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The Link n°102

SCIC and DG LINC – a comparison

Eureka! Negotiations at the European Parliament have reached a successful conclusion!

On Monday 25 September, the Joint General Assembly of EP interpreters, and AICs (freelance interpreters) adopted new working conditions for interpreters, including rules for interpreting remote speakers. It took more than a year of industrial action and negotiations between DG PERS, DG LINC, Delint (the European Parliament’s interpreters’ delegation) and the two trade unions that have supported interpreters at the EP, U4U and Ethos, to reach an agreement that comprises working conditions as well as a code of conduct for remote participation in EP meetings. Both are designed to ensure that meetings take place under the best possible health and safety conditions for all. To complete the procedure, the text has still to pass through the Staff Committee and the Bureau of the European Parliament.

As for the working conditions resulting of the social dialogue, they are quite satisfactory – provided that the code of conduct “Requirements for remote participation in meetings of the European Parliament” is effectively put into practice in its entirety. The final text of the working conditions includes a guarantee to this effect: a process aiming at full implementation in the near future is foreseen. In addition, a relevant working group has been set up, which bodes well for the future.

Furthermore, the text on interpretation of remote speakers provides for several exposure limits (2 hours of remote per day, 4 hours per week and a maximum of 4 exceeding the limit of 2 hours per month, which also ensures a fairer distribution between colleagues). In addition, a high compensation (the overrun is multiplied by 3, or even by 4) means that overruns are not attractive for programming. The workload is reduced because of the strenuous character of remote and the additional mental charge it causes. It is adapted thanks to a mechanism that takes into account the actual remote time.

The EP interpreters’ GA adopted the text by an overwhelming majority.

Congratulations on this text, which could serve as a model for the other European institutions!


At the Commission, the situation is unfortunately quite different.

Even after the meeting between the Director General of SCIC, the Delegation of Interpreters (DI), the current and previous presidents of the CLP – A. Gonzalez, G. Vlandas, R.Trujillo – as well as C. Roques, Deputy Director General of Human Resources, the social dialogue has not yet allowed the legitimate expectations of staff to be taken into account, and even more worryingly, it has not led to a plan for a structured social dialogue. SCIC is conducting a dialogue of the deaf with the Interpreters’ Delegation and is refusing dialogue with the unions:

The promises made at the meeting have not been put into practice. SCIC is doing everything it can to exclude the elected staff representatives, the DI, from the discussions. For example, SCIC had promised that a mirror committee be set up to define a common approach for the negotiations on the ISO standard defining interpretation hubs. This norm will determine the working conditions of the whole profession in the future. The implication of the voted staff representation is essential. However, SCIC didn’t deliver on its promise.

Also, instead of taking part in the exploratory discussions with the Council on the new Service Level Agreement, the DI may expect merely to be “kept informed”, whereas, given the importance of the subject, its participation – even if only as an observer – is essential.

In addition, in the context of the overhaul of interpreters’ working conditions announced by the administration, SCIC is planning to address topics regarding which it is hard to imagine that a simple “tweaking” of the existing text (the 1987 Agreement and its subsequent updates) would suffice. For anything that goes beyond that, it would be necessary to go back to the level at which the text was negotiated: HR and the unions – with the SCIC administration and the DI as experts. The discussions to come will show whether, in the end, the level chosen is appropriate or whether a change of level will be necessary.

Once again, it seems as if the SCIC hierarchy is trying to sideline the elected staff representatives. SCIC has just created a new functional mailbox to consult interpreters directly on current negotiations. Consulting the rank and file is all very well, but that is the task of staff representation (incidentally already planned and announced), particularly during negotiations. The dialogue is to take place through the structure provided for in the Framework Agreement between the Commission and staff representation, which takes up the Charter of Fundamental Social Rights, incorporated into the Treaty.

We call on the Commission to follow Parliament’s example and organise a genuine social dialogue as soon as possible, instead of bypassing staff representation.

Comission : Resolution of the GA of Interpreters

Following the example of the interpreters at the European Parliament – see article above – our colleagues at the Commission are also mobilising for their working conditions. Faced with the anaemic state of social dialogue, a well-attended general meeting reiterated their concerns and demands.

The General Assembly of staff interpreters of DG SCIC, meeting on 29 September 2023:

A) Notes the request from the Director General of DG SCIC for a recast of the 1987 Agreement on working conditions. 

B) Notes the stated objective of the recast not to undermine interpreters’ working conditions, but to find room for simplification and flexibility whilst maintaining good working conditions and work-life balance for interpreters.

