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Contract Agents

Together against precariousness in the Commission.

Let’s show solidarity with our Contract Agent colleagues at the Commission and in the Delegations, Representations, Agencies and Offices.

See the Collectif des Agents contractuels website

2004-2024, 20 years later, AC is enough!

A different policy is necessary and possible.

The category of contract agents (CA) was created in the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations to meet the institutions’ need for cheaper labour without taking on the significant risks of private outsourcing. Their importance has grown steadily over the years. The Institutions have found their budgets limited by the Member States. It was therefore imperative for them to look for cheaper staff, but they were not obliged to manage them so harshly and without any effort at inclusion or equal treatment.

The pandemic, which subsequently made it more difficult to organise competitions, and the setbacks suffered by EPSO only accelerated the trend. Today, contract agents, including Temporary Agents (TAs), make up almost a quarter of the Commission’s workforce. They make up the vast majority of staff in the regulatory agencies, executive agencies, offices, representations and delegations.

These workers are poorly treated in terms of their social rights, although some small progress has been made recently. Their career opportunities are very limited and, where they exist, they are under threat. Mobility is virtually non-existent. Salary progression, taking into account both the rate of reclassification (promotion) and the salary scale, is very limited. Although the tasks carried out by CAs often correspond to those of higher grades and positions, in most cases these staff members face a limited and, above all, precarious career.

For the staff, the balance sheet is therefore less interesting. It’s time for a change. We believe that it is possible to combine an approach based on social justice and equal treatment with a degree of respect for budgetary constraints.

We recommend the following path for temporary AC staff: an initial 3-year contract, at the end of which they will be reclassified (which is permitted by the DGE), and then a second 3-year contract. At the end of these 6 years, a transparent selection procedure, based on the evaluations received, an examination and an interview, allows 30% of the colleagues to be offered a temporary agent (TA) post for 4 years. After two years as a temporary agent, successful colleagues are entitled to take part in two internal competitions leading to permanent status. Unsuccessful colleagues leave the civil service with the subsequent right to a European civil service pension and social protection.

For staff on indefinite contracts, we recommend that they be offered a TA post following the same procedures, guaranteeing two internal competitions with no limit on the number of successful candidates, in addition to the internal competitions open to CAs with a number of successful candidates limited to 5% of the number of successful candidates in the external competitions. Even if the AC is unsuccessful, moving to the AT would have a positive effect on pension levels. In the event of failure, the AC would return to his department at the grade he held before becoming a TA.

There are opportunities for contract agency staff, as we have seen in Alicante with the EUIPO agency. We will come back to that.

All of this offers the prospect of development and integration for the CAs, while at the same time allowing significant budgetary savings to be made without any change in status.

Note to Commissioner Hahn – CA social dialogue.

Request from all trade unions for a political consultation meeting on the situation of our contract agent colleagues (Jan 2021)

Transfer of pension rights (transfer IN)

The Paymaster Office (PMO) processes the application for the transfer of national pension rights into the pension scheme of the European institutions (PSEUI). The PMO ensures the conversion of acquired national rights into years of social contributions in the pension scheme of the European institutions (Transfer IN).

In doing so, the PMO does not provide advice on the negative or positive consequences of such a transfer of pension rights. Its role is purely managerial and requires, on the one hand, the cooperation of the national authorities and, on the other hand, the agreement of the EU staff member wishing to make the transfer. The staff member concerned should seek his or her own advice wherever he or she can find it. At present, we have not been able to identify any advisory services on this issue.

However, there are a significant number of cases where EU staff members with lower salaries and therefore lower contributions to the PSEUI (AC, AST SC, etc.) have transferred their national rights.

Very often, it turns out that this transfer did not bring them any advantage in terms of pension amount or length of active service (the years transferred have no impact on the ten years required to be entitled to a retirement pension, the so-called ten-year rule).

This is partly due to their lower salary and pension contribution and partly to the application of the statutory guarantee (or de minimise rule) enshrined in Article 77: “the retirement pension may not be less than 4% of the minimum subsistence figure per year of service”, which is calculated on the basis of the salary scale for officials in grade AST1, step 1.

The basic salary of grade AST 1, step 1, used for the calculation of the de minimise rule, shall be higher than the salary of grade AST 1, step 2, but :

– contract staff up to CA FG I, 3 step 6; CA FG II, 6 step 6; FG III, 8 step 5 and

– AST SC officials and temporary staff up to grade AST SC 1, step 5, AST SC 2, step 2.

For EU staff belonging to these or lower groups and with 10 years of service or less, the amount applied is systematically that of the minimum subsistence figure, which has the effect of reducing to zero the years transferred from the national pension system.

For all contract agents in function group I, indefinite duration, that we consulted, the pension years transferred into the old age and survivors’ insurance scheme will not bring them any benefit, which compromises their right to a differential salary.

These rights, if they had not been transferred to the unemployment insurance scheme, could have given rise to a national pension to be cumulated with the EU salary. In many cases, these EU agents and civil servants would be better off retiring with a pension supplement provided by the national system.

