The Link

Newsletter from U4U : January 2017 – n°52

Content :

  • European Union: an unacceptable situation
  • New careers: increasing coherence, transparency, predictability
  • Healthcare pricing in Luxembourg
  • Publication of vacancy notice to recruit 5 armed security officers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
  • Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme – JSIS: Our fund for everyone
  • Fair and equal treatment for all: U4U stands for more transparency in staff management at the EP
  • Leave in the interests of the service: first implementation of article 42 quater by the European Commission
  •  What can be done for the CAs?
  • Contract Agents in Executive Agencies
  • U4U at your service

  version française

The European Union is at present experiencing a worrying situation.

Its population is concerned, unhappy even. One third of its population wants to leave our Union. In numerous countries, 80% of the population believe that current policies are wrong. Inequalities are on the rise. Income is falling by 10% on average. Unemployment is a problem for more than one European in ten on average and almost one in 5 for young people, with peaks of 50%. Likewise, job insecurity is increasing, while the type of employment on offer is worsening.

This situation calls for urgent action. The Commission seems to be aware of the danger of the situation. It plans to launch a debate on the future of the Union on the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. We must all have an equal say. Our officials are also European citizens. The fate of the civil service is tied to that of the European construction.

That is why we are beginning discussions both internally and with European civil society. We have already organised a conference on 9 January at CESE, with Georges Dassis, president of CESE, Philippe Lamberts, MEP and co-president of the Groupe Verts-ALE, and Claude Rolin, MEP.

We will soon be holding discussions at CESE with civil society. At the end of March, in cooperation with civil society, we will hold a commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

We urge officials to take part in these debates, which concern us all. You will receive invitations in due course.

The 2014 reform of the Staff Regulations limited access to end-of-career grades for both AST and AD staff, without fully clarifying the new end-of-career profiles or the means to access them. This has caused concern among staff, particularly as a significant number of - still "young" - colleagues in AST and AD grades find themselves on the threshold of grades AST 10 and AD 13. This is an important issue that the administration and the unions should address together in the interests of both the institution and the staff.

Among other things, it is essential to clarify the professional career paths that make it possible to access grades AST 10 and 11 or AD 13 and 14. This is necessary, as things are not always clear.

For the ADs, for example, after grade AD 12, there would be three possible courses: management, expertise, or advisor, although the practice varies within the same DG or from one year to the next. We believe that coherence must be established. For example, management careers must concern not only heads of unit, but deputy heads as well. These two categories must be able to access grades AD 13/14. However, for no valid reason, deputy heads do not have this access. Senior experts and advisors must also have access, although not for management positions. This must not exclude the possibility of a senior expert leading a small team that constitutes an expertise hub.

For the AST grades, the administration should designate types of end-of-career posts. Eligible and interested colleagues should be able to have the means to prepare themselves for access to these positions.

The question of overpricing in Luxembourg and the prohibitive prices charged by private practitioners in the Grand Duchy with regard to JSIS members from the European institutions is a long-standing problem.

Under repeated pressure from the OSPs, especially within the SIMC, the administration finally agreed to restart discussions with the Luxembourg authorities to see how to achieve equal treatment between JSIS members and natives of Luxembourg.

On 28 October 2016, the PMO met with the Luxembourg hospitals federation. The representatives of the institutions pointed out the growing number of complaints related to hospital price rates. They also stated that the agreement has never been updated, although medicine has evolved and the cost of some treatments has fallen. They also referred to case law (the Ferlini judgement, the European directive and its transposition into national law). The Federation expressed its willingness to see how things could be improved. The PMO will also contact the Caisse Nationale de Santé (CNS), a key stakeholder, and invite it to take part in the discussions.

The process initiated for the review of prices for medical procedures under the agreement could take up to 2 years.

U4U asks that our supervisory authorities address the problem from a political perspective and require Luxembourg to ensure equality of treatment between patients who are JSIS members and those who are Luxembourg nationals.

Read the full document on this issue...

At the last meeting of the Staff Committee on 12 December in Strasbourg, staff representatives were informed of the recruitment by competition of 34 armed agents – and of the appointment of a head of unit – starting with the publication of a vacancy notice on 16 December for the recruitment of 5 armed agents in Strasbourg.

This competition will be announced for the AST/SC category. The current security officers who meet the criteria laid down for carrying out such duties will be able to apply for these posts. However, this competition raises a number of questions.

