Newsletter from U4U : September 2018 – n°66
U4U, a citizen-based European trade union, for all employees of the institutions
The Union for Unity (U4U) was created by officials of the European institutions involved in the following bodies:
the think tank established as part of the Graspe review in 2000 to discuss the European Civil Service, the evolution of its occupations, and the European construction that is our raison d’être;
leaders of the parent associations at the European schools, especially in Brussels;
representatives of staff at the European institutions, dissatisfied with the trade union organisations;
and finally, the numerous colleagues involved in community projects.
The U4U approach is quite distinctive. Accordingly:
We have a citizen-based approach: the defence of our profession and its usefulness for society includes the defence of the European construction, our raison d’être, and of the budgetary resources allocated to it. This explains U4U’s involvement in citizen-based activities by various means, such as “Europe Solidaire” and the “European Citizen Platform”, as well as by its actions to promote the European Union, such as leading debates and reflection, for example via the Graspe review;
We have a unitary approach on behalf of staff and fight against divisions and the “every man for himself” attitude. We must be united. Our proposals are based on a common perspective from which nobody, regardless of their status, is left out. Our strength lies in our unity, from the top to the bottom of the pay scale;
We encourage a local approach. That is why U4U is the only union to be represented in a large number of services and institutions by more than 120 “contact persons”, members of the Council consulted on our major positions. These people are our close link to the situation on the ground. This local action also involves information meetings and decentralised discussions in the services. We carry out consultations with all staff, giving them the opportunity to comment on and approve our proposals, which are refined by professional practice;
We do not limit ourselves to the provision of services – training, coaching, legal assistance, individualised support, giving quality information via our newsletters, videos and websites – we also take concrete measures to improve the situation of our colleagues by developing constructive proposals. In this way, we obtain tangible results in different areas.
Nor is our approach limited to the defence of the basic principles of the Staff Regulations of the European Civil service: salaries, promotions, pensions, sickness insurance, salary method – it also aims to improve our working conditions and our jobs. Accordingly, we recommend:
• a significant drop in precarious situations,
• establishing rewarding professional careers that preserve and enhance the professional skills of all staff,
• recognising that the principal element of well-being at work is to be recognised and feel it has real meaning, in the service of the European construction and society,
• improving working conditions in the broadest sense, including crèches, child care centres, and European schools,
• a substantial reduction in the number of management levels, a source of bureaucratisation,
• the development of team working, more motivating,
• gender parity at all levels.
Finally, our approach requires a real and effective social dialogue within the institution at all levels, including in the services: the change that we want cannot be decreed from above, it can only be achieved by working with the staff.
These are the substantive reasons for supporting the actions of U4U during the next professional elections for the Local Staff Committee of Brussels, by your vote for the list of U4U, on October 24th.
My name is Patrice Grosjean and today I am representing the trade union for employees of the European Union, U4U (Union for Unity) and the European Citizen Platform, which is a group of different European associations. While we are employees of the European institutions, the Commission, Parliament, the Council and the executive agencies, we are also and above all European citizens. As men and women of Brussels, but also present in many of the towns and villages of Europe, we affirm our commitment to the European ideal and the community that welcomes us, in this case the community of Belgium and Brussels.
And it is in these different capacities that we are honoured to participate in this ceremony in tribute to Simone Veil that we trust will be repeated over the years to come.
A colleague, after reading a novel by Hugh Howey, recited this quote to me: "I know it is pure fiction, but what would happen if, standing amidst the rubble..., we chose forgiveness over escalation? What would this world be like? We may never know.”
Well, we do know. This world is that of the European Union.
Mme Veil, deported to Auschwitz at the age of 16, chose forgiveness. Not only forgiveness, but reconciliation. She played an active part in Franco-German reconciliation. She contributed to the unthinkable - reconciliation after numerous wars, after the horror suffered by generation after generation, and how she contributed!
She went beyond this reconciliation to contribute to the European construction. For it was not only France and Germany who were fighting each other in Europe.
Let us open the history book. Almost all the pages are soaked with blood. And now, all of a sudden, men and women are not only saying “never again”, but are actively committed to a construction of peace, in order to bring together former enemies and replace hatred with cooperation and the sharing of common values.
Simone Veil represents values and struggles that are also ours: against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, for the emancipation of women, and for human rights. As a young official in the Ministry of Justice, she worked for the recognition of rights for Algerian soldiers, and in particular to protect women from rape and other abuses. For her, nothing justified such acts of violence, not even war.
Throughout her life, Simone Veil showed by her example that a woman could have an impact, could be professionally and politically active, while at the same time raising a family. She chose to take action against conservatism and opposition to change. We remember her exemplary and avant-garde action in support of the decriminalisation of abortion, but as Minister of Health she took multiple measures in numerous fields, such as aid for the homeless and benefits for single parents. She was also responsible for the first significant anti-smoking measures.
