Newsletter from U4U : May 2017 – n°55
The social dialogue meeting on contract staff, known as conciliation, has recently ended: a step forward was taken, but problems persist!
The conciliation requested by the unions has just ended. Its political objective was to settle the main differences that continue to exist between the Commissioner in charge of human resources and the trade unions in the negotiation concerning the implementation of the 2014 Staff Regulations (the new GIP) for contract staff.
We were involved in several stages of the social dialogue by conducting a regular dialogue with the staff concerned, encouraging them to take action and incorporating their claims into the negotiations.
For contract staff on open-ended contracts, particularly those working in the delegations, the implementation of the 2014 Staff Regulations offers some mobility possibilities (including to headquarters), promotion, reclassification to higher grades and the opportunity to enter a number of internal competitions for permanent positions. Some management positions will be open to these members of staff. This is clearly a distinct improvement.
For contract staff on fixed term contracts, the implementation of the 2014 Staff Regulations offers the possibility of contracts up to 6 years, the anti-cumulation rule now excludes periods served as a temporary worker or national expert on detachment (it was extended to 7 years instead of the previous 6 years), reclassification to a higher grade can be obtained when starting a second 3-year period, a performance appraisal for CA staff is conducted from the third year, after which entrance to one or two internal competition is permitted, internal access to vacant posts is encouraged, etc.
The last stage of the social dialogue, called conciliation, helped improve the situation (see below). It is now necessary to consult the Staff Regulations Committee and have the new provisions for the implementation of the Staff Regulations adopted by the College, hopefully before the end of the summer. The adoption of these GIP should have repercussions at the EEAS, in the executive agencies and other services and institutions.
Decision of the Commission concerning the external activities of its officials and agents and professional activities after terminating their employment: a welcome clarification!
U4U, together with the other unions representing the officials of the Commission, is in the process of discussing the draft regulations submitted to the social dialogue.
This instrument updates the existing provisions in this matter and takes account of the strengthened statutory provisions of the 2014 Staff Regulations.
The principle remains the same: the external activities of active officials and agents are subject to authorisation (art. 12 ter of the Staff Regulations).
Likewise, those former officials involved in professional activities must seek the prior authorisation of the Appointing Authority during a period of two years after leaving their posts.
However, notwithstanding this principle, the new instrument states that the authorisation of external activities is deemed to have been obtained for activities that do not interfere with the accomplishment of the tasks of the official or agent and which are deemed to be compatible with the interests of the institution. The instrument defines these types of activity with the following criteria:
1. These activities must be voluntary;
2. They must be carried out outside of working hours or be covered by properly approved leave;
3. The impartiality and objectivity of the official must not be compromised or appear to be compromised in the eyes of third parties;
4. These activities must not compromise the institution's reputation;
5. The statutory obligations must be met.
The new instrument gives examples of activities that fall within this category: charitable, humanitarian and sporting activities; activities related to religion, politics or the unions; artistic and cultural activities; unpaid teaching activities, the ownership of shares and bonds; belonging to a professional order or association, unless their code of conduct comes into conflict with the Staff Regulations.
It must be noted that unpaid teaching activities fall within this category, subject to the following conditions:
· The institution where the courses are held must be an educational institution;
· The institution and the diplomas it awards must be recognised by the Member States;
· In addition, the conditions referred to above must of course be met (see points 2 to 5 above);
· The payment for such activities, combined with other activities (publications), must not exceed EUR 9,000 net per calender year (after deduction of taxes). It must be noted that this cap concerns all activities, whether or not they fall within the formal authorisation regime (art. 7 of the decision).
The DG HR website is expected to include FAQs that will illustrate these different aspects.
The draft decision also allows staff the possibility to be involved in training activities that are in the interests of the service.
The instrument describes the arrangements for staff who leave the institution and want to be involved in new professional activities. In principle, a former agent must request authorisation to carry out activities during the two years after terminating his activities within the Commission or three years if these activities are related to his duties within the institution.
Notwithstanding the above, if the former agent or official of the Commission takes a new post in an EU institution or body, this activity does not require prior authorisation. This also applies to the following activities: charitable, humanitarian and sporting activities; activities related to religion, politics or the unions; artistic and cultural activities; unpaid teaching activities, the ownership of shares and bonds; belonging to a professional order or association, unless their code of conduct comes into conflict with the Staff Regulations (art. 4 para. 3 of the decision).
The draft instrument defines the rules for colleagues who receive severance pay or a disability pension and excludes special advisors.
U4U is very pleased with this ongoing clarification for these questions and in case of doubt invites colleagues to consult the Help desk. Furthermore, if you are in any doubt, please submit a request for authorisation for external activity to ensure that you are covered, and always with regard to the rules in force!
The DGT: "lost in translation"?
