Newsletter from U4U : June 2017 – n°56
A social dialogue meeting was held on 7 June between the DG HR and the OSPs to carry out an initial review of the centralisation of the HR functions at the Commission.
To recap, this reform, which was announced by the Commission's communication of 4 April 2016 on "synergies and efficiency at the Commission":
1) is intended to provide a new 1/40 ratio between HR staff and other Commission staff (instead of the previous ratio of 1/29) and a saving of 380 FTEs by means of the recentralisation of the HR functions in the AMCs (although a small strategic function would remain at local level in the form of a BC);
2) at the same time, the Communication underlined that "the quality of the HR services should remain at least the same as that presently guaranteed".
The DG HR confirmed that 450 colleagues had re-joined the new AMCs, while 150 staff remained in the BC teams. This would constitute an initial saving of approximately 100 FTE. The DG HR emphasised two points. Firstly, satisfying the staff in the AMCs, who must be motivated and organised and their procedures carefully thought out, in a tricky transition period. Secondly, the need to ensure that the AMCs maintain a human element in their service to all of the Commission's professionals: "the AMCs must have a face".
These concerns are perfectly respectable, and U4U wants the DG HR to maintain the quality of the service and provide the AMCs with the means to ensure the 'human' administration of HR. However, the accounts received by U4U suggest a different story: a tendency for automated and anonymous replies, too wide a variety of procedures and approaches by the AMCs, a risk of losing contact with local situations, the complexity of the relationships with the BCs, and a current lack of strategy for the BCs.
U4U will therefore keep a close eye on this centralisation with the principal aim of maintaining the quality of the services and the 'human' nature of the management of HR within the Commission. All aspects of this reform are covered in an article by GRASPE available online.
The proposals of the Directors General will soon be released and available in Sysper2. If you are not proposed by your Directorate General or Service, you have five days to lodge your appeal in SYSPER2.
You must then give the grounds for your appeal, explaining why, in your opinion, your seniority in the grade, your merits as described in your appraisal report, your current responsibilities and your language proficiency justify a promotion. Your appeal statement must be brief and factual. You are advised not to exceed one A4 page.
U4U can also assist you during this stage. So don't hesitate to contact us:
The appeals are then examined (usually in September) by working groups that prepare the meeting of the Joint Promotion Committees. In October, the appeal will be submitted to a Joint Promotion Committee (composed of the DG HR, your own DG, and staff representatives). The Committee can either reject or allow the appeal.
It should be noted that the Promotion Committee, in deciding the appeals, only has a quota of 5% of all the current year's promotions, i.e. a maximum of approximately 250 promotions. Once the Promotion Committee has put forward a list to the AIPN, by adding names to the proposals of the Directors General, the appointing authority (Autorité Investie du Pouvoir de Nomination – AIPN) – in this case the Director General of HR – normally adopts the final list.
The promotions take effect on 01 January of the current year and are effective on payslips from December of the current year.
Temporary Agents in OLAF
U4U formally invited the Director-General of OLAF, who enjoy AIPN powers independently from the DG HR, to support the actions of his temporary staff looking for a redress of unfair past situations.
This formal request follows a bilateral meeting held three years ago in which the OLAF Director-General underlined his flexibility and willingness to find an acceptable solution for this group of staff in OLAF. U4U, always involved in the protection of Temporary Agents' rights and working conditions in all Commission departments and Services as well as in other EU Institutions, asked the OLAF Director-General to show concretely his support to the staff.
Despite the fact that we have received no feedback from the OLAF Director-General yet, we are confident he will honour his previous commitments and support his staff with openness and fairness. What is at stake is the trust that OLAF Temporary Agents have in their manager.
U4U will ensure a follow up and will inform the staff in the next journal.
Social dialogue at EASA: U4U meets the administration and the Staff Committee
A social dialogue meeting at EASA was held in a constructive spirit on 30 May with U4U, the EASA administration and the Local Staff Committee of EASA around the same table.
