Loss of the double education allowance for university students
Beginning of March 2020, U4U met with DG HR to inform them of the PMO’s decision to abolish and recover the double education allowance for the children of DG SANTE staff studying in Dublin’ universities.
The latter had to be reminded of the exception, set out in a 1997 document which is still in force today, to the granting of this double allocation, which was decided when the GRANGE site was set up for a Directorate of DG SANTE.
U4U also warned her of the ways of the PMO, which informed her in November 2019 of the abolition of this allocation and which recovered it, sometimes retroactively from 2017, in a single levy, in January 2020, which had not been announced.
The double education allowance for university students was part of a package of measures that were explained to everyone at the time of recruitment. The purpose of this particular scheme was to compensate for the specific difficulties officials faced when sending their children to university from that particular location: long journeys and multiple commutings, scarcity and cost of student accommodation in Dublin, high tuition fees and limited choice of study programmes.
Since then, the double education allowance has always been applied to Grange staff and staff rely on it to decide where to live and which university to choose for their children. Staff understand that these special conditions can be revised and removed at any time, but until recently, they have received no indication that this particular benefit (double education allowance) has been revised or revoked.
Its surprise was therefore total when the PMO explained to him that it had to be retrieved, since 2017. The recovery was based on Article 85 of the Staff Regulations, which provides : any sum unduly received shall be subject to recovery if the beneficiary was aware of the irregularity of the payment or if it was so obvious that he could not fail to be aware of it.
Staff in Grange have been led to entertain reasonable expectations as regards these acquired rights. Firstly, they have received this note from DG HR in 1997 explicitly and categorically stating that they will be granted double education allowance for university studies. Secondly, PMO has consistently and systematically paid this allowance to members of Grange staff ever since – confirming and reassuring their legitimate expectation that this is indeed an acquired right. And finally, they have filled in and delivered their education declarations every year, with information that allows PMO to carry out the necessary controls. This annual routine has led them to entertain the expectation that not only their acquired rights continue to exist, but also they are being constantly checked and validated.
Neither the management of DG SANTE, nor DG HR, nor the PMO ever informed staff of the end of the specific recruitment conditions. There was therefore no chance that staff had any doubt about the legitimacy of their entitlement and the sums received.
U4U therefore asked DG HR to clarify the situation. Mutual trust is a key to the contractual relationship. If your administration deprives you of a right without announcing it and then treats you like a cheat, this trust in those who run you is seriously undermined.
U4U asks DG HR to return to staff any amounts unduly recovered. If the latter wished to review the specific conditions of recruitment for GRANGE, it would have to start a social dialogue with the staff representation to study the justification of this suppression, in particular in a context of loss of attractiveness of the European civil service. In that case, DG HR would also propose a transition period so as not to penalise colleagues who, in good faith, sent their children to study in Dublin.
After nearly 4 years Paola COLOMBO is retiring.
U4U will remember that she eased the implementation of a staff representative section in the premises of GRANGE.
She facilitated the availability of our elected staff representative to support staff on the spot.
She welcomed – and participated to – our different conferences.
By doing so, she acknowledged the need for GRANGE’s staff quite remote from HQ to be regularly informed about staff matters and to be helped when dealing with the administration for all aspects of their professional lives, be career of personal aspects.
U4U would like to wish her an happy new life’ path and hopes that her successor will show the same openness and availability, for the good of the GRANGE’ staff.
JSIS recognition by Irish insurance companies.
This question was put by U4U at the agenda of the last JSIS committee’s plenary session, January 23rd. It has been decided that the CGAM Presidency will raise awareness of the situation of our colleagues in Ireland towards the College of Heads of administration (CCA). The College will be requested to ask the political involvement of the Commissioner in charge (since all administrations have delegated their political competency for JSIS to the Commission) vis-à-vis the Irish authorities.