Skip to content

The Link

The Link is our newsletter providing an update on current issues. It is sent by e-mail to subscribers to our lists. See previous issues.

Teleworking and well-being

The next article in this issue of Link 101 looks at hybrid working. To provide a context for this discussion, which we have been conducting for the past two years, we would like to briefly review the scientific literature on the relationship between teleworking and well-being. This will enable us to see the effects of this way of working, which is becoming increasingly popular outside the European institutions.

According to a study carried out in 2023 in 34 different countries, in several waves and involving several tens of thousands of participants, 56% of respondents would like to work at least one day a week from home, and 19% would like to work 2 or even 3 days a week (17%). Similarly, in a 2017 study of 7,000 American employees, Alexandre Mas and Amanda Pallais found that workers were prepared to accept a salary that was on average 8% lower if the job in question offered teleworking. According to the same authors, one of the decisive factors in the choice of teleworking is the reduction in the number of journeys between work and home.

However, if the studies conducted before the Covid-19 epidemic are to be believed, teleworking does not necessarily make people happier. In fact, Sabrina Pablionia and Victoria Vernon point out in a 2022 analysis of US employees only, that teleworking does not always enable them to spend more time with their families, take care of household chores or get more sleep.

This dichotomy between what workers want and the effects of teleworking once it is in place seems to be the crux of the problem. The often forced experience of teleworking during Covid-19 has exacerbated this tension. For example, studies carried out in the UK and Germany before and during Covid-19 show that teleworking during this period proved damaging to the health of the people doing it. As the households studied were still largely rooted in the traditional, gendered division of household tasks inherited from patriarchal society, it was often women who suffered most from teleworking during the epidemic. This is due in particular to the fact that children were being schooled at home, which meant an additional burden that was unevenly distributed across households. It should be noted, however, that Covid-19 and the successive confinements/deconfinements associated with this period greatly altered the nature of teleworking. Many families, particularly those from the most precarious backgrounds, found themselves confined to housing that was often too cramped and had no social life outside the family circle. What can we say about isolated students, who have often lost the job that enabled them to pay the rent, or violence against women and children, which also exploded during this period? All these factors make it difficult to isolate the variables which suggest that telework was harmful to employees from the other factors specific to Covid. The negative elements put forward by the studies carried out in Germany and the United Kingdom, such as the loss of social contacts and flexibility, are just as much attributable to teleworking as to the measures taken by governments to manage the epidemic.

These considerations suggest that hybrid working would be a good compromise for the majority of workers. The survey carried out by Aksoy and colleagues shows the most frequently cited benefits of teleworking: “No commute”, “Less time to prepare for work”, “Flexible working hours”, “Quiet” and “More time with friends and family” and for on-site work: “Face-to-face collaboration”, “Socialisation”, “Work-life boundaries”, “Better equipment”, “Face-to-face with my manager” and “Peace of mind”. This shows that teleworking is appreciated not because it increases well-being or efficiency at work – which is not mentioned very much in the studies – but because it enables better time management and greater reconciliation between professional and private life. However, we should not forget that employers have put in place numerous means of remote control, some of them not hesitating to charge their employees more than usual for fear that they will work less. On the other hand, on-site work is valued for the social relations it allows. If these two aspects are to be reconciled, hybrid working needs to be coordinated at the level of the organisations practising it, so that we are not in a situation where people who come on site to find human contact find themselves in front of empty offices.

We could envisage, as is already done in some companies or national administrations, imposing one or two fixed days of compulsory presence. Unfortunately, this type of solution is impossible at the European Commission because of its restrictive building management policy. The drastic reduction in the number of office spaces will only allow 50-60% of staff to be present on site at any one time. We should also remember that the essence of human contact is not only found in the performance of work-related tasks, in meetings or even in one-off events, but also in what goes on around it, what we might call the socialisation of the corridors. It’s also these light, short, unexpected interactions that we look for when we come to work.

[1] To do this, we will be relying mainly on an article published in the AOC media by Claudia Senik, professor of economics at Sorbonne University (formerly Paris IV and Paris VI): Senik, C. « Télétravail et bien-être : épilogue ou travaux en cous ? », AOC, 11 septmbre 2023, [En ligne], URL :

[2] Aksoy C., Barrero J-M., Bloom N., Davis S., Dolls M., and Zarate P. (2023). Working from Home around the World. 2023 Report. CESifo EconPol Policy Brief 7(53).

[3] Mas A. and Pallais A. (2017). Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements. American Economic Review 107 (12): 3722‑59.

[4] Les préférences des travailleurs à ce sujet ont similaires en Chine, cf. : He H., Neumark D., and Weng Q. (2021). Do Workers Value Flexible Jobs? A Field Experiment. Journal of Labor Economics 39 (3): 709‑38.

[5] Pabilonia S. and Vernon V. (2022). Telework, Wages, and Time Use in the United States. Review of Economics of the Household 20 (3): 687‑734.

[6] Gueguen C. and C. Senik (2023). Adopting telework: The causal impact of working from home on subjective well-being. British Journal of Industrial Relations: 1–37.

[7] Senik C., Clark A. E., D’Ambrosio C., Lepinteur A. and Schröder C. (2022). Teleworking and Life Satisfaction during COVID-19: The Importance of Family Structure. IZA Discussion Paper, 15715.

[8] Op. cit. Gueguen C. and C. Senik (2023).

[9] Entité des Nations Unies pour l’égalité des sexes et l’autonomisation des femmes (ONU-Femmes). COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,

[10] Service Statistique Ministériel de la Sécurité Intérieure. Analyse conjoncturelle des crimes et délits enregistrés par la police et la gendarmerie à la fin du mois de juin 2020. Interstats Conjonct N° 58.

[11] Op. cit. Aksoy C., Barrero J-M., Bloom N., Davis S., Dolls M., and Zarate P

Hybrid work

Hybrid work: what should be assessed?

Decision C (2022) 1788 on hybrid working and working time establishes teleworking as a right and puts office work and teleworking on an equal footing. It rests on two essential pillars: flexible working time arrangements and a management system based on trust. Its main objective is to improve working efficiency while reconciling the private and professional lives of officials and other staff of the European institutions. However, the achievement of these objectives presupposes that psychosocial risks for teleworkers are avoided and that telework does not compromise the cohesion of the European civil service.

The evaluation exercise launched by DG HR shows, on the basis of staff survey data, a certain level of satisfaction, including among managers, although many questions remain, particularly as regards the implementation of the decision. Overall, hybrid working and its corollary, flexible working hours, have met the objectives of efficiency and reconciling private and professional life. A number of positive elements were put forward in the opinions expressed by the various committees, including management based on trust, increased flexibility, the various arrangements set out in the decision, which recognises hybrid working as a right (20% of working time) and on a voluntary basis, the right to disconnect, 10 days’ teleworking abroad and finally the creation of a joint committee.

We have to recognise that we are in a transitional period of fundamental change in the way the Commission works, and that it will take time to understand its potential impact and wider implications for the way our institution operates. This is why we need to put in place rigorous monitoring and evaluation tools as well as adequate communication and transparency procedures. In this respect, the Joint Committee on Hybrid Working (JCHW) has an important role to play. However, having spent several months discussing the rules of procedure, the committee has not been able to devote the necessary time to evaluation work, including the involvement of experts and a review of existing literature. As a result, it does not have the detailed data (e.g. by age, gender and place of work) or an objective evaluation methodology to be able to assess the merits of the current provisions on hybrid working.

In the interests of constructiveness, U4U would like to raise a number of questions to inform the current evaluation exercise. These are largely derived from our paper on the 21 theses on telework that were developed in 2022 where we argued that telework is “flexible, voluntary and based on trust”.

First of all, what is important for a modern public service is to be able to function effectively with a flexible organisation and appropriate tools and infrastructure. Ensuring a weekly presence in the office is a way of guaranteeing regular interaction between team members as well as with external members, and therefore work collectives and team cohesion, which is a necessary condition for their effectiveness. This presupposes formal or informal arrangements for hybrid working, enabling managers to organise the work of their teams, as well as better organisation of the balance between family life and professional work. For example, the European Parliament has set teleworking at two days a week, but allows more flexibility. For example, the European Parliament want to set a two-day week for teleworking, but this allows for greater flexibility, so that staff can take a whole week off and then be present at their office for the whole of the following week. However, this flexibility is made difficult, if not impossible, at the Commission because of the buildings policy, which tends to drastically reduce the number of places available.

Secondly, we need to assess whether the right to disconnect, which is regulated in most Member States, has been respected and whether it has been implemented uniformly and consistently. One of the major risks associated with hybrid working is that some Commission staff tend to remain permanently connected, working beyond working hours and during disconnection periods, weekends and public holidays. As a result, the boundaries between the work sphere and the family/private sphere are becoming increasingly blurred. A recent study by Eurofound1 tends to show that there is an overall increase in workload due to hyperconnectivity (for example, reading and replying to emails at all times) and therefore an intensification of work, without this necessarily being accompanied by productivity gains. Similar practices are also tending to develop within the Commission’s departments. The right to disconnect must therefore be encouraged at all levels in order to safeguard the well-being and health of European civil servants.

