The Link - Le Lien
U4U Bulletin - Bulletin de U4U
U4U taking part in Staff Committee elections: We want a motivating Commission we are proud to work for
The elections for the Commission’s new Staff Committee in Brussels will be held between 24 and 26 October. U4U has submitted a joint list, representing professionals of all generations, grades and management levels. We must come together to defend the European Union and the civil service, the two being inseparable.
We want respect for our jobs and for our working conditions.
We want our careers to be properly managed - visible, predictable, supported - and not simply administered.
We want to reduce the disparities and inequality that poison and weaken both the staff and the institution.
The crèches, child care centres and European schools must be able to take all of our children and guarantee them a proper and high-quality service.
We want a European Commission that is not ‘just another employer’, but a motivating Commission for we are proud to work for.
We want a public administration based on values.
Liste U4U n°2 List U4U #2
U4U List no. 2
For the elections starting on 24 October, U4U is submitting a list of 54 colleagues, full members and alternatives for the attention of the voters.
31 of these 54 colleagues are women, which reflects the proportion of female staff in the Commission’s workforce.
This list is composed of colleagues of all grades, from contract agent GF 1 to director. Our candidates, from all generations of the European Civil Service, come from 16 Member States.
We must all come together to defend our jobs and the European Civil Service.
Improper biases of EP President
On 12 September, Jean-Claude Juncker made his State of the Union 2018 address to MEPs in a sparsely attended Hemicycle for, apart from the College, the number of MEPs present was not particularly large.
At the presentation of the report of the Maltese presidency in July 2017, Jean-Claude Juncker was indignant about holding debates in a Hemicycle that was virtually empty (barely thirty MEPs). At the time, President Tajani defended MEPs instead of reminding them that their absence was not very respectful to Malta and Europe, or worthy of their mandates.
This year, Jean-Claude Juncker did not pick up on the absenteeism, although we did. President Tajani is not doing his job. Duly noted. He clearly prefers to sanction those MEPs who defend our values and social dialogue at Parliament, rather than reading the riot act to Eurosceptic and xenophobic MEPs.
And we deeply regret that an event that is so important for the future of the European Union is ignored by those who are appointed to represent European citizens and yet are not there to do so.
U4U proposals for AD careers and for the debate
U4U would like to hold discussions with colleagues on possible improvements for the careers of AD staff, in the context of the attractiveness of the European Civil Service, similar to those proposed for our AST and CA colleagues.
The proposals for the discussions set out below supplement our other proposals on the subject of career development.
Our specific proposals for AD careers are as follows, we welcome your comments:
1. Publishing competitions in AD6 instead of AD5 for the generalist profiles and AD8 instead of AD7 for specialist competitions, to improve the attractiveness of the Commission and provide a better geographic balance;
2. Reviewing the processes of external AD competitions, to introduce a European and knowledge-based dimension in order to recruit staff who are highly specialised on the subject of Europe;
3. Renewing the Young Professionals exercise, inspiring practices by international organisations, and synchronising this with internal competitions to give the exercise an outlet;
4. Using a parallel procedure to train young AD officials (placement in two different services for one year) and in-depth training
5. Maximising the use of the promotion rates in annex IB of the Staff Regulations for the AD category and considering them as a minimum instead of a ceiling;
6. Organising internal review competitions for AD staff on the basis of experience and trying to correct the under-classification of colleagues on entering into service;
7. Organising the careers of AD officials to enable the identification of those with potential for management, in the context of open and transparent procedures and offering this population a structured choice (talent management);
8. Improving the alternative to management careers by means of specialist profiles (Adviser/Senior Experts) that make it possible to circumvent AD career blocks;
9. Harmonising the selection processes for Senior Experts across the Commission and making them more transparent;
10. Permitting promotions to AD13 and AD14 (in proportions to be defined), in order to offer end-of-career prospects to AD staff and keep them motived.
Please let us know if you have any comments or any new proposals.