C) Expresses the determination to continue providing the high-quality interpretation meeting organizers and conference participants have always expected of DG SCIC and to contribute to DG SCIC remaining both a viable and sustainable public service and an attractive employer.

D) Positively notes that DG SCIC is committed to its duty of care towards its employees and to ensuring a safe and good working environment for its entire workforce, including staff and ACI [1]interpreters.

E) Notes that DG SCIC’s working conditions are already flexible and can lead to a very heavy workload.

F) Believes that our working conditions should be broadly comparable with other international organizations (e.g. UN, EP, CoJ, NATO) and AIC’s rules, and invites DG SCIC to carry out a comparative study of working conditions.

G) Recalls that the nature of the profession confronts interpreters with a series of challenges that need to be adequately accounted for in working conditions for all meeting configurations.

H) Recalls that the cognitive and physical workload for interpreters in meetings has significantly increased since the 1987 Agreement was reached, inter alia due to the spread of “jumbo Councils”, non-oralised presentations of written speeches, greater complexity of topics, video streaming, use of digital platforms, and longer and more irregular meeting hours.

I) Is aware of the fast-paced advances being made by new technologies such as artificial intelligence, but is convinced that quality human interpreting has and will continue to have a crucial role to play in EU decision-making and European multilingualism.

J) Confirms its commitment to integrate new technologies that are safe and fit-for-purpose.

K) Notes that DG SCIC is negotiating an ISO norm on Hubs that will largely determine the working conditions of the future.

L) Mandates the Interpreters’ Delegation as the elected representative of all SCIC staff interpreters to open exploratory talks with DG SCIC about a recast of the 1987 Agreement, according to the principles below:

The recast must:

  • Protect the workforce. A sustainable business model for DG SCIC is dependent on healthy interpreters.
  • Promote job satisfaction and ensure work-life balance.
  • Guarantee appropriate, adapted working conditions for interpreters, which take account of the workload, potential health impacts and additional cognitive load linked to new modes of working and interpreting.
  • Further contribute to the established quality of interpretation provided by DG SCIC.
  • Be fit for the new working environment with hybrid and remote interpreting settings, so that participants use approved equipment and technical set-up.
  • Better acknowledge out-of-booth work activities as part of the workload.
  • Include rules on fairer workload distribution.
  • Remedy identified shortcomings of the current framework.

M) Takes positive note of the fact that representatives of AIIC will be involved in the talks, with observer status.

N) Takes positive note of DG SCIC management’s commitment to negotiate a new SLA (Service Level Agreement) with the Council of the EU which fully respects our working conditions

O) Requests of its representatives to keep interpreters informed via inclusive and participatory channels, to seek guidance regularly from all booths and to organize a general assembly when necessary. Any partial result of the negotiations will be conditional on the approval of the final package by a referendum, according to the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

[1]  ACI: Artificial Intelligence

European Parliament : Staff representation is being structured

At the European Parliament, staff representation is being structured following the elections in mid-June

The Staff Committee met at the beginning of July and elected its new Bureau, in which U4U has a vice-presidency (Carmen ORTEGA MONTERO).  U4U wishes to make this mandate part of a collaborative and co-intelligent approach that will benefit the whole institution. We share this approach with the President of the Staff Committee (Pasquale CIUFFREDA), who has made this new collaborative approach possible.

That’s why we will also be present, with a Vice-President (Virginia QUISBERT FUENTES), when the voices of our colleagues are heard directly at the General Staff Meeting.

As you know, employee representation also relies on the work of a number of joint committees.  Discussions are underway to update the composition of these committees and we will keep you informed. As the Commission’s representative, we already take part in the work of inter-institutional committees such as the Joint Sickness Insurance Management Committee (CGAM), the Joint Committee (COPARCO) and the Staff Regulations Committee.

Several U4U representatives hold positions of responsibility in professional delegations such as security guards, drivers and conference technician.

Representing staff in a way that meets the challenges facing the public service means having the tools for effective social dialogue.  Who are – and who can be – the players around the table, what are their roles, and what are the processes, resources and issues for a dynamic social dialogue?  The world is constantly changing, and so are the issues that affect workers in both their professional and private lives.. 

In this spirit, the Administration and the unions have begun work on revising the clearly inadequate framework agreement that has governed their relationship since 1990.

We welcome this Momentum because, as we said during our election campaign, social dialogue is a crucial tool.  The administration was convinced of this during the interpreters’ dispute, which was resolved through social dialogue led by the delegation and significantly and constructively strengthened by the participation of two unions, including ours, with the Staff Committee present as an observer.  The unions can expect this place for social dialogue to be clearly written into the new framework agreement.

