, so that qualifications and job content are better recognised and, finally, mobility. A commitment was made to introduce measures favouring interinstitutional mobility. In addition, the awarding of contracts will give priority to longer periods and faster access to permanent contracts. Finally, the ENDs have been exempted from the anti-cumulation rule (7 years maximum in the Commission as a fixed-period agent), whose duration will in theory be increased. Social measures after contracts have ended will be studied to keep children in schools and crèches.
This result has not satisfied all the possible and desirable improvements, but it shows that, despite the difficult context, it is possible to make progress when the interests of staff and the institution, which go hand in hand, are taken into account.
As regards the contract staff, a meeting of the Contract Staff Action Group will be held on Friday 25 November 2016, when U4U will try to make further progress. On the central Staff Committee, U4U's elected representatives and their colleagues will make sure that the conclusions of the political dialogue with VP Georgieva are properly applied.
European Parliament : U4U presents its list #5 for the Staff Committee
European Parliament staff who are members of U4U have drawn up a comprehensive list – list No. 5 - for staff to vote on.
· U4U defends our pay, the calculation method and pensions, as well as our working conditions (which also concern the offices), the development and monitoring of our careers, and mobility. Our careers must develop on the basis of merit, with complete transparency.
· U4U opposes the insecurity experienced by staff and is working for a career policy for all.
· U4U provides staff with quality services: training, individual legal advice, assistance, information via its publications (Graspe, The Link, the Circular, etc.), and regular conferences.
· U4U promotes united staff and trade union action on important matters, putting forward joint actions. We want to enhance the role of the unions with more effective, competent and united trade union representation.
· U4U is an inter-category trade union that represents all staff, regardless of their status and grade, through claims based on solidarity and reducing inequalities.
· U4U puts forward "unifying" proposals that take account of the expectations of all staff members in a common perspective for an independent, competent and permanent Civil Service. We want to preserve the meaning of our jobs.
· U4U is an interinstitutional trade union that fights for the unity of the European Civil Service and therefore for the unity of the Civil Service Staff Regulations.
· U4U is very active in the social dialogue and makes constructive, well-argued proposals that are acknowledged as such. U4U stands up for social dialogue social at the level of the services and encourages the involvement of staff in the decisions that concern them.
· U4U puts together its proposals using a participatory approach, consulting staff at workplace meetings, site visits and public consultations on important subjects, at the same time developing a network of permanent contact persons in each place of work.
· U4U, a citizen-oriented trade union, sees the European Civil Service as working for the construction of a united and democratic Europe. It integrates its proposals within a global consideration of the future of the European construction and its Civil Service.
U4U acts within the "Europe Solidarity" platform to defend the European construction: we want a stronger, more united, more citizen-based Europe, without which the future of the European Civil Service no longer makes sense.
The fact is that our Europe is at a crossroads. Its institutions are those of a last resort, if its leaders are to be believed. It appears more and more divided. Its action raises questions, if not outright rejection. It seems to be having difficulty resolving the issues raised by our societies: solidarity, sustainable growth, security. It stumbles over finding solutions to increase its cohesion. Its leaders make a spectacle of their difficulties in acting together, proposing solutions to our problems, and defining a line enabling the institutions to play their role.
Our leaders are not the only ones. Civil society, economic and social actors, and the citizens themselves are also involved. That is why, both within the institutions and with the actors of civil society, particularly in Brussels, we want to take part in the debate started by the Commission on the future of the European Union.
To find out more and see the text of the appeal...
The quorum for the local Staff Committee elections was reached without extension, demonstrating the interest of the staff. There were 6 lists, often combining several trade union organisations. None reached the representativeness threshold at Commission level (6% at the central level), which is probably a good thing, encouraging a merger of organisations at local or central level. The excessive dispersion of staff representation is definitely not what we want.
Our organisation stood with the FFPE. Our joint list – Vote the Change - was unable to repeat its previous result, although this drop was reflected by a lesser fall in the number of votes, bearing in mind the increase in the number of staff working in Luxembourg. We are going to assess our action in partnership with the FFPE. Most importantly, the votes obtained made it possible to guarantee the local presence of our two unions and therefore redress the balance.
We thank our electors for supporting us in a difficult climate and heightened competition. The progression of our organisation to the European Parliament, the regulatory agencies – Alicante and Cologne – and the EEAS gives us reasons to carry on.
Finally, it should be noted that the electoral system is particularly unfair, as the list that came top, with a 10% drop in the number of votes, picked up more seats!
U4U is an active union, working on behalf of colleagues through its workplace meetings, not only in Brussels, and present in negotiations with the administration. We have an informative and up-to-date website, we publish regular newsletters, systematically translated into English, we defend you individually before the administration and before the Civil Service Tribunal.
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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