This ceremony in memory of Simone Veil is also an affirmation that we will never forget her values. We are seeing the precariousness of the European union in the face of those who desire a return to Hobbesian anarchy between the nations. Cynical, resigned and disenchanted, they would have us believe that Man is wolf to Man. We are seeing their words of hatred and exclusion coming out of the shadows in which they were previously confined, to the point where in some States they are heard in the official arena.
We are seeing human rights, particularly for women, attacked, eroded and slowly reduced. And now these rights and agreements, such as the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees, are being openly attacked.
As Simone Veil demonstrates so well, we must resist. Not only passively, but with positive action. Not only active resistance, but as the life Madame Veil has shown us, we must build boldly, with audacity!
Thank you for listening, until next year!
Policy consultation with the Commissioner on 10 July: some confusion and some alarming news!
After “administrative” consultations (with the director responsible for the case) and “technical” consultations (with the Director General of HR), this consultation was intended to address some unresolved issues in two cases involving professional incompetence and the administrative inquiries of the IDOC.
U4U / RS did not ask for this consultation, believing that it had obtained sufficient guarantees for staff, after helping to improve the texts.
Commissioner OETTINGER began the meeting by announcing that the Loi 130 building in Brussels would soon be rebuilt to become a “building of the 21st century”. He did not say how staff would be involved in its design. More detailed information will be provided when we reconvene.
A representative of the Luxembourg website referred to the situation of the new Jean Monnet 2 building, which is behind schedule, with staff representatives who felt that they had been inadequately involved in this project. Once again, the Commissioner will respond to this issue in September.
U4U raised four points of importance to staff:
The Commissioner’s response was too general on the first three points.
On the final point, however, the Commissioner stated that such a reform will be necessary, given the positions of the member States, without saying that the opening of the Staff regulations would be limited to the pension issue alone. This time, he was clearer than in the past, when we were taken aback by these repeated requests concerning the usefulness of a possible opening of the Staff Regulations. U4U expressed its rejection of a new reform of the Staff Regulations and asked the Commissioner to organise a new meeting to discuss this more fully after the holidays. After this meeting, the Commissionner somehow backpedaled on this point but a clarification is needed.
We believe it is crucial to mobilise staff immediately if we are to avoid a revision of the Staff Regulations, which would be disastrous for everyone, including CAs.
We eventually managed to raise the two subjects of the consultation: professional incompetence and the inquiries made by the IDOC. In view of the time remaining, the Commissioner suggested we deal with the first point when we reconvene.
On the second point, the unions that had requested the policy consultation reiterated their many (too many?) positions:
which authority will the IDOC be answerable to? (it is currently the DG HR), why not the President of the Commission himself?,
the number of years of experience needed to be part of the IDOC (10 years being requested),
the definition of the concept of “serious misconduct” that makes proceedings subject to statutory time limitations (the text proposes to stop them after 15 years),
the definition of a strict correspondence between the misconduct and the penalty incurred...
The Commissioner replied: the
President was certainly not going to monitor the IDOC personally, so why would
the monitoring done by a member of his staff be better than that done today by
the DG HR in association with the SG and the DGs concerned? The answer is
With regard to the required 10 years’ experience, the Commissioner said there should be no confusion between competence and experience, that colleagues with 5 years’ experience could prove to be completely competent. More pointedly, he asked whether the same level of experience, i.e. 10 years, would be needed to represent staff, which requires certain competencies in regard to, for example, staff regulations and negotiation?
On the last two points, the difficulty was emphasised of defining serious misconduct a priori. Likewise, without any context and a priori, it is not possible to identify any strict correspondence between “misconduct” and “penalty”.
Finally, it was pointed out that we do our jobs in a democratic institution, which respects the rules of law and which has numerous counter-balances and appeal options.
How can there be a social dialogue meeting held today without raising this topic, which for some parties takes precedence over all other topics? The unions that asked for the policy consultation could not resist it, thus providing reason to believe that this case had been dealt with at the highest level. The Commissioner provided the administration’s response, which is to maintain this programme.
As for U4U, we pointed out that this experimental programme, involving a limited number of colleagues (about 40), could not resolve the legitimate problems of a much larger number of people. In regard to CA staff, we put forward our 10 proposals, developed with the staff themselves, raising the interest of the Commissioner.
The experimental YP programme looks interesting to us regarding the career path planned on entering employment. It gives new arrivals a better understanding of the jobs in the institution and a better knowledge of European culture and enables them to define their subsequent careers more effectively.
Being an experimental programme, it is possible that it could fail. The important thing is to learn from this experiment, which is possible since the trade unions are involved in monitoring it.