We believe it is important for you, our colleagues, to have an overview of what is being put in place following the election results and to see that by the end of the year the staff representation body you have placed your trust in is fully operational and ready to fulfil its role. 

We told you during the election campaign: To defend the workforce, we’re revising a 30-year-old framework agreement.  The world is changing, so let’s change too! Read our leaflet

As you can see, we’re already working on it, barely at the end of the first quarter of our mandate.

School allowances

Start of the school year, school allowances for future students: a reminder of the rules

As the school year begins, some of us will see our children off to university. Well done to them and their parents. But we think it’s important to point out a few rules that apply to all of us.

We receive a dependent child allowance and an education allowance for children attending an educational establishment. However, the Staff Regulations lay down rules on the cumulation of family allowances received from other sources (Articles 67(2) and 68(2) of the Staff Regulations), which officials must declare to the administration, and which will be deducted from the allowances paid to them by the EU.

When the child turns 18, there are two possible scenarios:

  • The child stops studying. The dependent child allowance ceases. In this case, JSIS cover will also cease. For children who are not in paid employment or who are undergoing a probationary period in order to obtain national social security cover, a request can be made to the Settlement Office to extend the cover for a maximum of 12 months.
  • The child continues to study. There are two possible scenarios:
    • If your child is studying in the country where you work, you will receive EUR 311.65 per month. 
    • If your child is studying more than 50 km from your place of work AND you receive the expatriation allowance, the allowance is doubled.

As always, it is important to be familiar with the additional terms and conditions:

  • Course attendance must be ‘full-time’. This condition is automatically deemed to be met if the institution provides the student with at least 16 hours of instruction and/or work experience per week.  In cases where this number of hours is not reached, the condition is considered to be met if the studies are complete, i.e. have a purpose recognised by the State, and the person concerned follows the normal timetable for this type of study.
  • Benefits automatically cease at the latest on the child’s 26th birthday.
  • Benefits are paid monthly. If your child over the age of 18 interrupts his/her studies, e.g. for 6 months to go on a trip, he/she will not be considered a student and therefore not dependent on you and will not be covered by JSIS for those 6 months. However, the rules for extending health insurance cover apply on request, particularly in the case of a waiting period under the new insurance scheme.
  • The student must still be dependent on you. If your child earns an income, you must inform your administration as this will affect your child’s entitlement to benefits. In practice:
    • Notice 223/04 sets a maximum limit of 40% of the basic salary of an AST1 (=1308 euros/month on 01/01/2023) for a child aged over 18 and 25% of the basic salary of an AST1 (=817 euros/month on 01/01/2023) for a child aged under 18.
      • If your child has a paid internship or student job during the summer, you should declare the amounts to the authorities.
      • If your child receives a scholarship/grant for any reason, you should declare the amounts to the authorities. In practice, this often means that doctoral students who receive a grant are no longer considered dependent children. You will therefore lose the allowances for that child and he or she will have to be covered by a scheme other than JSIS. Note that Excellence Scholarships are an exception to this rule.
  • The PMO tends to cut rights as quickly as possible. Why is that?  In reality, the intention is good. When benefits cease to be payable, they quickly add up to substantial sums which are automatically deducted from your pay in the following months (this is the famous “recovery of undue payments”). For this reason, they prefer to cut your benefits automatically and reinstate them if you appeal, rather than put you in a difficult position. So don’t hesitate to contact us if you need to. This will enable us to confirm or refute the PMO’s interpretation of your particular case. After all, sometimes you need to be able to explain the situation correctly. After all, we need your feedback if we’re going to be able to pinpoint any confusing situations. But be careful (again) not to forget the time limits for appeals, which apply in all cases: 3 months after the decision giving rise to the complaint. Since appeals must be handled carefully, it is imperative that you do not wait until the last moment to contact us.

EASA Regulatory agency: 2nd round of social dialogue

Given the social tensions that have existed for some time at the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Cologne, U4U has focused its efforts on improving the situation through intensive social dialogue between November 2022 and July 2023. 

In our last article published last June (The Link n°100), we informed you of the 7 main points on which U4U had reached an agreement with the EASA administration and the follow-up.

Since then, and as agreed, a meeting between EASA and U4U was held on 15 September 2023, in the presence of a representative of the Staff Committee, with the aim of assessing the progress made in the implementation of the previous cycle of social dialogue, which ended in July 2023, discussing the results of the direct and collective expression of the staff, which took place on 1 June 2023, and finally defining the procedures for verifying the number of U4U members, which guarantees its representativeness within the EASA social dialogue.