Against the sanctions facing 7 MEPs: Our thanks to Maria Arena, Isabelle Thomas, Georges Bach, Guillaume Balas, José Bové, Edouard Martin and Claude Rolin for their support for the interpreters!
Last July, U4U sent an open letter to MEPs calling for their support in defending the right to strike and social dialogue, trampled underfoot by the administration of the European Parliament.
Seven of them answered our call and spent 40 minutes protesting during a session.
Although a compromise was reached with the interpreters following their action, and also thanks to the support of our organisation and these seven MEPs, in spite of the grudging approach of the administration, President Tajani found it appropriate to impose financial sanctions on the 7 and suspend them from exercising their parliamentary rights for 5 days.
However, the interpreters’ strike was the result of the disastrous way in which Klaus Welle had imposed his new working conditions on the interpreters. Instead of sanctioning the Secretary General who had destroyed social dialogue, made massive requisitions violating the right to strike and taken Parliament into a stalemate that prevented it from functioning properly, he sanctioned the MEPs who were simply doing their duty.
U4U believes that the European Parliament is duty-bound to set a good example and welcomes all actions in support of the staff.
Internal competitions: some good news at last
A social dialogue meeting and a session of the Joint Committee (COPAR) gave us a glimpse of the next internal competitions in 2019. To summarise, there will be two internal competitions, with 405 posts for successful candidates:
However, there is still not enough information about a number of points. At the present time, the controversial issues concerning the internal competitions open to CA staff are as follows:
Regarding the competitions reserved for TA staff and officials, U4U requests:
In the next issue of The Link, U4U will return to these competitions, when the present discussions will have ended.
These internal competitions will only have a very limited impact on the situation of the CA staff. That is why U4U proposes 10 measures to reduce the precarious situations and to improve the situation of our contract staff colleagues without changing their status. Almost 750 contract staff have already approved these measures. The recent statements by the President of the Commission in favour of contract staff give us hope that such common sense measures could be implemented swiftly.
EUROPEAN SCHOOLS have serious problems: seven reasons, six problems and 4 U4U demands
(text for the debate)
The European Schools are facing multiple problems. A number of parents are already leaving these schools and some are opting for private education, despite the often exorbitant cost. Why is this happening, and what should be done? U4U’s analysis.
The European Schools are facing difficulties for the following seven reasons:
A. Over recent years and for the 13 “public” European Schools:
B. The above have six problematic consequences:
For the European Schools to be able to continue to fulfil their mission and meet the legitimate needs of parents, most of whom work for the institutions, U4U is making four demands:
Come and discuss this with us on Monday 15 October in the large meeting room, Rez de Chaussée, Rue de la LOI 80 at 12.45.
U4U is fighting for quality services for staff and is winning its battles
A colleague gave birth to her first child, who was diagnosed a few weeks later with an illness requiring a series of operations that would result in the child being disabled. On presentation of the initial medical report (diagnosis and treatment), the appointing authority (AIPN), as provided for in article 72 of the Staff Regulations on social security, recognised the status of a child with a serious illness leading to the full reimbursement of healthcare costs by the JSIS. Other medical reports were produced in the following weeks confirming the illness and the resulting disability.
Under the terms of article 58 of the Staff Regulations on maternity leave, the colleague requested an extension of her leave on the grounds of the serious illness of her child. She produced the same medical reports as those that entitled her to reimbursement by the JSIS. The extension was refused by this other service, which did not recognise the serious illness, without giving the grounds for its decision or, indeed, giving written notification. She was given the explanation by telephone, after her persistent requests for information had gone unanswered for a long period. The service refused to consider that the disability suffered by the child qualified as a serious illness. It therefore implicitly recognised the disability, paradoxically when you consider that the disability also makes her eligible for an extension under the terms of article 58.
The problems caused by the references in the Staff Regulations to serious illness, one of which is quite specific (art. 72), while the other is subject to an occupational medicine appraisal (art.58, 59, 42.bis), make it difficult to manage such necessarily complex cases facing the administration. And that makes the lives of colleagues very complicated. How is it possible for one appointing authority to accept that the child is suffering from a serious illness, while the other does not?
