Newsletter from U4U : October 2017 – n°57
On 13 September in Strasbourg, before the MEPs meeting in the hemicycle, Jean Claude Juncker set out his vision and priorities for the European Union. A strategic, unified and democratic vision, aimed at putting Europe in a position to take advantage of the window of opportunity opening between now and mid-2019.
This powerful speech focuses on the need to relaunch the European construction by enlisting the support of its citizens in an ambitious project during the forthcoming European Parliament elections. It is likely to energise our Union and give direction to our work in the service of the European construction.
President Juncker is responding in advance to the French President’s speech by agreeing with him on the political priorities and the values we hold dear, while at the same time disagreeing with him on a number of important points: in particular, according to him, the Minister for Economic Affairs and president of the Eurogroup must be the European Commissioner in charge, the European Parliament is the democratic body that controls the activities of the Eurozone, the Commission must keep its mandate, and the Eurozone budget must be included in the EU budget. JC Juncker no longer wishes to initiate a reform of the Treaties, which can be expected to be long and difficult, and above all not understood by the citizens, who expect rapid responses.
He also emphasises the need for a Union of equality, a European foundation for social rights, without however outlining a plan for a rapid reduction in inequalities. Nor is anything said about increasing the EU budget, without which there can be no guarantee that Europe will escape from sluggish growth, that imbalances and instability will be corrected, or that the threats to the social systems will be eliminated. The call for a new industrial policy strategy is another important and inspirational aspect of this speech.
President Juncker proposes a further institutional simplification, the merger of the posts of President of the Commission and President of the European Council. The benefit of such a merger of presidencies would improve the visibility and influence of the European executive, while clarifying the separation of powers at the top of a union that JC Juncker describes as a Union of states and a Union of citizens.
Finally, our president is very aware of the urgency of the economic, social and political situation, an urgency we believe is well founded. That is why we agree with him on the need to show courage, "now that the weather is good, and for as long as it stays good". In this undertaking, he will be able to rely on the support of the officials and agents of the European Civil Service.
Our colleague, comrade and friend Philippe KERAUDREN has just passed away. Philippe had known he was ill since the beginning of the summer, but such a rapid end was unexpected. His life was a beacon of light.
Philippe was with us in all our actions and thoughts – co-founder of the GRASPE review, co-founder of the U4U trade union of which he was one of the vice-presidents, representing our union at the RTD - he was deeply involved in the development of our trade union, taking on an incalculable number of responsibilities.
What is more, Philippe was incredibly intelligent, gifted with a rare writing ability, and was an excellent public speaker, mastering several languages, and with a keen political acumen. Above all, he was a good man who cherished his family and was generous, respectful of others, committed, with an ideal and a belief in collective action.
A Breton by birth, he had lived in several countries with a variety of cultures. He was dedicated to the European construction, whose current limitations he criticised, while calling and working for a sustainable recovery.
He will be terribly missed. His passing is a great loss for us. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
A ceremony will be held at the Chapel for Europe in Brussels, at 5.30 p.m. on Friday 20 October.
Temporary Agents in Directorate General OLAF, a step forward, hand in hand
U4U has always been at the spearhead of the protection of Temporary Agents' rights and of working conditions in all Commission departments and Services as well as in other EU Institutions.
In this file, together with the colleagues of other trade unions and in close cooperation with the European administration, a group of colleagues starts to see an open door to gain equal rights. Implementation should swiftly follow.
U4U is the only trade union having approached directly the OLAF Director General, formally requesting from him full support for his Temporary Agents. They are highly qualified, delivering outstanding output in the interest of the EU. U4U also supported the position of the TA's by direct contacts with the Administration.
Staff representatives welcome that TA in OLAF have now some career perspectives. They will continue to monitor the implementation of real changes during the coming years. This is an example of good will on the side of the administration and an example of collective effort on the side of the trade unions.
U4U, where all staff has a voice.
Open Spaces in the Office for the Payment of Individual Entitlements (PMO) and in the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels (OIB)
U4U organised a local meeting with the staff of these two big Offices in the MERO building before the summer break.
It stems from the information conveyed by PMO and OIB staff, as well as from the visit of an U4U delegation in their premises, that the working conditions in the open spaces may be subject to improvement. At this occasion M Mouligneau, Director of OIB, underlined that the administration is working to the best of their resources and that improvements are coming.
On the one hand, the impact of these new working conditions on PMO staff handling sensitive information, notably for those using video or phone teleconference via lynk, has not been sufficiently analysed. The use of new ITIC, notably "lynk" (the replacement of phones), has been extensively tested in PMO. It is the first service handling sensitive information under the surveillance of PC phones and cameras. Apparently, serious doubts have been raised by DIGIT about handling of sensitive information via lynk.
On the other hand, the facilities made available to particular services like the EU historical archives in OIB, should be better fitted to their important mission. Colleagues face researchers, academia and investigative journalists.
Finally, the newly furbished building seems to have some malfunctions, fine-tuning will be very much welcomed.
U4U is envisaging a survey to gather anonymously more information from staff with the objective to come forward with practical suggestions and proposals to the managers of PMO and OIB. The administration, now that the pilot phase delivered some partial results, is in better position to correct any inconvenience in using open spaces when handling sensitive information (medical records, reimbursements, family and personal situations, individual entitlements).
U4U will invite the administration to submit the use of open spaces to voluntary initiative (eg submitted to rotation), after duly consideration is taken of the nature and content of the tasks and to the mind focus level required by those tasks.
U4U, where all staff has a voice.
Agreement U4U/EUIPO : follow-up meeting in Alicante… not yet there…
On Friday 15 September 2017, a delegation of U4U met the Head of Administration of EUIPO to follow-up the implementation of the agreement concluded in 2016 between U4U and the EUIPO.