It seems that the various agreements reached during this cycle of U4U/EASA social dialogue meetings have been correctly applied so far, particularly with regard to the evaluation and reclassification process.

The results of the exercise to evaluate the direct and collective expression of employees proved to be constructive and, together with the employee survey conducted in 2022, helped to define the topics to be addressed in future social dialogue meetings.

The two main demands that emerge from the various reports of the Direct and Collective Expression exercise and the staff survey are:

  1. The workload of EASA staff: U4U is working with the administration to obtain additional human and financial resources, as the Commission has finally recognised the inadequacy of the Agency’s human resources;
  2. The conditions for the reimbursement of tuition fees at international schools in Cologne: U4U’s aim is to re-evaluate these conditions for new arrivals, without penalising existing students.

At the end of the social dialogue meeting on 15 September, it was agreed that these two topics would be launched during the new cycle of U4U/EASA social dialogue meetings, probably in late 2023 or early 2024, in accordance with the framework agreement on social dialogue within EASA.

Finally, U4U can now confirm, by means of a bailiff’s report dated 15 September 2023, that, in accordance with the framework agreement, it has the necessary membership threshold within the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to be considered a representative of the staff and therefore entitled to participate in the social dialogue. 

This social dialogue cannot happen without you. Direct expression is proof of this, but so is your feedback. Together we can solve the problems of the present and improve our future, and together we will move forward! Our organisation will continue to act in defence of staff and the European public service.

Executive agencies: social dialogue

The struggle for constructive and renewed social dialogue continues

Following the mobilisation at the Berlaymont on 6 June, the unions won an opening from Commissioner Hahn to negotiate on one of the main issues, namely the protection of jobs in the EISMEA agency.

It faces a worrying situation in that almost a third of its staff (i.e. 90 posts) are under direct threat. In the letter sent by the Commissioner at the beginning of August, he states that “DG HR and DG RTD, as the main partner DG, have held discussions with the Agencies, which have confirmed their solidarity and willingness to implement and evaluate concrete measures to support EISMEA staff”. It has to be said that these discussions took place without the participation of the agencies’ trade unions and staff representatives.

Despite assurances from the authorities, there is no guarantee that concrete solutions will be found in the near future. Meanwhile, EISMEA staff remain concerned about their future, having recently been forced to move to the North Light building in the Gare du Nord district in an unprecedented haste and unpreparedness.

Three other branches will move into the same building in the coming months. Because of its political weight, the ERCEA is the only agency that will remain in the Covent Garden building. This demonstrates the incoherence of the buildings policy and its mistakes – widely reported in the press – in relation to the terms of the agreement signed between the European Commission, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Federal Government. The agency’s staff are aware that they are, in the end, no more than an adjustment variable in this agreement, which the Belgian authorities are dubiously using for urban marketing purposes to repopulate a troubled neighbourhood. 

Against this background, staff continue to express their dissatisfaction with the precariousness of their status, in particular the limited opportunities for career development and mobility, as well as the unfavourable pay conditions compared to colleagues in central services.

It is therefore essential to lay the foundations for a constructive social dialogue to address the concerns of agency staff in the context of renewed governance involving all stakeholders, human resources, supervisory DGs, agency management and staff representatives.

Promotion exercise 

Commission promotion exercise  2023, where do we stand?

Colleagues who were not included in the published lists of those proposed for promotion by DGs were given the opportunity to appeal within five working days of this communication.  During the summer, the preparatory groups of the Joint Promotion and Re-grading Committees examined all the appeals at Commission level, not just at DG level, and presented draft lists and their conclusions in mid-September.

Colleagues who were not included in the published lists of those proposed for promotion by DGs were given the opportunity to appeal within five working days of this communication.  During the summer, the preparatory groups of the Joint Promotion and Re-grading Committees examined all the appeals at Commission level, not just at DG level, and presented draft lists and their conclusions in mid-September.

On this basis, the Joint Committees in turn considered these appeals. They have been allocated additional promotion quotas (5% of the total quotas) and will recommend additional promotions to the Appointing Authority, the Director General of Human Resources, for her final decision in mid-October.

The results of the calls will not appear in SYSPER until after the publication of the administrative information on the closure of the 2023 promotion exercise in mid-November.

The promotions will be reflected in the December pay slips, with retroactive effect from January 2023.

Your U4U representatives were part of the Central Staff Committee delegation at every stage, from the meetings with each Director/General to discuss the promotion proposals in May-June. Despite the persistence of some problems, the whole exercise went well and our comments were often taken into account.