Social dialogue is a key feature of all EU institutions, including the European agencies. Within the scope of social dialogue, there is recognition of the specificities of the European agencies. All participants agreed that, in the current situation of budget austerity for all EU bodies, it would be extremely useful to enhance the mobility of staff between agencies. Nevertheless, this would entail solving a number of technical barriers regarding continuity of careers and pensions. U4U could assess how this issue could be carried at Commission level.
Regarding the situation of EASA itself, it is necessary to make sure that all staff, whether temporary agents (TA) or contract agents (CA), should have reasonable and stable prospects for a career. U4U insisted in particular on the necessity to improve the reclassification rates of TAs, in particular in lower grades where the current reclassification rates are in practice much lower than those established in Annex I B of the Staff Regulations. It also stressed that consideration should be given to allowing changes of function groups for CAs and building bridges between CA and TA functions. The EASA administration took note of these suggestions, considers the possibility to change the duration of contracts for CAs in the future in order to take into account career flexibility, while recalling the very tight budgetary constraints of the agency.
Social dialogue on job families went on following from the previous meeting. While recognising that the job families system is designed to help colleagues at EASA better plan their career, U4U recalled that this system should not appear to limit careers along the AST1-AST9 grades and AD5-AD 12 grades in particular and that all appointments should be made following the same transparent procedures. The EASA administration took note of these views and confirmed that an efficient communication should allow to allay concerns among EASA staff.
U4U suggested to bring the issue of psycho-social risks at the next meeting of social dialogue at EASA. This is an issue which is gaining more and more important within the EU institutions. The EASA administration agreed with this suggestion.
U4U declared that it would announce in due time the constitution of a U4U team at EASA so as to better organise the work and activities of the trade union in order to help staff whenever necessary. The EASA administration confirmed that it would allow the necessary resources for U4U representation to be able to work independently.
All participants agreed that such social dialogue meetings should be held on a bi-annual basis.
U4U and the Joint Undertakings
What are the Joint Undertakings?
The Joint Undertakings (JUs) are independent legal entities that manage research projects in an integrated way, with industry joining forces with other stakeholders. JUs have a dedicated budget and staff and provide a framework for the public and private players to work and take decisions together. They organise calls for proposals, oversee selection procedures and put in place contractual arrangements for projects set up to implement the JTI research agenda. They thus allow funds from different sources to be jointly managed and they are responsible for the related communication and dissemination activities. Each JU includes a Governing Board, an Executive Director as well as other bodies, including advisory bodies, depending on its specific operational and governance needs.
U4U meets the staff of the JU’s
On Friday the 9th of June 2017 U4U organised a meeting with the colleagues of the Jus to take stock of staff management issues and to introduce itself and its activities. The following JUs were represented:
• Innovative Medicines 2 (IMI2): to develop next generation vaccines, medicines and treatments, such as new antibiotics ;
• Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 (FCH2): to accelerate market introduction of clean and efficient technologies in energy and transport ;
• Clean Sky 2 (CS2): to develop cleaner, quieter aircraft with significantly less CO2 emissions ;
• Bio-based Industries (BBI): to use renewable natural resources and innovative technologies for greener everyday products ;
• Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL): to boost Europe’s electronics manufacturing capabilities ;
• Shift2Rail: to develop better trains and railway infrastructure that will drastically reduce costs and improve capacity, reliability and punctuality.
The meeting was very well attended by around 50 colleagues representing more than 1/3 of all staff members which shows the necessity of the involvement of U4U. The most important message of the meeting was that in union there is strength (Union for Unity).
Following this meeting a new one will be scheduled with the staff representatives of each JU for a more in depth discussion on the concerns of the staff, as well as to compare the existing practices and to define weaknesses and potential improvements.
In addition, we will have regularly meetings with all staff members to follow up on the issues.
U4U / SGPOE joint text
The DG INLO has informed the Staff Committee that the 900 colleagues who will occupy the Wilfried Martens building will do so in open-plan offices.
In general, we are not in favour of an open-plan layout, although we acknowledge the benefits in some cases, subject to certain conditions. The arrangement of the open-plan offices and the move must be preceded by a staff consultation at which staff must be given the opportunity to discuss, amend or reject the proposed plans. Above all, the space must be organised with the agreement of colleagues.