U4U recently paid a visit to colleagues at the DGT to canvas their views about their working conditions.
The DGT has also suffered the negative effects of the staff cuts, although translation requests have not fallen. One of the major developments at the DGT in recent years is the gradual but significant outsourcing of translation work (up to 40% of texts). This outsourcing is carried out by an executive agency as well as a private company.
While the idea of a limited and controlled outsourcing of translations may appear reasonable, the extent of the practice is such that the quality of translations is now called into question. The institution's ability to carry out its mission is affected by this. One of the ironic consequences of this development is that staff at the DGT now have to spend an increasing amount of time checking outsourced translations. In addition, last-minute translations, including at night, must always be done by DGT staff, as an external company obviously cannot action such requests. It is clear that the current policy of outsourcing the Commission's translations has gone too far and created more problems than solutions.
Colleagues at the DGT are also concerned about their future in Brussels as the Geneva buildings require major renovation works and may be condemned. Adjoining services such as the crèche have already been limited and are under threat of disappearing altogether. The question then arises of the DGT moving to the centre of Brussels, which would be likely to create mobility problems for all those who had settled in the region of Evere for a short commute.
U4U is asking the OIB to clarify the situation as soon as possible.
U4U recently paid a visit to colleagues at the DG RTD to canvas their views about their working conditions and their future.
Since the launch of Horizon 2020, the DG RTD has tried to redefine itself as a policy DG, which of course has a significant impact on the recruitment, training and vocational retraining of its staff. On one hand, the project officers should become policy officers. On the other hand, the many colleagues in the administrative and financial units (AFU) must move into other professions or transfer out of the DG, given that most of the Horizon 2020 research projects are now managed by the executive agencies.
The DG RTD is therefore faced with two dilemmas. The first is the definition of its policy. Is it innovation? But then what about research? And how will these activities be coordinated with the CCR in particular? Is it a matter of framework conditions for research and innovation in the context of the ERA and other agenda along the lines of "growth and employment", "the digital agenda", and "the European Fund for Strategic Investments"? And then who will be responsible for capitalising on the billions of Euros spent on the thousands of Horizon 2020 projects? Or is it all of the above? The answers will depend on the job definitions of colleagues in the DG RTD, who for the moment have to handle a heavy workload despite substantial staff cuts.
Against this backdrop, the situation of CA staff remains tense as these colleagues, as throughout the Commission, are carrying out permanent duties while employed on fixed-term contracts. The situation of AST officials also remains worrying as, given the Commission's lack of concern for these members of staff, the DG RTD is obliged to provide local answers about their future itself. Steps were taken a year ago, and it is to be hoped that they will be extended and soon become the subject of an open debate with staff.
Finally, the most recent opinion poll at the DG RTD revealed a gap between staff and senior management. A consultation with staff was therefore initiated to identify possible solutions. A number of colleagues are therefore astonished that the DG RTD have not yet used the results of that consultation. U4U is consequently asking the DG RTD to provide the conclusions of the consultation and to initiate a debate with staff on this subject.
We have recently seen a revival of the European spirit. Various associations are rallying to encourage the revitalisation of European integration, and appeals are being made. U4U, a citizen-based European trade union, links the defence of the civil service to the promotion of European integration. U4U, together with the Europe platform it leads, participated in the creation in Brussels of a European Citizen Platform (ECP) to take part in the debate on the future of our Union and mobilise the European officials. Below are extracts from two texts publicising the rallies of 25 March and 9 May 2017.
Both rallies were a success. A large number of officials and agents took part. We are sure that even grater numbers will turn out in the future. European integration concerns and affects us. As citizens, we also have a part to play!
1- The 9 May rally in Brussels
Why? To support the European ideal and demand the revival of European integration.
9 May is Europe Day. We celebrate 9 May 1950, the day when Robert Schuman announced the creation of the first European Community, which eventually became the European Union of today. In almost 70 years of history, European integration has made remarkable progress.
Today, however, the European Union remains an incomplete construction at risk of collapsing under the pressure of multiple crises and mounting criticism in numerous countries.
The European project is based on the values of peace, democracy, freedom solidarity and the rule of law. It is time that each and every one of us reaffirms these values that represent Europe. It is time for the citizens of Europe to reclaim ownership of this project. Let's march for Europe, democracy and a new ideal for all Europeans.
The European Platform of the citizens of Brussels calls on all European citizens living in Brussels to join us in celebrating Europe Day, showing our support for the European project and demanding its revitalisation.
· For those who believe in a strong, united and democratic Europe, it is time to stand up to its detractors.
· For a Europe of unity, against divisions and new walls. For a united Europe that respects its promises of peace, freedom, security and prosperity.
· For a Europe of solidarity and shared responsibility.
· For a Europe that protects the interests and values of Europe in the world.
· For a Europe of democracy that strengthens the participation of European citizens.