Thirdly, in relation to the non-respect of the right to disconnect, the psychosocial risks linked to work overload must be better understood through objective evaluation data, which remains to be constructed given the paucity of information in this area. The decision on hybrid working (art. 14) emphasises two aspects: the responsibility of managers, who will have to undergo appropriate training to avoid the “possible risks and dangers of digital overload and digital burnout”; and the individual responsibility of staff, who will have to take “preventive measures” to avoid physical risks in their teleworking space, while the “Commission will organise regular and appropriate prevention campaigns in the field of health and safety at work”. This is the essential minimum, but what is needed is a holistic approach that covers all aspects of well-being and health at work, including an ergonomic teleworking environment and, above all, much stricter rules to avoid situations of stress and burnout, the human costs of which need to be more fully integrated into the evaluation exercise.

Fourthly, the right to use 10 working days of telework abroad at different times of the year or in conjunction with annual or parental leave must be preserved. The survey carried out by DG HR shows that this right is widely used by officials and agents, which tends to show that it meets a real need for flexibility. However, as indicated in the COPEC opinion, it is necessary to assess the extent to which its use is not restrictive or discriminatory against women (who make greater use of this form of work), for example during periods when buildings are occasionally closed. In the event of exceptional authorisation, as permitted by the Decision, care will have to be taken to strike a balance between greater flexibility and the necessary work efficiency, which also depends on physical interaction between colleagues and the cohesion of work teams. This list of questions is not exhaustive, but reflects the state of discussions in the Joint Committee and other committees that have issued opinions on the matter. Generally speaking, without prejudging the conclusions of the evaluation exercise, it emerges that the Decision is balanced and that its basic principles should be preserved, even if improvements are needed on certain aspects in the light of experience gained to date. Given the short time available to us, it is clear that the evaluation exercise will be limited and that more time is needed to gain an overview of the implementation of the Decision and its impact on the operation of our Institution. In this respect, it is essential that the Staff Committee and the various Committees be able to complete their respective opinions on the basis of the information requested from DG HR, in the absence of a consultation of experts, which would have been much needed if not for the lack of time. The future of the European civil service and the way it operates are also at stake.

[1] Eurofound, The rise of telework and the impact on working conditions and regulations, 2022. Voir aussi la conference dans GRASPE n.47 ,  

Movings at Luxembourg

Let’s discuss the moves that have been or will be made in Luxembourg and the underlying issues at stake.

Case study: 2 DG’s move to Mercier-Post:

Context: remember the facts highlighted in our leaflet of 11/3/2023: the hasty decision to house 2 DG’s in a building initially intended for a single DG, the imposition of the magic Open space/hot desking formula dear to the current Commission and its buildings policy summed up by one motto: cut costs.
It would appear that there was some competition as to which DG – OP or CNECT – would have which floor in the Mercier-Post building. We welcome its resolution, but we deplore the climate and the damaging precedent this has set in terms of the perception of the difference in value of each colleague or even in terms of “competition” between DGs to get what were perceived as the “best locations”.
How has this been beneficial?
To greater collegiality, to ‘healthy’ emulation? The staff of these 2 DGs are in the same boat. To have created a division/competition for millimetric and qualitative advantages was not only dishonest, but also counterproductive for their necessary long-term cooperation, given their cohabitation.

Secondly, it served above all to partially conceal the fact that the 2 DG’s were forced to accept less space than before. In fact, the 2 DG’s will be in the same ‘boat’ since in future they will be forced to live together in a building that can only accommodate 86% of their total staff at any one time.
In other words, open space/hot desking has to be ‘swallowed with the same bitter pill’ of joint and forced relocation.

Colleagues from the Publications Office have already moved.
CNECT colleagues will follow in September.

Let’s take a look at the experiences of OP colleagues already in the Mercier-Post building:

  • There’s a difference in the quality of the working environment depending on whether you’re sitting on the lobby side or the window side of an open-plan office. If you sit on the hall side, any passing colleagues can create a distraction. There are far fewer distractions for people sitting by the window.
  • Another dichotomy observed is that the inside is darker and cooler, while the outside is bright and warm in hot weather. The variation in brightness is due to the lamps hanging from the ceiling and/or the proximity of a window. A simple solution would be to install individual desk lamps. For the CNECT – it would be a good idea for colleagues to move their old desk lamps themselves. The advantage of this is that it costs the institution nothing.
  • The keyboard and mouse had to be moved by the people themselves.
    Moreover, all personal items must be placed on the desk in the morning and put away in the evening in the personal lockers, which can only hold a few items.
  • Each unit has a mini-meeting room for 2, 4 or 10 people! Given its small size, it’s going to be complicated to use. How do you organise meetings for an entire unit of 15 to 20 people?
    Are face-to-face unit meetings a thing of the past?
  • For the moment, there are still no rooms equipped for hybrid meetings (videoconferencing equipment, i.e. large screen, microphones, etc.). Given the tiny size of the mini-meeting rooms reserved for each unit, how do you go about organising a hybrid meeting?
  • On a positive note: if you need more space, you can have access to an individual locked cupboard, provided you ask permission from the OIL.
  • Do you want some “quiet time”?
    Each floor has meeting rooms for 2, 4 or 10 people.
    There are also a few small sound-proofed rooms called “quiet rooms” that can accommodate 1 or 2 people to work in silence or even organise a meeting or videoconference for 2 people on their own laptop.
  • “Where are our vending machines?” you might well ask yourself when working at Mercier-Post. For the time being, there are only two automatic coffee and hot water machines in the canteen, next to the only water fountain.
    When the canteen was announced to open on 28 August, we asked that it offer quality food and have sufficient capacity for the joint staff of the 2 DG’s, roughly 800 people.
  • Also, at the outset, the car park presented a signage problem at its entrance. Colleagues didn’t know how to get there by car. So, dear colleagues, analyse the building plans before driving to work to avoid any mishaps.
    Then, when the building is fully occupied by the 2 DG’s, it’s a safe bet that the 129 parking spaces announced (i.e. around 1 space for every 8 members of staff) will be woefully inadequate.
    For this reason, we are asking that sufficient parking spaces be provided for the CNECT and the OP:
  • Puis, lorsque le bâtiment sera entièrement occupé par les 2 DG’s, il est fort à parier que les 129 places de parking annoncées (soit environ 1 place pour 8 membres du personnel) seront largement insuffisantes.
    Pour cela, nous demandons de prévoir des places de parking suffisantes pour la CNECT et l’OP :
    • Provide at least 150 parking spaces for the CNECT DG in an additional private car park as mentioned by Mr Becquet at the General Meeting on 13 March.
    • Provide additional parking spaces for the OP in an additional private car park as mentioned by Mr Becquet at the General Meeting on 13 March.
    • The 48 additional spaces made available in the FISR building are not enough. Given that they will be taken up by colleagues attending training courses in the FISR building.

Why such requests?

Because we are starting from an initial situation where the majority of colleagues are cross-border, with a territorial dispersion that does not always allow for good public transport connections. And moving from one building to another means either an average journey time of half an hour longer, or the additional stress of finding a car park:

  1. Until June, the OP (around 700 colleagues) had 177 parking spaces, i.e. around 1 space for every 4 colleagues. All this while being close to the station. This means that despite the proximity of the station, there was still a clear need for parking for these colleagues.
  2. CNECT (around 200 colleagues) housed at the EUFO until September had 212 places, 27 of which were reserved, i.e. almost 1 place for each colleague.

Colleagues have built their daily lives around the need to travel by car (e.g. home close to a motorway; need to take children to school). This upsets the balance between their professional and private lives.

If we push the reasoning to the absurd, in the absence of car parks, what are you planning for cross-border workers, most of whom cannot even “dream” of accessing the Luxembourg property market?
Once again, would this be an opportunity to introduce the long-debated housing allowance? We explained the merits of this allowance in our leaflet of 03/12/2022.

Pay-and-display solutions with nearby car parks or Park & Ride facilities don’t help to contain the stress associated with mobility. Coming to work will become a daily ordeal.

Finally, limitations on meeting room space and parking will be a real headache when it comes to organising office meetings for extended teams.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the situation at Mercier-Post and will keep you posted!

Dear colleagues from the OP and the CNECT, don’t hesitate to let us know what you think.

New competition model

Viewpoint: What do the EPSO selection tests tell us about the nature of the European civil service? Let’s debate them.

Since 2019, EPSO has been working on overhauling the European civil service entrance ‘competitions’. The new model resulting from these discussions has already been the subject of a number of debates within the institutions, notably during the AST/154/22 competition, which was cancelled by the EPSO board. The competition was disrupted by technical problems, but was also widely criticised for the way it was run. The reform is not just about human resources. Since it affects competitions, it also influences the position of civil servants in the field of European policies, insofar as selection methods tell us about the institution’s expectations and perception of them.