You will remember that U4U proposed an agreement that set out the key points of a sustainable staff policy. One of the challenges was motivating staff despite budgetary constraints. While acknowledging the Office’s declared need for a certain flexibility – that translates into defining a ratio of 70/30 of permanent to temporary staff – it was agreed that a newcomer who joins the Office as a temporary or contract agent will have different opportunities to obtain job stability. Everybody will have at least two opportunities to take an open EPSO competition in the sector of Intellectual Property or an internal competition for those who are not working in this IP sector. In addition, transfer from external lists will be accepted on a regular basis and finally, some staff members will see their contract upgraded to 'indefinite' after 10 years of service.
Such agreement must be considered an achievement within the European institutions and, in particular, among the agencies where temporary employment and flexibility of labour relations are often a priority.
Apart from the above, our agreement envisages accompanying social measures for those leaving the Office and provides for cooperation in training between the trade union and the Office, for the preparation of EPSO competitions.
It resulted from the meeting last week that the accompanying measures have been adopted and that the cooperation in training has been highly successful. More than 100 persons from inside and outside the Office participated in the training organized in Alicante jointly by U4U and the French Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
However, so far, there are shortfalls in the implementation of other parts of the agreement. U4U will be vigilant about the organisation of an internal competition, this avoiding leaving non-IP staff in a difficult situation. For the time being, the percentages of renewal of contracts are much lower than what was envisaged. Against this background, U4U will ask the EUIPO how and when to tackle with this situation.
U4U hopes that EUIPO will do everything to implement the agreement concluded last year. We will discuss these issuesthat were brought to our attention during our next meeting with the Executive Director in October in Alicante.
In LINK no. 55 we set out the main characteristics of the draft revision of the Commission’s decision, which the trade unions are in the process of discussing with the Commission.
Some unions asked for a policy dialogue, on the grounds that the obligations should vary in accordance with the grade, function or status of the official/agent.
We believe this approach to be illegal and undesirable. In fact, the Staff Regulations define obligations for all staff, irrespective of their grade or function. Consequently, a decision regarding external activities cannot undermine this approach, which would require a significant revision of the Staff Regulations. U4U is therefore against this request for a policy dialogue, which will in all probability be doomed to failure.
You will find below the main points of the Commission’s draft text, which constitutes an improvement on several points compared to the existing text. The proposed wording updates the existing provisions 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 of the Staff Regulations). Likewise, 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, by way of derogation from 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, within the limit of the following conditions:
• The institution where the
courses are held must be an educational institution;
The DG HR website is expected to include FAQs that will illustrate these different aspects.
The draft decision also recognises the possibility for staff to be involved in training activities that are in the interests of the service.
The instrument also sets out 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.
By way of derogation, if the former agent or official of the Commission takes a new post in an EU institution or body, this activity is not subject to a request for 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 the clarification of 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 in all events with regard to the existing rules!
La Bruxelloise: Sunday 15 October 2017 – Stade Fallon
“Run for fitness and against cancer”
On Sunday 15 October 2017, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert will host the 7th women’s run, “La Bruxelloise”. Since 2009, this event has inspired a growing number of women in a festive and friendly atmosphere. Its increasing success culminated in 2014 with more than 2,000 participants and the handover of a cheque for EUR 10,000 to the Saint-Luc foundation.
We are betting that this year will break all records so that we can make further progress in breast cancer research!
A run for women
There are numerous women’s races in France and in English-speaking countries. Sixteen years ago, Paris set the example and, since then, all the major cities have held their “mini-Parisienne”. An enthusiasm that is not feminist, but friendly and full of energy, expressed through a new sporting culture combining pleasure and health.
This year, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert is continuing the trend by hosting the “7th Urban Women’s Run” on 15 October 2017.
This run, over 3, 6 or 9 kilometres (as decided by the participants), will take place in the Stade Fallon and on the green spaces surrounding this magnificent sports complex. Whether you walk or run, you will be most welcome.
The start will be at 10.30 a.m. from the athletics track in the Stade Fallon. The event is also an opportunity to provide financial support for a public operator in its fight against breast cancer. A fixed amount deducted from each registration will be paid to the designated institution of the year. This year it will again be the Saint-Luc Foundation.
The Woluwe-Saint-Lambert Commune actively supports this initiative. “They are particularly keen on the idea of promoting women’s sport, while supporting the fight against breast cancer (…). Devising a festive and glamorous goal will enable more than one Brussels woman to get involved in running, to discipline themselves in their health practices, while having time to themselves”, adds the organiser.
And for the purists, everyone will be given their time and placing after their effort!
So, with your family, your friends, or just to support a worthy cause, come to the Stade Fallon on Sunday 15 October at 10.30 a.m.: €8 for advance registrations, €10 on site, and for girls and boys from 0 to 12: it’s free! Men wanting to accompany these ladies will be admitted but not classified, and must wear women’s clothing!
Registration is open on line at the website from today.
Useful information: - 0477 26 62 73 - www.la-bruxelloise.be - Facebook Page La Bruxelloise
Here are the contents:
GRASPE is a think tank organised by EU officials and agents who wanted to consider the meaning of their profession and contribute to the debate on the European construction. Since 2000, this group has regularly published issues containing thoughtful and constructive articles.
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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éditeur responsable: Georges Vlandas
équipe de rédaction : Bertrand Soret, Olivier Brunet, Victor Juan Linares, Fabrice Andreone, Sylvie Vlandas, Kim Slama, Christian Tritten, Gérard Hanney, Sazan Pakalin, Agim Islamaj, Yves Dumont, Stéphane André, Ivan Cusi Leal, Georges Divaris, J.-P. Soyer