The colleague is going to take parental leave to be with her child, who will undergo three operations in the first months of its life. During these difficult times, she will get very little help from the AMC, which will give her incomplete, or even incorrect, information and will add stress to an already distressing situation. Not to mention the problems she will have with the crèche, where she has a place, but which will refuse to take a child with this type of disability. As this disability is clearly apparent, she will also ask for it to be recognised by the appropriate service, with the rights and benefits that such recognition would entitle her to.
Throughout these six months, she will be subject to a cumbersome bureaucracy, having to submit medical reports and a variety of documents to each service she deals with. She will also sometimes come up against a disturbing lack of concern.
U4U has supported this colleague in her attempt to access her rights by helping her to make a claim under art. 90, which also asks for the creation of a special office to help colleagues in difficulty. At the same time, U4U has advised her to approach the Commission’s mediation service.
As a result of these joint efforts, she will be granted the extension of maternity leave, sadly three months after it was most necessary, which has enabled our colleague to recover the parental leave she will need in the future. The art. 90 claim was withdrawn as it had become devoid of purpose.
As an epilogue to this difficult experience for our colleague, the DG HR apologised to her for the delays she encountered in the recognition of her rights. It has also announced the creation of a new "Medical absences" unit at the DG HR which is mainly intended to reinforce the support measures in the spirit of care for those who, like our colleague, are faced with distressing situations.
For U4U, the administration’s apology is a sign of progress for the institution’s communication with its staff. The creation of a special unit is without doubt welcome, as long as it does not complicate the institutional architecture and its areas of competence are clear and known to staff. For faced with the subtleties of the Staff Regulations and the increased number of intermediaries (PMO for the JSIS and disability – DG HR for disability, Medical Service and Absences Service for leave, the medical absence unit at the DG HR, AMC, etc.), in a crisis situation characterised by urgency and confusion, how do we know who to turn to, which documents to send, what the time limits are?
In our opinion, it is necessary to create a special office to contact in the event of a problem, as our colleague’s situation is not an isolated case. This office, intended to provide assistance, guidance and advice, could be provided with a “personal file” interface for documents needed just once, which would be accessible to the services that require them to grant leave or aid, or to recognise a right or a series of rights. This would greatly help the lives of our colleagues faced with a difficult situation. It would also help all of our colleagues outside of Brussels in their processes made complicated by distance.
U4U is fighting to improve the working environment, because a good environment favours the satisfaction of colleagues, strengthens confidence in the institution, increases its attractiveness and contributes to the well-being of the entire community.
Staff experiencing prolonged stress at work has a higher probability of developing mental and physical health problems. Psychosocial risks (RPS) arise from poor management as well as from poor social context at work.
In January 2018, the JSIS joint Committee issued a letter addressed to all Heads of Administrations raising awareness about the necessity to implement strategies to prevent and remedy psychosocial risks at work. Indeed, the staff cuts, the work overload leading to more competences to be covered with less staff, the wide range of jobs performed including risky jobs, the work organisation and its weaknesses, the expatriation and the posting sometimes in difficult countries, a multicultural environment leading to misinterpretation, the coexistence of diverse cultural values, poor consideration for staff and lack of positive feedbacks all are factors that affect our daily environment and therefore, ourselves.
And all these factors entail stress.
There is no one recipe to eliminate stress, however there are ways to mitigate and reduce it. Nowadays our life and work pattern is much faster, more complex and increasingly demanding. The environment is ripe for even greater stress in workplace so managers and colleagues need to be one step ahead and find solutions on time.
More respect, more patience, more soft management skills are needed to demonstrate empathy, encourage trust and to express appreciation more frequently.
Permanently uneven, individual workloads are no longer justifiable - responsibility to ensure a fair distribution is not a luxury but a requirement. Regular recognition of successful work must be communicated in order to incentivize better.
We are both champions and victims of new technologies. The information and Communication Overload in the Digital Age is evident everywhere. Traditional communication patters are becoming less used as colleagues prefer to send an email than pick up the phone or visit a colleague to talk over work issues or just socialize for a few minutes!