· For a Europe of hope, and against a Europe of fear.
· For a fresh impetus for the European project.
We are Europe!
2- Rally of 25 March 2017
For a more united and citizen-based Europe!
Our Europe raises questions, if not outright rejection. Europe's citizens believe that it no longer offers satisfactory solutions to the problems that concern them: long-term unemployment, schooling that does not prepare our children for adult life, failing solidarity, weak growth, slow progress in moving towards a sustainable economy, security problems, etc. The citizen debate appears to have broken down.
The experience of the last century, of two European wars that developed into world wars, has pushed humanity to the edge of the abyss, but our memories of this are fading. The economic and social difficulties, the increase in inequalities have resulted in a gradual upwelling of nationalism in Europe and elsewhere. This has caused some nations to take a backward step. There is now a fear of others, of the future and of decline. This perception leads to self-interest and violence. Nevertheless, history has shown that stronger cooperation and mutual assistance can unite the peoples of Europe and carry us forward to a common destiny.
This is the spirit in which Europe was built. From the beginning, it has sought to follow a different path, that of cooperation, solidarity, economic development, democracy and the rule of law. To achieve this, it created common institutions. However, this objective has only been partially realised. Its action is now challenged at all levels, and the reasons for its creation have been forgotten.
But we, European officials and citizens of Europe, we have not forgotten. We will not allow a few authoritarian regimes in Europe to ruin what we have patiently constructed. We do not want those authoritarian regimes known as "post-democratic" that are establishing themselves, or threatening to establish themselves in a number of European countries, to cast doubt on the fundamental achievements of democracy and the European Union. We want European integration to move forward and retain its ability to respond to shared challenges. We believe that European citizens are united in their diversity, and stronger together than divided.
We believe that we are one people under construction. In 2017, we celebrate the anniversary of the launch of our collective adventure, the signing of the Treaty of Rome. On this occasion, the institutions are initiating a debate on the future of the Union. We want to take part in this to affirm the values we hold dear, to reflect together on a common path, chosen democratically. We do so by supporting the debate within the "European Citizen Platform", created with our cooperation, that of the Graspe and that of our "Europe solidaire" platform, to initiate public debate in Brussels, and we will also do it in the institutions, with our colleagues.
Our future cannot be defined without us or for us: we must help to shape it. This path is one of solidarity, innovation, cohesion, the environment, democracy, the only realistic way out of the current impasse. We want to discuss this together. Only by involving European citizens – the "Eurocitizens" – in the debate will Europe find a new momentum.
We, too, are Europe!
Recently, I was able to benefit from a training course entitled "Negotiating in a changing environment". The title is already an enigma, as there was no question of a changing environment. But negotiation? In theory, yes. Except that its principles conform to approaches with cultural overtones. Ask our Scandinavian colleagues if they agree, for example...
I was initially struck by the choice of games required to distil the concepts of negotiation. For the most part, these were games that were intended to achieve a win, while on the other hand they involved a perspective on money.
I do not know if the aim of a negotiation is to win. Where there's a winner, there must also be a loser. In our environments, the aim of a negotiation is often to reach agreements that satisfy all parties.
As for money, which serves to define the values in these games and to designate the winners, it is incongruous in our environments. Why use it as a benchmark? For example, why not prioritise games in which the issues are the well-being index or the satisfaction of the parties rather than gain?
All this is not neutral. All this is part of a society of competition in which the wealthiest, the strongest and the most resilient form the elite (and what's more, the consultant also provides a training course in resilience …), to the detriment of those who favour sharing, team spirit, collaboration, empathy, imagination and well-being.
Who can feel comfortable in an environment in which if his neighbour wants something he simply takes it? Our group independently favoured an identical gain for everyone. The consultant did not recall ever seeing this before. We were rather proud of this result: we decided that our gain was the satisfaction of all of the parties, with no single party emerging as a financial winner. The paradigm was shifted by the nature of the gain and by the belief that gaining more at the expense of another party was not acceptable.
If I've learned anything in my 25 years in European affairs, it is that it's best if there are no losers. The boomerang effect will inevitably hit you in the face. And usually, those who negotiate these lopsided agreements are no longer there to suffer the consequences of their choices, which are left to future generations.
Ensuring that the problems and issues are properly understood in the negotiation, that everyone is in possession of all the facts enabling them to understand the constraints of each party and that they can all demonstrate the imagination to find solutions that prejudice nobody should form the basis of negotiation training for the officers of a civil service whose primary purpose is building a place of peace and prosperity for all.
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.
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équipe de rédaction : Bertrand Soret, Olivier Brunet, Philippe Kéraudren, Victor Juan Linares, Fabrice Andreone, Sylvie Vlandas, Kim Slama, Christian Tritten, Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, Stéphane André, J.-P. Soyer