The rules also provide for a joint committee to evaluate promotions.  Once again, it is important for us to take part in this meeting in order to assess both budget consumption and compliance with collective guarantees (for example, average seniority in a grade), which establishes a balance between a logic of emulation and a logic of cohesion.  If this is not the case, corrective measures should be recommended for the following year.

As you know, the new exercise starts in January. In the meantime, we can only recommend that you regularly take a few minutes to collect, note and save in a special file your relevant contributions to be included in your evaluation.  It’s a little trick that can help you take stock more calmly than when you return from the end-of-year holidays and the urgency of writing.

We’ll come back to the reclassification exercise in our next issue.

U4U will be there to support you.

Plans for closure of Grange nursery school

This summer, we were informed of the forthcoming closure of childcare facilities and services on the Grange site in October 2023, barely 3 months later and including the colleagues’ annual holiday period.

These infrastructures, which date back to 2002 and are an integral part of the agreements made when the Grange site opened, are necessary not only for the current workforce but also for future generations. Closing them is tantamount to reversing the gains made by the workforce. 

The reasons for the closure are unclear and there are no alternatives at this stage. Whether for safety or budgetary reasons, it is important to remember that our colleagues moved to Grange because of the services provided to staff. Without the provision of certain compensations, such as childcare facilities and services on the site itself, the attractiveness of the site is being called into question.

It has to be said that the potential short, medium and long term impact of this decision on the staff working at the Commission’s Grange site and on the future of the site itself has not been taken into account.

As a reminder, Grange is a village with extremely limited childcare facilities due to its size and geographical location.

Of course, the ageing workforce at Grange and elsewhere is legion, but so is the need to renew it;

It is true that Covid-19 has changed our working environment at Grange and elsewhere, but staff – including young parents – are working and this change in no way justifies the closure of our crèches and nurseries;

Of course the Commission’s budgetary concerns are real, but the closure of the crèche will also have a budgetary impact on the families affected, whatever their number.

Since the notification of this unilateral decision, thanks to the mobilisation of all the unions, we have managed to postpone the closure of the crèche until March 2024, when the contract with the current service provider expires.

But postponing the closure decision is clearly not enough. U4U is campaigning with the other unions to ensure that the childcare facilities and services on the Grange site are maintained. If this is not possible, alternative solutions must be proposed for the well-being of children and parents, and for the future and attractiveness of the site. For example, agreements could be made with childcare facilities close to the site, with funding from the Commission.

At a time when the Commission is complaining about its lack of attractiveness, why is it taking unilateral decisions to cut services to the detriment of its staff?

The social dialogue is continuing, and it is essential for its success that you are informed of the situation on the ground.

Understanding burn-out

As you may know, for several years now U4U has been reflecting on the subject of work and, more specifically, health at work. As part of this relaxion, Graspe magazine has tackled the issue of burn-out by inviting specialists such as Danièle Linhart. This researcher links burnout to new ways of organising work that lead to the isolation of workers and a new fragmentation of tasks. This conference will be published in the October 2023 issue 48 of Graspe magazine on the evolution of work today.

Drawing on the reflections of Josh Cohen, Doctor of Literature, psychoanalyst and professor at Goldsmiths University in England, we will try to understand what burn-out is, moving away from the preconceived ideas that people may have on the subject. In an article for The Economist, Josh Cohen begins by reminding us that burn-out is not an isolated phenomenon, and that certain sectors of activity tend to demand an overload of work from the people involved, notably banking, the media, but also certain public services. For example, a 2014 study of 9,000 employees in the finance sector showed that the majority of them felt at least partially burned-out, and 20% completely burned-out.

Unfortunately, burn-out is all too often misunderstood, and simply taking time out from work, which could be identified as the source of the malaise, is often not enough to cure it. In fact, according to Josh Cohen, burn-out is also the inability to relax. The individual suffering from this affliction is in a perpetual state of tension between the desire to accomplish his or her tasks and the inability to do so. This often leads to a form of “chronic indecision”, preventing the sufferer from taking action and thus getting out of this malaise. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the difficulty of disconnecting from work. Today, it’s very common to be able to receive work-related e-mails on your phone, regardless of the time, day or place you happen to be. The increase in and mismanagement of teleworking – a subject on which U4U has also done a great deal of thinking – is also a factor in this intrusion of work outside the office. Remember that it’s not just work, but also all electronic communications and the use of social networks that have grown massively in recent years, plunging us into a continuous stream of information that does little to promote peace of mind.

Finally, some companies try to alleviate this problem by setting aside time at work for meditation or relaxation. However, the success of such methods is mixed: while they can help those less severely affected, for more serious cases, these sessions also become tasks that can be passed or failed, and in this case worsen the situation.