We must be united: we must not sacrifice our AST staff!
The ASTs are not happy with the Commission. Their work has lost some of its meaning and direction.
Their numbers are down, although they represent 25% of the Commission’s workforce and all of the contract staff. They are just about the only category of officials that has suffered job cutbacks since the 2014 reform. This has resulted in a significant reduction in transfer opportunities. In addition, these cutbacks are seen by AST staff as a sign of the institution’s disinterest, despite the fact that our AST colleagues are better qualified and have acquired substantial professional experience outside of the institution.
Finally, this group feels “surrounded” by other categories: the AST SC staff, the CAs in function group 3, and often those in function group 2, without mentioning the takeover of some of their duties by the AD staff themselves.
The number of posts for certification is quite limited and, since 2014, ASTs have seen their career prospects restricted to grade AST 9 (as opposed to AST 11 previously), without the transitional compensation that was provided for AD staff. The progression to "senior assistant" is poorly defined and happens frustratingly slowly. For administrative reasons, the AST grades occupy AST/SC posts, giving them the impression that they are being downgraded.
In short, the prevailing impression among a growing number of AST colleagues is of being the category held in least regard by the Commission.
We must not remain inactive or indifferent. We must be united and reject the corporatist paradigm of “every man for himself”. To do this, we have to offer AST staff proposals that improve their situation and discuss these with them.
That is why we are proposing, as for contract staff, 10 courses of action and consideration, of unchanged status. Most of these measures have already been partially implemented. It is now a matter of systematically developing them as an element of the human resource policy for this category.
1. Setting out clear professional career paths, culminating in an end of career at AD grade, made possible by certification, or at that of "senior assistant".
2. Increasing the number of "senior assistant” posts up to the 8% limit imposed by the Staff Regulations.
3. Taking account of experience in AST grade for AD certification, so as not to delay their promotions.
4. Providing training, co-financed by the institution, enabling them to pass their external AD exams.
5. Improving the replacement or compensation accompanying the grant of part-time status to ASTs (CSC, part-time work, union activities, long-term training, etc.).
6. Starting a "Junior professional” pilot project for AST staff, similar to that for ADs.
7. Introducing internal reclassification competitions helping to speed up careers in the AST grade.
8. Improving inter-institutional transfers
9. Organising an AST "exchange programme" to promote staff transfers. Providing, as in Luxembourg, a stock of vacant AST posts to promote staff transfers.
10. Encouraging, when possible, detachments to enable AST staff to carry out temporary activities in other units on a more or less part-time basis. This will help to distribute workloads between services and to enhance the professional experience of AST colleagues.
U4U has four elected members on the CSC, two of whom are members of its board. U4U supports the action of the Commission’s Central Staff Committee on behalf of the numerous victims and casualties of the fires of 23 July at Mati in Greece. Some initial actions have already been undertaken, sometimes spontaneously, by colleagues present on site, in the vicinity or in Brussels.
At the same time, an appeal for funds has led to the collection of more than 30,000 Euros to meet the practical needs of the families who have lost all their possessions. The association well known to officials in Brussels and Greece – 12 hours for Greece - is in the process of working directly with local associations in Mati, Neos Voutzas and Rafina. It should also be noted that a substantial amount of aid has also been provided by the European Union.
To help them, you can make a donation to the following account number, with the reference "Mati fires":
IBAN number: BE54
0016 6813 8197
BIC code: GEBABEBB
asbl “12 hours for Greece”, 116 av. Isidore Geyskens, 1160 Brussels
These donations will enable 12 hours for Greece to continue its support, which will end with a concert on 10 November at the Salle de la Madeleine in Brussels. We will return to this issue later.
NB: "12 Hours for Greece" is a non-profit organisation created in 2012 to help associations operating in Greece in the areas of education, health and the fight against poverty. The association operates exclusively on a voluntary basis, and is not linked to any organisation or political party. Their main action is an initiative called "Fuel for Schools", where they purchase fuel to heat schools in Northern Greece. Last year, they were able to heat 40 schools, representing between 6,000 and 7,000 children.
1. Adjustment of the pay of officials and employees of the European Union
At this stage, the figures are unknown. Some significant changes are still possible, depending in particular on the calculation of the pay increases of the German officials (+7% over 3 years). However, it is not certain that these increases will be included by Eurostat in its evaluation of September 2018, as the date to be taken into account is the effective date.
In any case, we can estimate the salary increase to be at least +1.5% for 2018. This minimum rise corresponds to the rate of inflation in Belgium in 2018. U4U’s estimate is that this increase could be as much as 2%, if the situation in Germany is taken into consideration, according to the specific indicator that measures changes in the national civil services (excluding inflation).