Indeed, the competition proves that Euro-civil servants have “cultural and informational capital”, expertise from which they can then draw part of their legitimacy. However, in the early 2000s, the Kinnock reform drastically changed the competition model by introducing psychometric tests and management skills, while doing away with EU knowledge tests. It was inspired by private sector selection methods. This reduced the importance of expertise and brought European civil servants closer to other international civil servants.

The new model proposed by EPSO reverses this change somewhat. It reintroduces a multiple-choice knowledge test and does away with the oral tests at the test centre. Another major change is that the tests will take place entirely online. To organise the technical side of the test, EPSO has turned to an American company called Prometrics, which specialises in this field. This company has a subsidiary in Ireland, and is therefore subject to European regulations on personal data, enabling it to contract with European clients. However, the organisation and supervision of the tests has been the focus of virtually all the criticism levelled at the new model, particularly in the AST/154/22 competition mentioned earlier. Some people felt that the examiner’s inspection of the environment using the candidate’s webcam (the candidate must show the room in which he is taking the test, prove that he is indeed alone and that he has no means of cheating) was too intrusive. Others were reportedly ejected from their test session because a member of their family or a pet had entered the room. While the number of negative testimonials undoubtedly attests to the real abuses that took place during this competition, it was also one of the first trials of this new model, so malfunctions were to be expected.

It would therefore seem that the technical aspect and the delegation of supervision to Prometrics are the main causes of the problems encountered by the candidates, insofar as the Commission has abandoned all pretence of organising its own recruitment competitions. It is highly likely that these problems will be eliminated in future competitions and that EPSO will tighten its demands on Prometrics and their supervisors.

Other criticisms relate to the fact that competitors must have a personal computer, a relatively powerful and stable internet connection and a controlled test environment where they can isolate themselves. It is true that people from modest or disadvantaged social backgrounds may find it difficult to meet these conditions.

However, the previous model where tests were held in test centres could also generate costs for candidates, particularly in terms of travelling to the nearest centre, since the Commission was no longer involved in funding such expenses. What’s more, the “test centre” part was by far the most expensive for the majority of competitions, according to estimates made by the European Court of Auditors. There are many ways in which this model could be improved, and we are currently looking into this, which will be published in the next issue of GRASPE.

It is clear that the nature of the competitive examination and its tests are part of a series of political battles to define the function of the European civil service, the role that the institutions should play and therefore the dynamics of European integration. At the same time, the Parliament and the Council are becoming more powerful in the decision-making process, to the detriment of the Commission, which is seeing its staff numbers and budget reduced. After the pandemic, which turned countries in on themselves, the war in Ukraine put the Member States and their representatives centre stage. All these factors are undoubtedly indicative of a return to national logic and a weakening of the Community level. Guaranteeing the skills, effectiveness and expertise of Euro-officials is therefore crucial to preserving the political legitimacy of the European institutions.

[1] Georgakakis, Didier. « Au service de l’Europe. Crises et transformations sociopolitiques de la fonction publique européenne », Paris : Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2019, p.50.

[2] Cour des comptes européenne, Rapport spécial n° 23, « Office européen de sélection du personnel : le moment est venu d’adapter le processus de sélection à des besoins de recrutement en pleine évolution », 2020, p.40.

Mobilisation Executive agencies

Executive Agencies: the mobilisation of staff has borne fruit, but the problems are far from being resolved

The joint mobilisation on 6 June 2023 in front of the Berlaymont building was undoubtedly a success. At the initiative of the trade union Common Front, it presented a platform of demands for the executive agencies, incorporating all the open questions, from buildings to working conditions and its essential corollary, career development, agency restructuring, including the critical situation of the EISMEA agency, which could lose a quarter of its staff.

It also highlighted the shortcomings of agency governance, which operated on an “à la carte” basis and disregarded the principles of accountability and transparency worthy of a modern civil service.

In the absence of any real social dialogue, we put forward the need for comprehensive negotiations with all the players involved: agency directors, staff representatives, the Directors-General of the supervisory DGs and the Commission’s central human resources departments.

To this end, on 6 June we sent a letter to Commissioner Hahn in charge of budget and personnel, to which we received a reply on 20 July. In his letter, Commissioner Hahn delivers three main messages beyond the usual rhetoric on the commitment to offer attractive career prospects to agency staff.

Firstly, while recalling some relatively symbolic new initiatives (integration of agency staff into the JPP, pilot exchange programme between the Commission and the Agencies), he recognises the need for “more flexibility in terms of career and mobility between the Commission and the Agencies”.

Secondly, with regard to the situation of EISMEA, and in particular the planned reduction in staff numbers between now and 2027, it simply notes that “DG HR, in consultation with DG RTD, the main supervisory DG, has had discussions with the Agencies, which have confirmed their solidarity and willingness to implement and evaluate concrete measures to support EISMEA staff”. This overture is to be welcomed, and would probably not have been possible without the unitary mobilisation. In essence, it means that there will be no redundancies in this agency, but that staff will be redeployed to other agencies or to the supervisory DGs.

Finally, on the subject of buildings policy and the choice of North Light, the errors of which we had repeatedly denounced, the Commissioner confined himself to recalling the general principles and justifying such choices in terms of flexible working arrangements (with the generalisation of Dynamic Collaborative Space) and greening. Despite the resistance of the staff, the relocation of the three agencies concerned will take place according to the pre-established timetable, without any real preparation having been put in place (except at the REA agency). Despite certain openings that have yet to materialise, the problems are far from resolved. Mobilisation continues.

Mission guide

Mission guide- Greening and new ethical rules: an initial commentary

DG HR presented its new mission guide, which was the subject of consultation meetings with the unions in July. Given the widespread use of hybrid working – which has led to a very significant increase in online meetings – it is perfectly legitimate to consider that mission plans should be reviewed in the light of cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability criteria.

DG HR’s stated aim is to reduce the number of missions by 50% by 2024 (compared with 2019) in order to make budget savings and reduce the Commission’s carbon footprint[1]. As a result, missions will have to be carried out solely in the interests of the service and justified for reasons of a legal (e.g. legal proceedings), political (e.g. negotiations) or operational (e.g. investigations, audits, monitoring) nature, including institutional tasks.

The text of the decision introduces two major innovations: on the one hand, the taking into account of environmental considerations in the choice of modes of transport and, on the other, the taking into account of ethical considerations.

As far as greening is concerned, contractors will have to give priority, wherever possible, to the mode of transport with the lowest CO2 emissions, such as rail rather than air. In principle, rail transport should be used for distances of up to 550 km (one way) or where it is an efficient alternative to air transport (e.g. high-speed trains and/or night trains). When assessing the financial cost, the most environmentally friendly alternative should be preferred when the price is no more than 40% higher than the price of a plane ticket for the journey, taking into account budgetary constraints. The same principle applies when considering train journeys versus car journeys.

These provisions, which are still at the discussion stage, raise a number of objections. The two elements taken into account (distance and price) must be interpreted flexibly and take account of the context of the mission. In most cases, rail travel is more expensive than air travel. If the reference for a plane ticket is based solely on cost (low-cost flight) and the train journey is based on the first-class fare, the price variation can be much higher than 40%. We should therefore include certain guarantees to ensure that the mission holder does not bear the additional costs. In this respect, we propose increasing the ceiling, for example by 60% instead of 40%, on the understanding that this only applies to journeys of up to 550 km.

In addition to the greening aspects, it is proposed to strengthen the ethical provisions. The criteria include the absence of any actual or potential conflict of interest insofar as “the assignment and the provisions of the assignment do not represent a personal interest, or create a personal advantage, for the person carrying out the assignment that would impair his independence in the performance of his duties”. The guide places particular emphasis on the rules governing gifts and hospitality for staff. As a preliminary conclusion, it should be noted that the objective should not be so much to reduce the number of missions under the guise of “greening” and hybrid working (which remains the rule) but to ensure an adequate level of representation for Commission departments in their relations with the Member States, multilateral institutions and other interested parties. Social dialogue between trade unions and the administration will continue.

[1] In 2019, business travel by staff accounted for around 28% of the Commission’s own carbon footprint (more than 60,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent).

Letters from our readers

The splendour and misery of public sector pay in the US and the EU

At the end of August, US President Joe Biden officially confirmed his intention to increase the pay of federal civil servants by 5.2% in 2024. This increase is made up of a general increase of 4.7% plus a local adjustment of plus or minus 0.5%. The latter varies according to the geographical area in which the federal employee is located. There are 54 localities, slightly more than the number of states. The adjustment is calculated by taking into account the difference in salary between the private and public sectors for equivalent positions. While this adjustment seems welcome in the context of overall inflation – and the measure has been well received by the trade unions representing federal employees – some feel that it is insufficient, as the public/private pay gap is estimated at 22.47%[1] by the Federal Salary Council[2].