The AST/SC career is undoubtedly more advantageous than the GFI career currently offered to security officers. This is therefore good news. However, the AST/SC career is not included in the Staff Regulations for this type of job:  Annex I, point 3. of the Staff Regulations: AST/SC function group: secretary/assistant: responsible for clerical and secretarial tasks, office management and other equivalent tasks, requiring a certain degree of autonomy.

For tasks of a technical nature or requiring a degree of autonomy, particularly in regard to the application of rules (which is the case for the armed officers), there is the AST career path. The administration said it had chosen the AST/SC career path, less attractive than the AST path, "because the Commission would do likewise" (sic). The Commission has not insourced security officers, and its body guards were not recruited in AST/SC. The explanation is implausible: just because one administration misuses the Staff Regulations, there is no reason for Parliament to follow them down this slippery slope.

Carrying a weapon, protecting the lives of others - by risking their own - is a far cry from an office job. So why choose the ill-suited AST/SC career path?

U4U invites Parliament to ensure the conformity of the requirements and responsibilities of the armed officer job and the type of career offered.

The Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme is a joint fund for all agents subject to the Staff Regulations. Comprised of our contributions and those of our employers (deferred salary), it is managed by a joint management committee (CGAM), half of which is composed of our staff representatives appointed by the Staff Committee (1 incumbent and 1 deputy for the PE) and half by representatives of the administration of all the institutions, bodies and agencies subject to the Staff Regulations. The scheme's expenditure (reimbursement of medical costs) is managed by the different Settlement Offices, while the scheme's financial reserve is managed by the DG ECFIN of the European Commission.

This scheme has been in deficit for several years, mainly due to the freeze of the indexing of salaries, encouraging some to make savings in areas that are prejudicial to our members, in particular by a more restrictive interpretation of the General Implementing Directives (GID). We have argued against these measures, along with some of our partners within the CGAM. U4U has always maintained that this deficit was not structural but temporary and cyclical, and that these measures deprived members of the quality of their social cover. Time has proved us right. Since 2014, the scheme's results have been positive.

Today the scheme is balanced, and even in surplus. The reserve enables us to cope with several decades of deficit if necessary and to contemplate the future with confidence. In this context, we are asking for the quality of our social cover to be maintained, or even improved, by means of the financial soundness of JSIS.

See our analysis of the 2015 management report...

What have we obtained from the social dialogue within the CGAM?

  • a more proactive attitude to hospital groups and the signing of agreements with them, in Belgium as well as in a number of Member States (Finland, France, Hungary, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, etc.) to limit the application of prohibitive charges to our members,  which also affects the amount that remains payable by them;

  • the opening of negotiations with the Luxembourg authorities to review the overpricing carried out in Luxembourg by healthcare professionals in relation to members of JSIS;

  • after the depersonalisation caused by the computerisation of the scheme, the creation of Reception Offices at the Settlement Offices to receive colleagues having problems with their medical reimbursements/authorisations, thus improving the service provided to members;

  • the creation of a complaints group within the CGAM to deal with complaints from colleagues. This group has enabled us to halve the number of complaints usually dealt with by the full Committee by finding solutions for members, thereby obviating the need for their complaints;

  • a guarantee of the full reimbursement for follow-up examinations for an earlier serious illness;

  • a review of the modalities for access to and reimbursement for psychotherapy harshly limited to two years or declared to be a luxury and not authorised since 2013 following a Medical Council decision based on the opinion of a single expert. If one is familiar with the need for psychotherapy, especially as regards the management of the consequences of poorly understood psychosocial risks, it is possible to understand the issues surrounding this revision for both the administration and the staff;

  • a better communication to staff of the JSIS rules and developments.

What else would we like to improve?

  • enable a pregnant woman over 35 to take an NIP Test without the authorisation for this depending on the results of a triple test;

  • assess the feasibility of providing each member with a European social security card or something similar so that they can be recognised immediately by healthcare systems everywhere (and possibly benefit from the third-party payment system where this is available);

  • maintain the dependence in the JSIS that some people, including some staff representatives, would like to leave the scheme and go private. Our scheme must remain open to all generations and categories;

  • the signing of medication agreements with certain distributors in those areas involving the greatest outlay (concentration of members);

  • the assessment of the quality of new preventive medicine programmes following the withdrawal of some tests that could possibly modify these programmes;