2. Pension scheme for officials and agents of the European Union
The latest figures published concerning the debt to the budget of the Member States on 31 December 2017 amount to just over EUR 73 billion. This debt is mentioned in the 2017 EU balance sheet (amount to be called for from the Member States).
The change in this debt between 2016 and 2017 (+8.9%) stems from the application of the interest rate on the last day of the year to the virtual capital, in accordance with the accounting standards; although it would be necessary to apply an average rate corresponding to the lifetime of this debt, i.e. 60 years.
The adjustment of the pension contributions of officials and agents to the pension scheme could increase slightly in 2018. This relates to the five-yearly actuarial assessment rather than the annual adjustment of the five-yearly assessment. In this case, the provisions of the Staff Regulations stipulate that the change must be strictly applied; unlike the annual adjustment, which only applies beyond +0.25% or -0.25%.
The calculation of this adjustment to the rate of contribution to the pension scheme for officials and agents is based on the following data, as provided for in annex XII of the Staff Regulations:
On 15 December, the Commission will publish the level of pay and pension contribution adjustments in the Official Journal of the EU. It will then be implemented on each institution on the pay slips of the officials and agents, with a possible recovery on 1 July 2018.
U4U will continue to keep you informed, providing more detailed information as soon as it becomes available.
On 27 February 2018, the Court of the European Union ruled on a previously unsettled procedural issue: the time limit for prescription of the legal action to be granted his financial rights.
The petitioner, an official at the Commission since 1988, was assigned in September 2007 to the Kinshasa Delegation as Head of Delegation. He signed his individual rights sheet, through which it is clearly apparent that he was entitled to an expatriation allowance (EA/IDE) of 16%. However, due to the nature of his work, he did not notice that this EA/IDE had not been paid to him from the start of his appointment. It was only in May 2014 that he was informed of this by the Delegation's Head of Administration. After contacting the PMO immediately to recover the whole of the allowance payable from September 2007, the PMO informed him that he was “out of time” but that a limited ex gratia payment would be made to him, retroactively, covering the equivalent of five years of the allowance. The petitioner then brought an action before the Civil Service Tribunal for the grant of his allowance for the whole period of his assignment to the Delegation.
Before the CST, the petitioner saw his petition ruled inadmissible on the grounds that the petitioner had failed to observe the time limit stipulated in articles 90 and 91 of the Staff Regulations.
The CST first noted the principle according to which the pay slip triggers the time limit for a claim only to the extent that it reflects the content of the individual underlying decision. In this case, the CST considered that the pay slips did not refer to the EA/IDE, but that they could not be considered as being a reflection of a decision to cancel or withdraw the petitioner’s right to the EA/IDE. In the absence of a prejudicial decision, the CST considered that a time limit for claims had not been initiated.
The CST then added that the behaviour of the Commission amounted to an administrative error which, not being of a decision-making nature, required the superior of the official concerned to submit an article 90 application for compensation to the administration within a reasonable time limit.
Finally, concerning the matter of the determination of a reasonable time limit and in the absence of any specific reference in the Staff Regulations, the CST referred to the prescription time limit set out in article 46 of the Statute of the CJEU regarding action for non-contractual liability of the Union, i.e. five years. As this time limit commenced in September 2007, the petitioner’s right of action expired in 2012.
Within the context of his appeal, the petitioner referred to a number of factors, including in particular the fact that the Staff Regulations make no reference to a time limit for submitting a claim to obtain payment of an allowance recognised as being payable by the administration (and therefore the time limit for initiating an action for unjust impoverishment/enrichment.) The petitioner relied, in particular, on the absolute right to remuneration, a right that the official cannot renounce.
The CJEU ruled in favour of the petitioner, stating that “compliance with a reasonable time limit is required in all cases in which, in the absence of a specific reference in the statutory provisions, the principles of legal certainty or of protection of legitimate expectations prevent the institutions of the Union and natural or legal persons from acting without a time limit, thus endangering, in particular, the stability of legal situations acquired”. However, as in this case the petitioner’s rights had been budgeted to the EU, and as the failure to pay the EA/IDE was simply the result of an administrative error, the CJEU believed that there was no risk to public finances that could restrict the petitioner’s right to remuneration.
The lesson to be learned from this judgement is not insignificant; it is clear from the Court’s case law that if by chance you were granted a right or allowance but, for administrative or logistical reasons, this did not materialise, you have the right to ensure that such commitments are met by the Institution, a right which is not limited to a time limit of five years, on condition that there are no statutory provisions to the contrary. Accordingly, you must submit an article 90 claim to the appointing authority (AIPN/AHCC) as soon as you become aware of such an error.
Appeal for your support
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 €25 per year to a support membership of €84 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).
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