This considerable difference is due to the fact that successive governments have been reluctant to use the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA). Established in 1990, this law releases the funds needed to reduce the gap between federal and non-federal employees to 5%[3]. No government has used this tool, probably to save money, and today the estimated cost of implementing the FEPCA has risen to 19.2 billion dollars[4]. Biden is financing this increase in the same way as previous presidents: through an “alternative financing plan”. Even leaving aside the FEPCA, Biden’s plan is not the most ambitious, since two Democratic representatives, Congressman Gerry Connoly and Senator Brian Schatz, submitted a counter-proposal of 8.7%, which was not adopted. They nevertheless welcomed the increase announced by the American President.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the debate is quite different, with several media outlets crying foul over the “indecent pay rise for EU officials”[5]. Under the pen of Jean Quatremer, the newspaper Libération criticises a 13% increase over two years in the salaries of European civil servants, an amount whose calculation is hazardous. The article targets the method used to adjust salaries, which takes into account the purchasing power of civil servants in 10 Member States as well as inflation in Brussels and Luxembourg. As is often the case, European civil servants and their salaries are a prime target for critics of the European institutions. It should be remembered, as the media outlet “20 Minutes” and the European Commission[6] have done, that the method has only resulted in a 1.7% increase in salaries, with this increase taking effect in June 2023 with retroactive effect to 1 January 2023. What’s more, the method is just as likely to reduce the salaries of European civil servants, and this may well be the case in December.

[1] Federal Salary Council, Level of Comparability Payments for January 2023 and Other Matters Pertaining to the Locality Pay Program, 14 Octobre 2022, p.4. URL:

[2] Body responsible for providing recommendations on the local share of federal employees’ pay.

[3] Friedman, Drew. ‘How does locality pay actually work, and where did it come from?’, Federal News Netword, 5 janvier 2023. [En ligne], URL :

[4] Ibid.

[5] Quatremer, Jean. « L’indécente augmentation de salaire des fonctionnaires de l’UE », 19 juin 2023, [En ligne], URL :

[6] Jehanno, Emilie. « Commission européenne : Non, Ursula von der Leyen n’exige pas une augmentation de 15 % », 20 Minutes, 15 juin 2023.

Women and trade unions in Europe

The effects of women’s involvement in trade unions

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of women involved in trade unions in Europe[1]. This change can be seen not only in terms of membership, but also in leadership positions. In France, the two largest trade unions are headed by women (Marylise Léon for the CFDT and Sophie Binet for the CGT), as is the case in Germany, where Yasmine Fahimi heads a confederation of trade unions “with around 6 million members”[2], and in the UK, where two women also head the country’s two largest trade unions. The growing presence of women in these organisations and on the labour market is said to have a major influence on equal pay policies and policies aimed at reconciling family and professional life (parental leave, childcare, etc.). This was shown by Grant Miller, professor of economics at Stanford University, who compared public spending on social services before and after women’s right to vote was extended in the United States, and observed a 24% increase. However, women’s participation in trade union activity has come up against a number of obstacles, firstly the fact that trade unions have generally lost influence over the years, but also the fact that many of them (29% in the EU) say they work part-time because of their family responsibilities[3].

At the European Commission and other EU institutions and departments, we are seeing a similar trend towards the feminisation of management positions in staff representation at both trade union and statutory level.

[1] Papalexatou, Chrysa. « La participation des femmes à la vie politique renforce les politiques familiales », Capital Grèce, 01 septembre 2023. [En ligne], URL :

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Complementary insurance

Why is it a good idea to take out supplementary insurance?

U4U’s message

The JSIS provides effective protection for civil servants/employees and dependent persons, whether on a primary or supplementary basis. However, the existence of a number of reimbursement ceilings and exclusions means that you may need additional insurance to cover, in particular, hospitalisation costs and/or medical, dental and optical expenses.

Also, did you know that while civil servants/employees are well covered for accidents by the JSIS, this is not the case for pensioners or their dependants, even on a primary basis? In the event of an accident for either of them (pensioners or beneficiaries), the costs remain covered at 80-85%, but no additional reimbursement for accidents will be paid. Your child or your spouse insured with the JSIS on a primary basis is injured while skiing: if this is the only way to go, transport from the slopes by helicopter to the nearest hospital (real case), emergency transport, will be covered at 85% by the JSIS. Yours: will be covered at 100% (85% + 15% for the Accident top-up). Repatriation to your country of origin is not covered under any circumstances.

Or are you aware that in Belgium, in the event of hospitalisation, the JSIS covers 85% of the hospital stay based on the cheapest single room in the hospital. At the moment, however, many surgeons/doctors ask to work in a single room in order to be able to charge a supplement. At present, this supplement can be as much as 300% of the INAMI price (i.e. 4 times the price). Even if this supplement is limited to a maximum of 200% in hospitals with which the RCAM has signed an agreement, the amounts remaining to be paid by the insured can quickly become very substantial.

It is also important to remember that, under Article 20 of the JSIS Common Regulations and in accordance with the General Implementing Provisions (GIP), “where no ceiling on reimbursement has been set, including in the case of serious illness, the part of the costs which significantly exceeds the average prices charged in the country where the services were provided may be excluded from reimbursement”. Here again, the amounts can quickly become significant if you want to benefit, given the prices sometimes charged.

However, when it comes to medical reimbursements, as in the case of health, prevention is often better than cure.

As staff representatives, U4U believes that its role is also to alert colleagues to this state of affairs.

As a result, we have developed an agreement with Allianz, which, via our joint partner Afiliatys, offers supplementary health cover.

How does it work: the main principles?

Allianz Care offers you three options:

  • Hospi Safe Plus”, which covers hospitalisation, routine medical care and dental and optical care under certain conditions.
  • Hospi Safe Maladie & Accident”, which is the new name of the former “Hospi Safe” and covers the cost of hospitalisation due to illness or accident (and childbirth).
  • Hospi Safe Maladie, which offers the same cover as Hospi Safe Maladie & Accidents, with the exception of accident cover. This plan is suitable for working people (covered at 100% for accidents by the JSIS). Note that you can choose a different plan for each member of your family. Example: In the case of a European civil servant married to a woman who does not work in the Institutions and who has a 6-year-old child who needs orthodontic treatment, we would advise him to take out Hospi Safe Maladie for himself, Hospi Safe Maladie & Accident for his wife and Hospi Safe Plus for his child.


Please note that this is a summary, only the contract is binding.

  • Group insurance. Must be taken out before retirement. Life insurance.
  • No medical questionnaire unless 6 months before retirement.
  • Two-year moratorium for illnesses diagnosed before application.
  • Hospitalisation, surgery and related outpatient care 2 months before / 6 months after. (Day hospitalisation included).
  • Reimbursement of 100% of the difference between the costs incurred and the RCAM reimbursement. Valid for day hospitalisation.
  • No ceiling – but 20% for revalidations.
  • Beware of RCAM exclusions.
  • Covers hospital treatment in the event of an accident (for pensioners, spouses, etc.).
  • Fully covers all problems during pregnancy.
  • May continue for contract employees after their contract expires.
  • Worldwide cover but limited outside the EEA.
  • Premium based on age (€, including tax). 10-year framework contract.

Stable premium except Eurostat index (€, including tax).

Annual bonus 2022 in EUR


Hospi Safe Plus

Please note that this is a summary, only the contract is binding.

Group insurance. Take out before retirement. Life insurance

No medical questionnaire (unless 6 months before retirement)

Two-year moratorium for illnesses diagnosed before taking out the policy.

Same as Hospi Safe (100% for hospitalisation) but more:

  • Reimbursement of 80% of the difference between the costs and the RCAM reimbursement
  • For medical consultations (general practitioners and specialists) and medicines (annual excess and ceiling) – Laboratory tests, medical imaging, etc.
  • For outpatient treatment under Article 8.2 and others (max. 20%)
  • For optical and dental care (€700 1st year to €3,200 after 4 years)
  • Supplementary reimbursement of treatment in the event of an accident
  • Contribution to diet cures, fitness subscriptions (20%)
  • Worldwide cover, but limited outside the EEA
  • Premiums (€, including tax) paid quarterly
  • 10-year framework contract. Stable premiums except Eurostat index

Annual bonus 2022 in EUR :


How can I join?

Register with Afiliatys beforehand and ideally with U4U.

Action Ukraine



Dear colleagues,

Thanks to your donations, several thousands of Ukrainian refugees have benefited from the action for the support of refugees by receiving food, clothing, products for children and also language courses held by colleagues and former colleagues volunteers.

We would also like to thank the OIB for its technical support throughout this united front action.

More than 55,000 euros were used to help refugees who were waiting for government aid. So many families saved from the street.

This is an incredible feat that was only possible thanks to your generosity!