  • require the administration to remind colleagues each year of the requirement for an annual medical visit as stipulated in art. 72 of the Staff Regulations;

  • acquire, for 2% of the portfolio constituted by the scheme's financial reserves, bank bonds supporting solidarity economy projects for ethical investments with a consistent return, unlike some investments that prove to be negative due to the financial crisis;

With a total staff of 5723 spread over three sites, 13 Directorates General, 309 units and 9 different job families, the EP General Secretariat is a large and complex organisation. As a large and complex organisation, it still needs to convince everybody that staff management is transparent and fair. This is all the more important as, from the outside, the EP is seen as the European institution which embodies European democracy in a context where Europe is often equated with non-accountable bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, there is a large feeling of unease among many colleagues at the EP because of the lack of transparency regarding recruitments, careers and appointments to management positions. Although rules regarding publication and transparency exist, there are concerns that these rules are too often only formally respected while decisions have already been made. As the EP published 447 job vacancies in 2015 which attracted 3250 applicants, it is important that the staff trusts that all these vacancies are filled in a genuine manner after a fair comparison of all merits of candidates rather than through local or political arrangements foreign to the fair examination of talents. This is also very important because the EP hosts a large variety of different situations between officials, temporary agents on temporary positions or on permanent positions, contractual agents 3 bis and 3 ter.

It is telling that the number of EP colleagues asking for career guidance (under the SCOP or the RELOP arrangements) has soared since 2013. Last year nearly 350 colleagues (6% of all Secretariat General staff) asked for career guidance, a very large majority of them being women. This shows that there is a growing gap between expectations and the reality of career prospects at the EP.

U4U stands for more transparency, in particular:

  • on the adoption of rules and the decisions taken which affect our professional /private life

  • in the processes for appointments of staff to management positions

  • in the processes for hiring contract and temporary staff, ensuring that all vacancies are duly published

  • on the decisions affecting promotion and mobility

  • in the allocation of places in the crèches

  • in the workings of the Staff Committee.

The European Commission has for the first time implemented article 42 quater, inserted into the Staff Regulations under the revision of the statutory text of 22 October 2013, which came into force on 1 January 2014.

In 2014, the Commission terminated the early retirement scheme that involved around forty colleagues per year. This scheme was voluntary, and the Commission made an annual call for expressions of interest. It operated a selection process between the different staff members wanting to leave, taking account of a variety of parameters (gender, DG, category, etc.).

Article 42 quater does not replace this former retirement scheme: it is, rather, a question of leave in the interests of the service, decided by the AIPN, concerning colleagues with at least ten years of service, a maximum of five years before their legal pension age, for organisational needs related to the acquisition of new competences within the institutions. The number of officials placed on leave in the interest of the service each year may not exceed 5% of the number of officials in the institution who retired during the previous year. Leave in the interests of the service is not a disciplinary measure (art. 51 of the Staff Regulations).

See a summary note on art. 42 quater...

In 2016, the Commission used 16 cases of leave in the interests of the service after consulting the DGs. It should be noted that it could have used up to 28 (5% of the number of colleagues who retired in the previous year).

As we understand it, most of those concerned are ready to take up the offer of leave from the Commission. In some cases, the interested parties have certain questions. In this case, the DG HR checks the person's situation and begins discussions with the interested party, during which he/she may be accompanied by a colleague or staff representative.

The Commission has assured us that it had no intention of imposing leave. As a result, no colleague should be forced to accept an offer of leave in the interests of the institution.

In the case of a disagreement, which would appear to be theoretical given the assurances received from the Commission, the official concerned could challenge the decision to place him/her on leave in the interests of the service by a complaint under art. 90 par. 2 and then an appeal before the Court of First Instance.

U4U is asking the Commission:

  • to use all of the possibilities for placement on leave in the interests of the service and to go to the limit of the quota;

  • not to place any colleague on leave in the interests of the service against his/her will;

  • to adopt an implementation decision that clarifies the reasons and the general framework for the decisions to place someone on leave in the interests of the service and the criteria that govern the selection of the colleagues concerned by this measure.

Several tens of thousands of colleagues work as CAs within the services of the institutions and executive or regulatory agencies. More than 7,000 of them work at the Commission, half of whom are on fixed-term contracts. In spite of the improvements made after 2014, the slow pace of their implementation and their incomplete nature continue to cause concern among our CA colleagues.