Leadership and Empathy help reduce work-related stress and avoid psychosocial risks.
Management has an undeniable responsibility for implementing a plan to prevent/reduce psychosocial risks. HQ can provide the guidelines and managers should adhere to them and adapt them to the characteristics of the jobs, missions and environment that is theirs.
Understanding staff difficulties outside the workplace may also be important to foster a supportive working environment.
Similar to other skills, good leadership and people management skills can be learned and improved upon. A good leader inspires colleagues and motivates them to fulfil their potential. S/he is open and approachable and understands the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, challenges and encourages them to work towards shared goals and to take responsibility for their work.
Not only the administration but all managers have the duty to prevent and remedy RPS at work. Managers have the primary duty to defend their staff and their working conditions towards those that constantly bully our public administration and claim that we should do more with less. Let’s start think otherwise.
Have you heard of Radio Ekonomika?
In mid-2016, the European Commission’s DG Translation launched a knowledge management project on the radio, aimed at thematic training for translators. However, all colleagues can benefit from these presentations on the Commission’s policies, accessible almost everywhere and in a compact format (30 minutes, in English and French).
http://dgtradio.podomatic.com/ for Radio Ekonomika
http://dgtradiolingvistika.podomatic.com for Radio Linguistika
Every week, Radio Ekonomika invites a specialised journalist or economist to present, in non-technical language, a current topic relevant to the work of translators. We also invite colleagues from other services to present key policies or documents that they manage, the goal being to share knowledge and work programmes and to encourage acquisition of a language common to all staff. Every fortnight, Radio Lingvistika addresses general linguistic topics such as presentations of languages, European citizenship, multilingualism or, in more focus: the internal processes of the DGT (outsourcing, demand management, machine translation, quality, etc.) that our colleagues would like to be more familiar with.
The radio provides an opportunity for our colleagues to present their field of expertise and discuss, in an informal and general way, subjects such as the reform of the Eurozone, the tax system and the digital economy, for example. This helps to develop an inter-service and cross-cutting vision of our working environment and of the institutional framework. The radio ensures that a better understanding of European current affairs will improve motivation and performance. Another advantage is better knowledge of the DGT, the different languages into which the texts are translated, their special features, needs and difficulties, and the work of the DGT’s different horizontal services.
How to avoid problems on retirement
Since 1 June, the spouses of applicants for retirement are no longer allowed to attend the retirement preparation seminars organised by the DG HR B3… However, over the years the DG HR has encouraged spouses and partners to take part in these seminars, stressing the importance of starting this new life in the best possible conditions and avoiding, among other things, post working life conflicts in households.
Such attendance (often limited as spouses that still work are not always available) is voted for in training evaluations, and always presented as being very useful by those retirees active in pensioners associations like the AIACE.
The DG HR D1 Unit, responsible for monitoring pensioners is also very much in favour of this attendance…
So, have we found a way to avoid divorces after retirement?!
Legal affairs: The Living Conditions Allowance (LCA): When practice differs from principles
The officials and agents assigned to the delegations are eligible to receive, in accordance with article 10 of annex X of the Staff Regulations, a Living Conditions Allowance (LCA) provided that the conditions in the delegation are not considered to be equivalent to those usually applied in the European Union.
Since its creation in 2011, the EEAS has been confronted with separate legal actions on the basis of two distinct main lines of argument:
1- The conditions for evaluating and setting the LCA are supposed to be imposed by the rules established through the DGE, which are under the terms of articles 10 and 110 of the Staff regulations and must therefore be adopted after consultation with the Staff Committee and the opinion of the Staff Regulations Committee.
The first legal action was brought1 by staff members of several delegations who saw their right to the LCA removed as a result of a decision in December 2012, following which the Appointing Authority considered that the living conditions in these delegations were equivalent to those usually applicable in the European Union.
The complaint of the staff concerned was principally about the illegality of such decisions, even though the EEAS had not yet adopted the GIP in compliance with the obligation stemming from article 1 of annex X.