This action is realized with 0 € management fees. It is 100% of your donations redistributed.


To achieve this challenge, we must remain united. We will therefore continue to gather all the good wills.

We still need your help to keep this action going until the full deployment of national aid!

Support the action by sending your donations to

IBAN BE20 0017 6787 9156


You can always deposit your imperishable donations (Rice, Pasta, etc.) directly at the Commission’s post office in each building. Thanks to the support of the OIB, they will be forwarded to the center rue de Theux, 49 1040 Brussels which also welcomes your donations in person.


Promotion exercise: proposals from DGs are public

The Commission DGs have just decided on those staff to be promoted following meetings between staff representatives and Directorate Generals. The outcome of these meetings was generally positive, as staff representatives were able to make their voices heard and even make corrections to the proposed promotions made by the DGs. U4U was present among the staff representatives in 23 Directorates-General.

U4U members who wish to appeal, should contact us via our email address:
In order to help you, we will need you to send us in good time your appeal draft as well as your appraisal documents. Please indicate clearly in your email your grade and seniority and make sure to respect the appeal deadlines.

In addition, we will be present in the working groups that study appeals. If you have already lodged an appeal, please send it to us.

Finally, an evaluation procedure has been started by DG HR in order to gather data on the implementation of the Commission’s decision on working time and hybrid work and, if necessary, propose recommendations by September 2023 with a view to a possible revision of the decision.  

Essentially, groups are being asked to assess (1) whether implementation has worked well; (2) whether improvements are needed; (3) and what the possible scenarios are for the future.

The results of the survey, together with available data on office attendance and the use of the ten days of teleworking away from home, will be incorporated into the evaluation report.  

U4U will be organising a brainstorming session on these three questions in the near future with its representatives from the various services and DGs to participate more effectively in the DG HR evaluation procedure.

New report on the actuarial balance of the pension scheme: is everything in the best of all possible worlds?

In a report published on April 14, the Commission examined the actuarial balance of the European civil service pension scheme. In the 2013 reform of the Staff Regulations, a review clause was introduced requiring two evaluations, one in 2018 and the other in 2022, based on Article 14 of Annex XII of the Staff Regulations. The aim of this report for the Commission is also to present a favourable report to the Council by highlighting the savings generated by the reforms of 2004 and 2013 and thus avoid a new reform of the Staff Regulations.

The report begins by reviewing the fundamentals of the pension scheme for civil servants. It reminds us that it is not a pay-as-you-go scheme, but a notional fund that is closer to a funded scheme, even though it “also has certain characteristics of a solidarity scheme”. This fund is evaluated regularly to ensure that it is in balance. This balance takes into account the retirement age, which is evaluated every five years. To do this, the Commission takes into account the aging of the population. At its last assessment in 2021, the Commission did not consider that life expectancy had increased significantly enough to raise the retirement age beyond 66. It also welcomed the fact that “its” retirement age is among the highest of the member states’ civil service retirement ages, which is also a way of defending the current age in the Council and preventing its increase. Unfortunately, this rather advanced retirement age also has a perverse effect, since if one wishes to leave before the mandatory age, penalties are applied. However, article 42 ter, which allows for derogation from this rule, is in practice very rarely applied, which pushes staff to remain in their posts, even though some of them may be exhausted or no longer able to do their work properly for health reasons. The evaluation of the balance is also done with the help of other parameters, on the one hand there are demographic hypotheses with mortality tables, invalidity tables, the theoretical age of retirement or the probability of being married at the date of retirement, and on the other hand financial hypotheses, in particular real interest rates observed for the long-term public debt of the Member States as well as the increase in salaries linked to the professional advancement of the members of the Union’s personnel.

The Commission then analyzes the developments in the pension system, placing greater emphasis on the benefits of previous reforms. For example, several measures directly affecting staff have been taken to reduce the share of the EU budget allocated to pension payments. For example, there is the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013, which provided for a 5% reduction in the number of staff in the EU institutions and agencies between 2013 and 2017. So we have seen a decrease in the number of officials in the institutions during this period. At the same time, new funds were made available to recruit contract agents. Finally, between 2014 and 2021, the Commission’s staff decreased slightly while the overall population of the institutions increased from 58,000 to 66,000 officials and agents. This increase is mainly due to the recruitment of staff for the agencies and newly created bodies such as the European Prosecutor’s Office.

Finally, the Commission welcomes the significant savings achieved by the 2004 and 2013 reforms, the first of which alone is expected to save €1 billion per year in the long term. However, the Commission acknowledges, albeit half-heartedly, that these reforms have had a negative effect on the attractiveness of the FPE.

A few figures to conclude: since 2014, pensions have generated 5.8 billion euros of revenue for the EU budget. The expenditure on pensions, on the other hand, increases by about 6% per year, which is also related to the fact that pensioners receive the method and  to the increase number of retired colleagues.

Hybrid Working Committee: the evaluation has finally been launched, but by DG HR!

After many months of discussion in the Joint Committee on Hybrid Working (JCHW) on the rules of procedure and then on the guidelines, which were replaced by a short document and questions and answers, we are finally getting to the heart of the matter, perhaps too late given that the review of the implementation of the hybrid decision will take place in the last quarter of this year.

The evaluation exercise has also recently been launched by DG HR to collect data on the implementation of the Commission Decision on working time and hybrid work and, if necessary, to propose recommendations for a possible revision of the Decision by September 2023. DG HR has proposed a series of focus groups of up to 15 members (HR correspondents, Heads of Unit, Directors General, etc.) who will be consulted on three general questions to guide this exercise. In essence, these groups will be asked to assess (1) whether the implementation has worked well; (2) whether improvements are needed; (3) and what the possible scenarios are for the future. The results of the survey, together with available data on office attendance and use of the ten days of teleworking away from the workplace, will be included in the evaluation report. It would be desirable for this report to be submitted to staff representatives for their opinion prior to publication.

U4U has made proposals for the organisation of working groups within the CPTH. At its last meeting at the end of May, the CPTH decided to set up a working group on data collection and indicators. Meanwhile, the Central Staff Committee (CSC) has been consulted as part of the consultation process organised by DG HR, with a deadline of 15 working days for comments. 

It is important that the CPTH, and in particular the staff representatives, are fully involved in this exercise so that it can fully play the role for which it was set up. Otherwise, we run the risk of having a useless joint committee, when it should be providing staff representatives with food for thought and enabling them to make an active contribution to social dialogue on an issue that is so important for the future of the European civil service.

Putting the Commission’s anti-harassment coordinator under the direct authority of the Commissioner: a bad idea! Let’s discuss it!

As reported in previous issues of LINK, the European Commission has embarked on a major project to make its anti-harassment policy more effective and accessible.

The centrepiece of the system presented by the administration to the trade unions is the appointment of a “chief confidential counsellor” responsible for coordinating this policy.

In order to guarantee the independence of this senior official, whose grade is equivalent to that of a Director-General, it is proposed that he or she should report directly to the Commissioner for Human Resources rather than to the Director-General for Human Resources.

If we understand correctly, the aim would be to protect the coordinator from any pressure that might be brought to bear on him by the management of the Directorate-General for Personnel, with the aim, we assume, of embellishing the statistics, turning a blind eye to the odd case or even concealing whole areas of the harassment situation.

We have to admit that this lack of confidence by the authorities in their own structures is worrying.

At U4U we continue to advocate a strong civil service with sufficient safeguards to deal fairly and effectively with the problems of violence, harassment and discrimination that arise within it. Provided, of course, that we are given the resources to do so.

To put it bluntly, the recent examples we have seen in the European Parliament (several MEPs involved in harassment cases where the follow-up and resolution have been excessively long and difficult) make us doubt whether the political level is better placed than the administrative level to deal with such issues.

Is it any wonder, moreover, that we have to fear that the political milieu, even more than the administration, is in danger of being susceptible to … political pressure?

Not to mention the fact that giving the Commissioner direct responsibility for a matter such as this is tantamount to giving him a competence that will in reality be managed by a member of his cabinet who already has a host of other responsibilities and no training in the matter.

That’s a risk we don’t want to take.

For our part, we remain convinced that the administration is still best placed to deal fairly with situations of violence and harassment in the workplace, provided it is equipped with the necessary resources and countervailing powers (particularly trade unions, but also by encouraging direct expression by employees) within its own departments.

If we want the harassment policy to be more effective, it is of the utmost importance that the administration is not relieved of its responsibilities. It is precisely this policy to combat harassment that the DGHR must implement. Not to relieve it of the responsibility for monitoring its implementation also means that it can be held responsible for its failure.  Would this be possible in the case of monitoring by a Commissioner?

This question has nothing to do with whether we trust a Commissioner or a Director-General, but is simply a question of organisational common sense.

This is what we will try to convince our partners of in the forthcoming social dialogue meetings, after discussing it within U4U. A second aspect is also important to us: the introduction of tools to prevent harassment, and how and on the basis of which indicators. We’ll come back to this later.