U4U wants to see the rapid and full implementation of the new arrangements. However, these timid improvements are not enough. We would also like to take part in the debate on improving the situation of our CA colleagues, whose work contributes greatly to the proper functioning of the European Civil Service.

U4U, in close consultation with the Contract Staff Collective, will conduct an internal reflection to prepare its positions on the future of the CAs. If you would like to contribute to this, join U4U and contact us and get involved!

To begin this debate, we have published below, in the Open Forum, contributions received from contract staff groups.

The position paper below was developed by a Working Group of interested Contract Agents from three Executive Agencies in the second half of 2015.

Contract Agents in Executive Agencies need a life-long attractive perspective of working within the EU institutions which includes mobility within all EU institutions, professional development , progress without discrimination compared to other types of CA (in the Commission, in EU Delegations etc.).

It is not acceptable that Contract Agents in Executive Agencies are supposed to stay their entire professional life on the same kind of post in the same institution with very limited options for change and progress.

To this end, we ask immediately for:

1) Inclusion in the current social dialogue and negotiations taking place within the EC because it directly impacts Executive Agencies' staff professional future - as it will define the new GIPs

2) The entry grades suppressed by the currently proposed GIPs to be re-inserted and redefined for people with 9 and 12 years of professional experience

3) Transparency in the recruitment process for the current EPSO CAST for CA in Executive Agencies (transparent and open selection criteria to be invited to pass the tests; communication on the number of vacant posts in the Executive Agencies)

4) Inclusion in the internal competitions which are going to the opened soon for the Commission

5) The possibility to be seconded to other institutions including agencies.

6) Full transparency of all vacant posts in all EU institutions (internal publication of all vacancies in one single forum)

In the medium-term, we ask :

6) To put in place a real social dialogue within the EAs

7) Same job conditions including the same salary grid for all CA staff performing comparable tasks (e.g. all financial officers or all project officers) – end of differences between 3a and 3b, Commission and Agencies,

8) CCP conditions similar to other types of staff categories (civil servants, temporary agents)

9) Full mobility between the institutions : the right to work in various EU institutions, without time or other restrictions nor losing long-term contracts and salary components

10) A professional career and promotions based on job performance and merit, including re-classification and promotion to senior posts

11) Selection of staff for EU institutions on the basis of job-related criteria and tests (qualifications, job experience etc.) instead of abstract test without link to the tasks to be performed (reasoning and situational judgement tests).

Contract Agent Manifesto: Ending the class (CAST) system within the EU administration
For a fundamentally new EU recruitment system
(Position paper)

There are three main classes of staff in the EU institutions: those with extremely high scores in EPSO (European Personnel Selection Office) tests (new civil servants), others with a little bit lower scores (contract agents) and the ones who have not been subject to abstract EPSO tests (civil servants recruited before 2003).

What is the difference?

In many cases, all three classes of staff perform similar or even the same tasks and have comparable skills, competences, knowledge, education, CVs etc – just the EPSO scores vary. In addition, for many contract agent selection procedures, matching professional experience of several years is a pre-requisite while for the main yearly civil servant competition no professional experience is required. However, the job prospects, terms, conditions, health coverage, pension and not least the salary schemes are very different from one another.

What is the current situation?

Currently, everybody who aspires to work on a long-term basis in the EU Administration has first and foremost to pass an abstract, verbal, numerical reasoning and situational judgement set of tests in which s/he has to obtain better marks than ten thousands of other candidates .These reasoning tests have nothing to do with the kind of work to be performed in the institutions. Moreover, these tests present a major obstacle for many contract agents who have proven their excellent skills on the job for years and still do not reach the required scores in EPSO tests to continue their career within the EU administration. So, on the one side, an external, inexperienced candidate becomes a civil servant, while a fully trained, highly qualified and highly experienced contract agent will not have the same opportunity. The current recruitment system values abstract EPSO test scores more than years of professional experience within the EU Administration (during which one or more probation periods have been successfully passed, contract been renewed on the basis of good performance etc). Precious internal staff that is very well trained, qualified and productive is thus lost every year, in high numbers and has to be replaced by untrained newcomers.

How did this two classes system develop?

Over the recent years, the post of an EU civil servant has become extremely popular as the high number of candidates shows (for general EPSO competitions there are several ten thousands each year). In order to reduce the number of candidates to a size manageable for human resources, the entry competitions have become very difficult. The lucky very few highest-scoring ones are chosen as civil servants, others often succeed in a bit less difficult contract agent competitions.