In the first instance, the European Civil Service Tribunal (CST) was of the opinion that, on principle, the EEAS would effectively have had to adopt the GIP, without which all measures adopted under the terms of article 10 of annex X of the Staff Regulations would be illegal. Nevertheless, the CST considered that “although the delay in the implementation of article 1, subpara. 3 of annex X of the Staff Regulations is regrettable, there is reason to accept that, on the date of the decision in question, the EEAS was, with regard to the application of these provisions, still in a period of adjustment.” The CST consequently ruled that the main aim of the GIP was to avoid any partiality or arbitrariness on the part of the Appointing Authority and decided that the litigious decisions were neither partial nor arbitrary.
Not satisfied with such a decision, M Vanhalewyn lodged an appeal2 before the General Court of the EU (GCEU) on the grounds that the CST had committed an error of law. The GCEU upheld the argument of the petitioner and considered that the conditions set under the terms of article 1 of annex X in order to force the EEAS to adopt the GIP constitute a real obligation - and not merely a formal condition - binding the Appointing Authority, which would like to adopt a decision on the LCA. The GCEU therefore considered that the CST had committed an error of law by ruling that the petitioner should have proved the existence of the partial and arbitrary application of article 10.
The subsequent failure of the EEAS to comply with the internal rules led to several other cases being brought before the Court of Justice, including the case of Ruben Alba Aguilera3 brought on the basis of the same argument resulting in a CST decision in accordance with the Vanhalewyn case law. The case is currently being appealed before the GCEU, with the EEAS still challenging its obligation to set its internal rules through the DGE.
2- In 2016, the delegation staff in Ghana and Montenegro4 contested the failure to comply with the EEAS internal rules establishing the procedure for determining the LCA (and the different evaluation criteria).
Although these internal rules were not legal as the EEAS had not (and still has not) adopted the GIP, the petitioners approached the issue from a different angle and invoked the illegality of the decision to reduce their LCA after the internal procedure for determining the LCA had not been complied with.
The LCA rules establish five evaluation criteria (health, security, climate, isolation and other local conditions) and provide for three types of dialogue prior to the adoption of the decision: (1) a local dialogue; (2) a regional dialogue that offers harmonisation of the LCA by regions; and finally (3) a more global dialogue, harmonising the LCA around the world.
In the cases in question, there was no way to establish the existence and completion of these three key steps in determining the LCA, with the result that the CST allowed the appeals and rescinded the litigious decisions. In the alternative, the petitioners challenged the manner in which the 5 criteria had been evaluated.
In this way, the petitioners avoided the most awkward legal question of the EEAS obligation to establish the procedure for determining the LCA through the DGE, an obligation that the EEAS makes a point of contesting on account of the procedural implications arising from complying with the procedure for adopting the GIP, a formal modification that inevitably involves staff representatives. The EEAS is therefore legitimately entitled to be concerned that, through the intermediary of this procedure for adopting the LCA, the Staff Regulations Committee could make the adoption of a new instrument dependant on the adaptation of the evaluation procedures or even on new criteria for evaluating living conditions that would be more in line with a current and evolving reality.
 T-119/17 (C-427/18P)
 T-575/16 and T-577/16
Court extends concept of working time
The Court of Justice delivered an important judgement (C-518/15) concerning the European Directive on working time (2003/88/EC). Aside from the case in question, which concerned volunteer firefighters, the Matzak judgement raised a number of important principles:
When they transpose the directive, the Member States may not modify the concept of 'working time' as defined by this directive.
When a worker is obliged to make himself available on call, this stand-by or on-call time is considered to be working time under the following conditions:
This judgement has numerous consequences:
In the European Institutions, this judgement could concern those workers who are subject to an on-call obligation (for example at crisis centres) and interpreters who, for international meetings, are required to be available outside of official meetings so that they can perform their duties at informal meetings, and who can therefore be asked to remain at their hotel.
More information on the directive...
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).
|U4U at your service|
Unity AISBL, 23 rue du Cardinal Bruxelles