Executive agencies : The 6 June mobilisation was a great success, but our action must continue

After two unified rallies in Covent Garden, Place Rogier, on 13 December 2022 and 31 January 2023, the long-awaited Berlaymont rally finally took place on 6 June 2023. This was the result of a lot of hard work, accompanied in the home stretch by visits to workplaces in all branches and numerous discussions to mobilise colleagues around concrete demands. The Common Front’s united call for this demonstration was actively supported by the representatives of the staff committees of the executive agencies.

It was a success in many ways. Not only because of the number of colleagues present, around 450, but above all because the mobilisation focused on the real issues affecting working conditions and staff welfare. During the rally at the Berlaymont building, a trade union delegation handed the member of Hahn’s cabinet a file containing a letter to Commissioner Hahn with our main demands.

Firstly, we insist on a reform of the governance of the social dialogue in the agencies. The forced move to the North Light building has highlighted the shortcomings of a system in which the responsibilities of the main decision-makers (the directors of the executive agencies, the directors general of the supervisory DGs, the OIB) are not clearly defined, to the point of asking who is ultimately responsible for the action in question and for the use of public money. If the legal basis is unclear, how can Community money be spent and be accountable to the budgetary authority and therefore to the European taxpayer? The operation was carried out by the OIB in conditions of financial opacity and without any real consultation of the staff concerned. The staff representatives have consistently expressed their dissatisfaction with this move, which we have always denounced as a political operation with no real economic or even environmental justification, as well as with its direct consequence – the Dynamic Collaborative Space or DCS – whose declared aim is not well-being at work but short-term budgetary savings. In order to avoid any resistance, the OIB is speeding up the process for the three sectors concerned, at least two of which are unprepared for such short deadlines.  It is therefore essential that the social dialogue now involves all the actors concerned, including DG HR and the supervisory DGs.

Secondly, job security. This is an issue that concerns all agencies, even if only one is currently affected. In this one agency alone, EISMEIA, 13 staff have been transferred to the parent DG following an IAS report and 90 jobs are at risk of being lost by 2027, i.e. almost a third of the total staff of 350. This is an unacceptable situation, especially as the agency faces an increased workload and a large budget (including the flagship €10 billion European Innovation Council programme) to manage with fewer staff. Hence the stress and anxiety among staff wondering about their future. Solutions need to be found in the framework of the social dialogue to ensure that there are no net job losses, in particular through inter-agency mobility, but also with the supervisory DGs.  This is also in the interest of the Commission, which will benefit from qualified staff in its services.  At the same time, colleagues who are transferred to DG RTD, albeit on a voluntary basis, should benefit from more favourable conditions in terms of status and rights.

Finally, career development. At present, these opportunities are very limited, as the reclassification rates are very low – for example, a GFII contract agent has to wait 8 years to be promoted to a GF III post. In addition, contract and temporary agents do not have access to the Commission’s internal competitions. Here too, we need to examine and propose a range of viable solutions – including the possibility of internal competitions based on objective criteria – to meet the legitimate aspirations of the staff concerned in the executive agencies.

We therefore want to participate in comprehensive negotiations on working conditions and welfare as part of a real and constructive social dialogue involving all stakeholders, including DG Personnel and the supervising DGs.  We are also defending the entire European civil service and its future by fighting for the rights of our colleagues in the executive agencies.

In the European Parliament, would U4U be the only one to ask for electronic voting in the Staff Committee elections?

We live in an age where everything is smart and therefore hyper-connected: from smart phones to smart cars, smart TVs and so on. We are now used to doing things online and are demanding more and more digital services. In response to this demand, the EP is modernising itself by digitising its services and, where possible, moving them to the cloud.

The goal of reducing paper consumption has been included in every strategy for more than 20 years. Reducing paper goes hand in hand with reducing the carbon footprint.

The EP is therefore committed to digitising services, reducing paper and achieving CO2 neutrality in the short term. However, there is one area that is resisting against all odds. We are talking about the staff committee elections. It seems that we cannot vote without paper. Is that true?  Is there no alternative to a manual process that is lengthy, costly and outdated?

Let’s look at the cost of the current elections:

  1. Printing paper ballots in advance to cover all potential voters.
  2. Providing voting tables for 2 weeks, with at least 3 people in each table to register and validate the vote.
  3. Once closed, collect all the votes and send them to Brussels for counting.
  4. Validation and counting takes hours.

All of these costs will be drastically reduced if we move to an electronic voting system. Starting with the fact that there is no need to print a ballot paper, through to the fact that there is no need for physical tables with staff waiting endless hours, and reducing any transport costs.

In addition, e-voting has several clear advantages. First of all, people can vote from anywhere: all they need is a device such as a laptop, hybrid or even a smartphone. Facts show that when you switch from paper to electronic voting, voter turnout increases.

Other EU institutions have already had e-voting in place for a long time, with very positive results.

For us, it is therefore time for the EP to introduce electronic voting for the next staff committee elections. U4U is the only union to have this important objective and we will actively work to achieve this in the next term with the hopeful support of other unions.

New perspectives for our healthcare reimbursement

It’s about time: For the first time in several years, a proposal to amend the JSIS GIP has been submitted to the social dialogue (formal discussion between the unions and the administration) after being discussed by the CGAM (Health Insurance Management Committee).

Put simply, new, more favourable reimbursements for our medical expenses are in the pipeline.

The proposals on the table are as follows:

  • Reimbursement, subject to certain conditions (in particular age and maximum number of attempts), for treatments related to medically assisted procreation
  • An increase in the ceiling for GP consultations from €35 to €40
  • An increase in the ceiling for specialist consultations from €50 to €60
  • An increase in the ceiling for certain types of fixed dental prosthesis (crowns, etc.) from €250 to €350
  • An increase in the ceiling for purchase or repair of hearing aids from €1,500 to €1,800
  • An increase in the ceiling for incontinence-related supplies from €600 to €1,200

Overall, this progress is to be welcomed, but it comes late (the real cost of medical expenses has been rising for years without any adjustment of the ceilings) and is still insufficient.

This situation is all the more problematic given that, after years of small deficits (due in particular to the reduction in contributions following the amendment of the Staff Regulations in 2004), the European Union’s sickness insurance scheme now has a surplus (described by some as a “financial cushion”) of around 400 million euros, equivalent, for example, to what the Commission hopes to obtain from the planned sale of its buildings in Brussels.

This is a considerable sum when you consider that, at the height of its deficit, the RCAM was losing 10 million euros a year. The so-called “financial cushion” would therefore be enough to cover the deficit for no less than 40 years if it were to return to that level (which is unlikely).

So we’re saying it loud and clear: this money is part of our salaries, transformed into a kind of “forced savings”. It must therefore be used for its intended purpose: to reimburse our healthcare costs.

Let’s not let this money sit idle any longer! And let’s not run the risk that one day it will be diverted to cover some deficit or other! There is an urgent need to reform the JSIS, raising the thresholds for several types of benefit, improving access, particularly to mental health benefits, and taking account of new types of treatment.

As U4U has done in the past (and we would particularly like to acknowledge the work of our former representative on the JSIS Management Committee, Kim Slama, in advancing the issue of medically assisted procreation), we will continue to fight for a health care reimbursement system that better reflects the actual costs incurred by affiliates, as well as changes in the cost of medical care.

Our ideas in these areas are as follows:

  • The introduction of a sliding scale for ceilings, which would allow the ceilings for each category of care to be automatically reviewed at regular intervals (e.g. every 5 years) for all reimbursable services. Instead of setting the ceilings at a fixed amount, requiring a formal decision for each change, it would be possible to set the ceiling on a sliding scale, for example at a given proportion of the average prices paid for each reimbursable service.
  • The calculation of the above-mentioned mobile ceilings could also be adjusted, under certain conditions, depending on where the care is provided (e.g. if the average price of care is 20% above or below the general average or even the average in Brussels).
  • A better level of reimbursement in general for services related to preventive medicine; the reduction of services related to annual visits organised by the Commission service would be an excellent opportunity to increase these reimbursements to 100%.
  • Simplification of the prior authorisation system. A certain number of services which are systematically authorised on the basis of objective criteria (e.g. number of services accepted, etc.) could easily be excluded from the prior authorisation system. Such administrative simplification would also be a source of savings.
  • Greater transparency of medical board opinions and the external expert opinions on which they are based (immediate publication of these opinions, subject to anonymisation of patients’ personal data).

A general review, based on the opinion of a committee of medical experts made up of equal numbers of doctors appointed by the administration and staff representatives, of the maximum number of psychotherapy services authorised and, more generally, a more comprehensive approach to mental health, in particular by facilitating access to psychotherapy in the longer term.

Regulation Agencies : progress at the EASA

The question of how social dialogue works at the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Cologne has been on the agenda for some time. 