In addition, the EU administration sees many advantages in having a lower class of contract agents: They cost significantly less and can be flexibly used (released or prolonged after the end of each limited-term contract) according to the skills needed for a particular post. That is why the percentage of contract agents amongst the staff has considerably grown over the years. We acknowledge the service needs of reduction of costs and flexibility of assignments. However, there are better ways of achieving these objectives than kicking out highly competent staff after a maximum of 6 years of service, without any realistic possibility to continue working in the EU institutions.

The current recruitment system is highly unfair and wastes time and money of ten thousands of unsuccessful candidates, the EU institutions and not least the tax payers.

What needs to be done about it?

A fundamental re-conception of recruitment procedures and career management for all staff serving in the EU Administration is urgently needed. It is not acceptable that some candidates are hired as life-long civil servants only on the basis of theoretical tests while contract agents who have confirmed their performance on the same job have to leave the institutions after several years or are confined to a very limited number of services and types of posts, most of them very administrative, at entry level or outside the EU (e.g. Financial and Project /Programme Officers in delegations and agencies). This system must change to encourage the best staff to become productive at their right levels of performance. Such a change would boost motivation and productivity of staff and reduce costs significantly.

Skills, competences, motivation, commitment, resilience, and above all testing on the job should be the main selection criteria for long-term EU staff. This aim could for instance be achieved by hiring all new EU staff first as contract agents/employees. They could get an initial, limited contract or a probation period, followed by an unlimited, but terminable contract. In addition, the best amongst them should be provided with the possibility to become civil servants during their career, on the basis of their performance on the job/several internal jobs executed. Such a system would not only provide a fair and attractive perspective for all staff including full mobility both horizontally (between institutions and types of posts) and vertically (access to lower management posts, promotion and re-classification) even for staff not acceding to civil servant posts. It would also have numerous advantages for the institutions, above all additional cost savings (contract agents are much cheaper than civil servants) and flexibility, but also long-term testing of management candidates ensuring the right choices and continued high efforts of staff aiming for career advancement. Several EU member states' administrations and international organisations already make use of similar selection systems. Divergent specialist recruitment procedures with higher entry levels for the few posts requiring very specialised skills and competences hard to find on the market are not excluded.

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.

All of that comes at a cost. Help us to meet it.

Not yet a member of U4U? Join us as we need your participation.

Already a member? Upgrade from our subscription membership of €15 per year to a support membership of €60 per year.

We need your financial support. Help us to defend you, to propose more acceptable staff management policies and to challenge whatever hits us hard.

To join and/or change to a support membership, use this form on our website or contact us (list of contacts below). 


U4U at your service
Georges Vlandas, Président

Jean-Paul Soyer, Secrétaire général

Manuela Alfe (Executive Agencies)
Fabrice Andreone (General Affairs, information, legal issues),
Ute Bolduan (Outside Union)
Trémeur Denigot (GUDEE, co-editor of Education européenne),
Pierre-Alexis Feral (institutional Affairs)
Patrice Grosjean (dossier Agents contractuels)
Gerard Hanney Labastille (Luxembourg site),
Agim Islamaj (monitoring of statutory issues, limited duration contracts),
Victor Juan-Linares (Organisation, proximité)
Philippe Keraudren (Restructurations, Executive Agencies)
Pierre Loubières (ICE),
Petros Mavromichalis (EEAS HQ)
Sazan Pakalin (Ispra),
Gregor Schneider (Regulatory Agencies)
Kim Slama (Statutory affairs)
Bertrand Soret (EEAS DEL),
Georges Spyrou (European Schools),
Brunhilde Thelen (relations with USHU)
Catherine Vieilledent-Monfort (relations avec le monde associatif européen)
Sylvie Vlandas (Affaires générales et budgétaires)
Carmen Zammit (issues concerning the post 2004 reform).

Secrétariat : Gaete Sandine
Tel interne: 98 70 65

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DGT Luxembourg : BORG Carmen, GARRONI Brigid
EEAS: SORET Bertrand,
FPI : LIAMINE Alessandro
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OP : BRITES NUNES Margarida, MIZZI Joseph
REA: ALFE Manuela
REPRESENTATIONS : ACABADO Pedro  (Bureau Lisbonne)
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éditeur responsable: Georges Vlandas

équipe de rédaction : Bertrand Soret, 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  

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