A move to an open-plan layout must make sense from a job perspective. That is not the case in this instance. In other words, open-plan is not a solution that suits everyone, in all possible scenarios, including at the European Parliament. What is more, this form of organisation of the working space also creates a number of negative effects and inefficiencies, which must be weighed against any benefits. SGPOE and U4U ask that the staff concerned, who are the real experts in the requirements of their role, be allowed to decide on the final proposal.
If this change to an open-plan arrangement goes ahead, the existing area ratio per person should be retained and the layout of the working area should be improved. In this case, the priority appears to be that of saving space.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that this is not the first time the European Parliament has proposed this arrangement. And this would not be the first time that it abandoned it because of its inefficiencies: in a note dated 4 June 2015 from the Secretary General, Mr Klaus Welle, the European Parliament had already shelved plans for open-plan offices.
We request that a social dialogue meeting with the trade unions be held as a matter of urgency.
The European Court of Auditors will have an impact (positive) on OLAF
According to the OLAF press revue of 14 June 2017, the European Court of Auditors will focus on anti-fraud policies and measures as well as on investigations. OLAF will be visited again.
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) wants to launch an audit of how the European Commission manages the risk of fraud in EU spending. The audit will focus on fraud prevention and fraud response and will include contributions from NGOs, academics and prosecutors, as well as Europol and Eurojust.
In a 2015 Eurobarometer survey on perceptions of fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget, 71% of respondents thought that fraud occurred “rather frequently” and 60% felt that corruption was “significant in the EU institutions”
U4U reminds the staff that working conditions have a direct impact on the output delivered by the Commission departments and services, consequently, this aspect of the fraud policies and measures, the human factor, should also be taken into account. Members of the OLAF staff should be given the anonymous opportunity of providing information to the European Court of Auditors on how they face the working challenges daily.
This is particularly relevant when the Staff Survey places OLAF, year after year, in the last positions of the Commission in terms of satisfaction. Regrettably, the raw data of these surveys is only made available to the HR and to the management of OLAF, thus avoiding the trade unions to support the staff there where they needed most.
The staff of the European institutions assigned to Luxembourg pay health care charges that are often obscene. An agreement between the institutions' Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme (JSIS) and the Luxembourg authorities was signed decades ago to impose a ceiling of 15% on excess charges for the staff of the institutions. In reality, however, there is every opportunity to circumvent the 15% rule, and although a corrective coefficient is applied, the remaining amount payable by members is exorbitant.
A European Directive regulates cross-border health care in the European Union, and the Court delivered the Ferlini judgement stating that there should be no discrimination between European citizens for health care costs in a particular country. Luxembourg, however, does not seem to comply with the principles established. Under pressure from the OSPs, the PMO initiated steps with the Luxembourg authorities to review the previous agreements. U4U urged President Juncker to use his political influence to settle this delicate issue once and for all. After a few months of occasional talks, the PMO, which lacked the required political and legal expertise, was without representatives in Luxembourg, and the authorities declared themselves to have no jurisdiction. In short, we are all being made fools of in Luxembourg.
The Luxembourg authorities required the relocation of more than 400 agents to Luxembourg in the agreement concerning the construction of a new building to replace Jean Monnet. Do these colleagues know that, like those already there, they will also be fleeced by a Luxembourg health care system that is barely European when it comes to the equal treatment of EU nationals?
U4U was right to think that, without political support, it would be difficult for the PMO to deal with the Luxembourg authorities, for which we are like manna from heaven. However, U4U believes that President Juncker, who "loves us deeply", as he recently told colleagues in the DG AGRI in a brief and touching speech, will love us enough to intercede with his compatriots. We have faith in him.
U4U is an active union, working on behalf of colleagues through its workplace meetings, not only in Brussels, and present in negotiations with the administration. We have an informative and up-to-date website, we publish regular newsletters, systematically translated into English, we defend you individually before the administration and before the Civil Service Tribunal.
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éditeur responsable: Georges Vlandas
équipe de rédaction : Bertrand Soret, 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, Ivan Cusi Leal, Georges Divaris, J.-P. Soyer