The social situation in Cologne appears to be very difficult and has been for a long time, and in October 2022 the staff committee resigned en masse in protest. This is a relatively unprecedented situation within the European civil service and deserves our full attention and, if possible, very rapid responses. U4U has focused its efforts on improving the situation through intensive social dialogue.

Initially, U4U actively campaigned for a quick re-election of the staff committee. It was important for the staff to continue to be represented at both trade union and statutory level (staff committee and joint committees). This re-election was all the more necessary in a tense social climate. The absence of the Staff Committee would have deprived staff of one of their voices in defence of their collective interests. So the new elections in February 2023 led to the appointment of a new Staff Committee within EASA. On this occasion, U4U presented a list of candidates.

In this context of tension, the role of staff union representatives has become even more important.   U4U has therefore engaged in social dialogue to defend the interests of its staff, because EASA, in principle, also needs the social dialogue, which is essential for its smooth running, to be supported by representative bodies, trade unions and staff committees. At the request of the Agency’s management in November 2022, and in accordance with the framework agreement governing relations between EASA and our union, our organisation conducted lengthy negotiations with the EASA administration between November 2022 and April 2023 on all the major issues (promotions, school contributions, improving the social climate and dialogue, surveys, new issues such as harassment, teleworking, social climate, etc.), on which we acted and obtained convincing results that improved the situation.

U4U has focused on 7 themes, which have been agreed and will be implemented this year:

  • Rapid re-election of the Staff Committee
  • Examination of the 3 agreements concluded between EASA and the U4U local section in Cologne, in particular the evaluation/promotion exercise, the implementation of which has been significantly improved.
  • The defence of colleagues who will not be promoted in 2022 in respect of 2021 and who were promised that they would be promoted this year.
  • The defence of colleagues under administrative or disciplinary investigation for whom it has been secured that the investigations will be carried out by independent investigators.
  • Setting up an exercise in direct and collective employee expression, with a view to subsequently initiating social dialogue with a view to improving the social climate.  The results of this exercise and the employee survey will first provide ideas for improving the social climate in Cologne and then define the issues to be addressed in future social dialogue meetings.
  • At the end of this social dialogue exercise, the social partners will draw up a list of issues to be discussed at local level.
  • Finally, the revision to improve the framework agreement on relations and social dialogue between the trade unions and the administration.

The scope and ambition of this social dialogue, which is due to end at the end of June, can be measured after the social dialogue meeting attended by the Staff Committee, on the basis of the evaluation exercise of the direct and collective expression of employees and the “staff survey”. This innovative exercise in direct staff expression, which recently took place in the Barcelona Agency (F4E), proved to be constructive and could serve as a model for other departments.

This situation once again raises the question of the European Commission’s supervision of Community bodies and, in particular, of the governance of these bodies of which the Commission is a part.

Together we can solve the problems of the present and improve our future, and together we will move forward! Our organisation will continue to defend staff and the European civil service.

New working method for interpreters: how has the situation of interpreters evolved in the different institutions?

At the EP, negotiations on a Code of Conduct, « Requirements for remote participation in EP meetings », and on the incorporation of this new working method into the Working Conditions are continuing.

In principle, the Code of Conduct is definitely a step in the right direction. Based on its raison d’être, the protection of the health of both interpreters and participants in hybrid or remote meetings, it covers the essential aspects of correct remote participation: appropriate equipment (unidirectional microphone), equipment to avoid (headset microphones, Bluetooth microphones, mobile phone wire microphones, built-in microphones of PCs, tablets and telephones), a quality image, a good connection and a calm working environment. All this, plus a sound test.

If this Code of Conduct were mandatory, we could rightly speak of a quantum leap for health and safety in the EP workplace.

Unfortunately, although the recommendations are clear and strong, they are not mandatory. We are left to rely on the common sense and goodwill of MEPs who, we hope, know that the interpreters who have served them faithfully for so many years are not acting on a whim, but are pursuing a more than legitimate objective: the hearing health of all meeting participants.

This lack of a clear framework complicates the negotiations on the integration of remote interpreting into working conditions. How can we define the extent to which we can resort to a work formula if we don’t know exactly what form it will take and with what probability it will be dangerous or not?

Remote interpreting is explicitly described as an “inferior form of simultaneous interpreting” in the IIA-RI (Interinstitutional Agreement on Remote Interpreting, also known as Hampton Court).

Since then, technology has indeed advanced and in recent years we have been virtually obliged to develop this form of interpreting. However, remote interpreting is far from being the same as face-to-face interpreting. From a quality perspective, going on site is always the first option.

The interpreters can see the gestures and facial expressions of the speakers, they can observe everything that is happening in the meeting room, communication is possible between the interpreters and their clients (often by gesture or eye contact, but also by talking to each other), and it is less easy to forget the interpreters when additional documents are distributed.

The absence of these aspects increases the cognitive load. The latter is aggravated by uncertain health protection due to a non-mandatory Code of Conduct. However, a well functioning Code of Conduct is the sine qua non for extending working conditions. Only a transition period that functions as a trial period can guarantee that it works in practice.

If remote only happened exceptionally for very high-level work or in emergencies, that’s one thing. If it is used as the usual mode of presentation, working conditions will suffer. They should therefore be adapted. On the one hand, they should expressly include the “remote” mode of working with all its facets, and on the other hand, something in return should balance out what is in fact a deterioration in working conditions.

Even if there are still important elements to be defined, both in terms of substance and procedure, we are confident that it will be possible to find a solution in Parliament with DG Linc.

At the Commission, we are faced with a problem concerning working conditions in a number of respects and social dialogue, as it is currently being practised, fails to provide a solution.

The area of new modes of interpretation is a huge grey area, with no clear and lasting rules in sight :

– For meetings on platforms, SCIC is still applying the working conditions of the pandemic (IPA) which, moreover, are being applied with a good dose of “creativity”.

For the time being, management is not open to negotiations to find a long-term solution.

At the Council, even for meetings served by SCIC, no set of rules is respected for visioconferences, which are coming closer and closer to remote meetings, which means that the problems of remote access are well and truly present.

– As for hybrid meetings with a low remote participation rate, known as MIPs (Mostly in Person Meetings), a pilot project is underway to collect data. However, what is possible at the EP (collecting data, finding solutions for recording the speaking time of remote interpreters, differentiating the duration of the meeting from the duration of the Interactio connection), seems to be impossible at the Commission.

According to Scic, the data has indeed been collected, but it is unusable.  And yet, as a major Interactio customer, SCIC should even be in a position to ask for a technical feature that would make it possible to record remote working time automatically.

The pilot project scheduled to run from October to January has already been extended.  As it is due to expire soon, the Interpreters’ Delegation asked what the next step would be. The administration does not seem to be in a hurry to negotiate.

Regulating platform work in the long term is entirely possible. Working conditions on platforms could even be much more flexible than at present (even though Tempe will always be more strenuous than work on site), provided that good quality sound can be guaranteed. To find a solution to the problem of potentially harmful sound, the EP is working with internationally renowned experts. At the Commission, SCIC did receive the CPPT’s recommendations in February, but the procedure has been bogged down ever since. The Interpreters’ Delegation’s proposals on this subject have not been discussed.

Current working conditions are also suffering :

As a reminder, SCIC was originally conceived as an inter-institutional service for the Commission and the Council. In the end, it became a Commission interpretation service, providing services to the Council, the EESC and the CoR in return for payment.

There is currently a shortage of interpreters on the labour market, which limits the opportunities for SCIC to engage. At present, the Commission is asking for more meetings to be served (which is normal, since it is its interpreting service), so SCIC must provide more resources for the Commission.

At the same time, it does not want to reduce the service provided to the other institutions (on the one hand, it is bound by Service Level Agreements (SLAs), on the other hand, it needs this income, being one of the few DGs that have to earn part of their financial resources themselves).

This situation has several repercussions.

– some of the requests for interpretation (from within the Commission, but also from outside, from the Council and the Committees) cannot be met. The institutions in question therefore try to engage themselves. This is possible, given that they are not bound by the SCIC’s working conditions. We see hourly contracts, contracts for work from home, paid at a rate that is clearly below the rules, and non-regulatory working hours.

Current working conditions are also being eroded.

The workload is distributed very unevenly. The SBC, an purely internal indicator (different from the KPIs for external use) that would help to rebalance the workload, is biased and little used.

Missions are being carried out to impossible timeframes (time to arrive at the airport), and problematic practices are becoming established (Mission Order accepted – but with certain conditions, which means additional costs for the mission leader, without the latter being informed).

At the beginning of May, the SCIC announced that an Action plan to better satisfy demand for interpretation had been drawn up for the coming year. This plan was established without prior consultation of the Interpreters’ Delegation. At a meeting requested by the DI, certain aspects could be smoothed out. The fact remains, however, that a rule concerning extra-statutory work patterns, although recently negotiated, has been further restricted unilaterally.

Compensation for exceptionally long working hours, hitherto decided and when necessary negotiated on a case-by-case basis, has now been fixed as a flat rate without any consultation of the Interpreters’ Delegation. – According to SCIC, the Agreement would allow such a decision to be taken without consulting staff representatives. The ID is still waiting for a precise answer to the question of where such a provision would be found.

In addition, the fixed day for the work of staff representation has recently been called into question. (Until now, Planning had to ask staff representatives for their agreement when it came to giving up their “staff representation” day to work in high-level meetings. In future, the burden would be reversed and it would be up to the DI members to claim it once they see that they are scheduled in a team on an ID-day).

All this does not augur well for the renegotiation of working conditions (the 1987 Agreement and its Annexes which have updated it over the years) which has already been announced for after the summer.

Furthermore, sensible proposals from the Delegation (adapting teleworking abroad to the professional reality of interpreters in a post-pandemic context as well as a feasible solution for the holidays in French speaking Belgian schools) have been brushed aside without any convincing explanation. 

While this situation is having an impact on current working conditions, the work of the ISO Group, in which some SCIC representatives (but not staff representatives) are participating, is likely to jeopardise working conditions for the entire profession in the long term. The ISO Group is currently working on a standard governing booths used for a hub. A hub is a working arrangement that separates the meeting room from the place where interpreters gather to work. Since the Commission has no experience of working with a hub, it would make sense to first define the working conditions for this kind of arragnement in the framework of social dialogue, and only then work out the technical aspects of the box (booth) that is supposed to house this type of work.

What’s more, such an undertaking could be based on an idea of optimisation: if we opt to forego the advantages of face-to-face work on site (see above), we might as well try to avoid the disadvantages (confined space, poor ventilation, sub-optimal sound insulation, lack of daylight) all due to the necessity to integrate the booths into the meeting room. We could imagine generous, well-insulated booths with adequate ventilation, daylight and, why not, windows. In fact, if interpreting means doing office work (on a screen), we might as well have offices like all the other civil servants, just fitted with the necessary  technical equipment.

Strangely enough, the opposite seems to be the case.

It is not without reason that mobile booths, whose ventilation and soundproofing are suboptimal by definition (a mobile booth is the exception to a booth, which in itself constitutes an exception to labour law) are not planned as a permanent solution. It goes without saying that a booth should have a large front window, if only for reasons of visual ergonomics.

An ISO standard that falls below current standards could be the perfect pretext to justify a downward revision of working conditions. It would be a fait accompli prior to the negotiation of the Agreement which, it should be remembered, was negotiated between the trade unions and HR, assisted by the interpreters as experts ; a recast should happen in the same format. We need to get back to the table of a social dialogue worthy of the name with staff representatives to discuss acceptable working conditions for the staff concerned.

9 May, Commemorate the Schuman Declaration on its 73rd anniversary, celebrate peace!

On 9 May, European citizens and EU officials joined a ceremony in Brussels to celebrate Europe’s Day and European solidarity. After the raising of the European flag under the arch of the Cinquantenaire, they gathered about the bust of Robert Schuman, at the entrance of the park next to rue Art-Loi, to listen to the speech in his tribute by Avenir de l’Europe and to the European anthem sung by the Swedish choir of Brussels.

The representatives of the European, Belgian and Ukrainian authorities spoke to recall the need to preserve peace and defend democracy and free speech. The 9th May will from now on be celebrated in Ukraine as Europe’s Day.

The ceremony ended with the presentation of the exhibition « Justice For Ukraine » de Cartooning for peace in partnership with Amnesty International France.

The event was organised by the European Commission’s representation in Belgium with the support of numerous associations including “Avenir de l’Europe”, the ” Young European Federalists Belgium and Brussels” (JEF Belgium and JEF Brussels), the ” Groupe Europe of UEF”, “Alliance 4 Europe”, “Schuman Square”, the “Jean Monnet” association, the “GAQ”, the “Jean Rey” association and “”.

The “Schuman Declaration” of 9 May 1950 is the founding and revolutionary act of a new project of collaboration between the peoples and states of Europe, no longer based on the hegemony of one over the others, but on peaceful collaboration, and equality between them. It was the beginning of a new stage in European history that allowed the longest period of peace. Let us not forget it.

The pitfalls of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum

While Italy declared a state of emergency for six months at the beginning of April following a sudden influx of migrants on its territory, the inter-institutional negotiations on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum are still underway. Yet this legislative package had already been announced on September 16, 2020, during the State of the European Union address, where Ursula Von der Leyen announced her wish to abolish the Dublin system. This controversial regulation is one of the major sources of European asylum law. It has two objectives: to determine the state responsible for the asylum application of a person arriving on European territory and to fight against secondary movements, i.e. the registration of the asylum application of the same person in several states. The first objective is the main stumbling block of this text. Indeed, to determine the authority responsible for processing an asylum application, the dominant criterion still today makes the State through which the asylum seeker first entered the country solely responsible. The second objective, the fight against secondary movements, is far from being achieved. If we compare the years 2014 and 2021, which saw a similar number of asylum applications (510,696 and 505,221 respectively), in 2014 there were 137,220 cases in which a prior application had been made in another member state. In 2021, this figure will rise to 213,310 cases. Thus, the containment of secondary movement has not been very effective. The combination of these two factors has led to major imbalances, placing the burden of processing applications more heavily on the Southern and Eastern countries, on Europe’s doorstep, to the point where the asylum system of some countries, such as Greece, has collapsed.

Unfortunately, the New Pact as proposed by the Commission does not solve these structural failures. The criterion that makes the state of first entry the responsible authority remains. To remedy this, the Commission has set up a “solidarity mechanism” that allows states to share the processing of asylum seekers. However, the choice is left to the States to: relocate the applicants on their soil, provide material and logistical support to overburdened States or finance the return of applicants to a third country. Given the reluctance of many European countries to receive migrants on their soil, it is likely that relocation of applicants will be very little practiced by member states.

The problem with the European asylum system is that it is still focused on a security vision of European borders without taking into account the challenges that the future holds. For several years now, we have been observing a rise in right-wing and far-right populism in Europe. In September 2022, the Sweden Democrats, a conservative, right-wing, anti-immigration party, obtained unprecedented scores in the parliamentary elections with 20.5 per cent, placing second ahead of the Moderates. In the same month, Italy’s far right Fratelli d’Italia party, led by Giorgia Meloni, gained 21.6 percentage points and 26 per cent of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies. In France, the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen’s party, managed to place 89 deputies in the National Assembly, compared to 7 in the previous elections. While this undeniable dynamic may seem alarming, it shows one thing above all: there is an electorate of European citizens seduced by these political programs. The governments in place are therefore both obliged to share the institutions with the elected representatives of these extreme right-wing parties, but also tempted to capture a share of this electorate. Some of them are therefore more inclined to hold conservative and hostile positions on issues such as asylum and migration. We therefore find ourselves with a deeply contradictory system of asylum management where we find two opposing logics: European aspirations for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights on the one hand, and the sovereignist and security-oriented wishes of states on the other. It is therefore not surprising that this system is not designed to resist the migratory crises of this century. This becomes particularly worrisome when one looks at the projections of climate displacement. A 2021 World Bank report estimates that by 2050, 216 million people will be forced to leave their homes and migrate within their countries. Many of the most affected countries are already in a precarious economic, social and political situation and massive population displacement is likely to be a major factor in instability. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) explains in a 2022 report on climate change-related mobilities that by 2030, about 50% of the world’s population will live in coastal areas that are increasingly exposed to floods, storms and tsunamis. Moreover, if we take the +2°C scenario as a reference, 350 million people will be exposed to unbearable temperatures. We could go on and on with equally apocalyptic figures showing that the migration crises we have experienced so far will certainly pale in comparison to those that await us. We will then have to choose between sinking into a murderous isolationism and vainly trying to prevent access to our territory or radically changing our perspective and designing a system capable of welcoming migrants and asylum seekers in the best possible way.



Dear colleagues,

Thanks to your donations, several thousands of Ukrainian refugees have benefited from the action for the support of refugees by receiving food, clothing, products for children and also language courses held by colleagues and former colleagues volunteers.

We would also like to thank the OIB for its technical support throughout this united front action.

More than 55,000 euros were used to help refugees who were waiting for government aid. So many families saved from the street.

This is an incredible feat that was only possible thanks to your generosity!

This action is realized with 0 € management fees. It is 100% of your donations redistributed.


To achieve this challenge, we must remain united. We will therefore continue to gather all the good wills.

We still need your help to keep this action going until the full deployment of national aid!

Support the action by sending your donations to

IBAN BE20 0017 6787 9156


You can always deposit your imperishable donations (Rice, Pasta, etc.) directly at the Commission’s post office in each building. Thanks to the support of the OIB, they will be forwarded to the center rue de Theux, 49 1040 Brussels which also welcomes your donations in person.