This remains possible if appropriate advice is provided to the staff concerned. The question also arises as to whether, following a re-examination of the cases introduced, the administration would be prepared to cancel the transfer of pension rights, in the above-mentioned hypothesis where the transfers would not provide an increase in the EU pension.

The administration, requested by us, asserts that under the current conditions of its operation, not only is it not in a position to provide such a service, but also points out the existence of a legal risk for it. Finally, it draws attention to the possible existence of a political risk. The Union’s minimum pension, which is granted even if a staff member has not completed 10 years of service, on condition that he or she is in service at the time of retirement, seems advantageous compared to what is practiced in the member states. A further improvement in the implementation of this scheme could encourage Member States to question it.

Given that EU staff have often not been properly informed of these issues when they entered service, and given the relatively low level of staff remuneration, one could consider :

  • an analysis of the number of colleagues potentially concerned,
  • the establishment of a working group with the aim of finding improvements to information for staff as early as 2021 to make them aware of transfer request issues.
  • on this basis, the opening of a social dialogue on possible corrective measures relating to the files transferred and to be transferred.

Internal competitions at the Commission

We need to discuss the internal competition that the Commission is organising to provide an opportunity for temporary staff to be established as AD 5.

This competition led to the outrage of contract staff as they could not have access to it.

U4U has, often alone, defended at social dialogue meetings the granting of an extension as a temporary agent, on a regular basis, to a significant number of contract staff who are most deserving and whose professional skills are necessary for the services.

This extension as a temporary agent would allow contract staff, thus benefiting from additional years, to have access to one or two internal competitions, with a higher number of successful candidates than those specifically open to contract staff.

The institution already provides such extensions to contract staff, depending on the needs of the services. The problem is that it does so in a non-transparent way, without making it a policy.

A policy of human resources management in this area would be meaningful and would appear legitimate to meet both the needs of the institution and those of a category of staff whose contribution to the smooth progress of European integration is openly recognised.

This policy, which we advocate for the Commission, is also recommended in all services and institutions which make extensive use of contract staff.

Info : The Junior/Young Professionals Program

EU unemployment benefit

Answer of the Administration 27/02/2020

Unemployment benefits for contract agents under the art. 3b of RAA

U4U is concerned about the situation of contract agents 3b of the RAA at the end of their contract, when they are not interested in a second fixed-term contract.

According to our information, the Commission services are proposing to 3b contract agents who are not interested in a new contract, to sign a declaration certifying their waiver of their right to unemployment benefit.

More specifically, our attention was drawn to the case of fellow fixed-term contract agents (3b RAA) who, at the end of their contract, were offered a new contract by the Commission services. These colleagues, for various reasons, did not wish to continue their mission with the institution and preferred to work until the end of their current contracts.

In this context, the position communicated by the administration was that these two colleagues had in fact resigned, refusing a new contract. In addition, the administration has informed them that they are not eligible for unemployment benefit. Finally, they were asked to sign a letter giving up unemployment benefits and health insurance.

U4U considers that this approach adopted by the administration services raises the following points:

  • Contract Agent 3b is engaged for a fixed period;
  • Renunciation of a second and final contract does not, in our view, constitute resignation. Resignation is expressed only when a contract is terminated;
  • The position that the second contract is not an extension of an initial contract is in line with the Commission’s analysis developed during the consultations on the new GIP for contract staff, where it was considered that second contracts concluded after the reform of the Staff Regulations in 2014 should reflect the provisions of the revised Staff Regulations (retirement at the age of 66, pension accrual rate of 1.8% per year and not the previous provisions which were more advantageous for individuals). Therefore, these new contracts were not considered by the Commission as an extension but as new contracts;
  • On this subject, the case law referred to by the Commission departments concerns only the cases of temporary agents, whose contracts are intended to be of indefinite duration, and not contract agents covered by Article 3b of the RAA. While in the case of a contract staff member who can benefit from a contract clearly intended to be of indefinite duration, a refusal to extend the contract could be assimilated to resignation, the same approach cannot be adopted for contract staff whose contracts are clearly limited in time;
  • More importantly, this situation concerns only a very small number of cases, moreover colleagues who are highly valued in their services. The current position of the administration would be tantamount to rightly giving the benefit of the unemployment allowance to colleagues to whom the services have not wished to grant an additional contract because of their performance, whereas this allowance would be denied to a very few good colleagues, whose merits are recognised. Moreover, the administration asks them to sign a certificate depriving them of their legitimate right to an appeal. On this last point, to need such a procedure, the administration seems unsure of the solidity of its position.

U4U hopes that the administration will find a way of redressing a position that is detrimental to the institution. Our organisation is ready to participate in any meeting to find a solution that combines the interests of the service and the staff, as one cannot go without the other.

Conditions for granting EU unemployment benefit

To be eligible to receive EU unemployment benefit, the temporary agent, contract agent or parliamentary assistant must satisfy the following conditions:

  • having completed at least six months’ service;
  • the end of service must not be the result of a resignation or termination of contract for disciplinary reasons;
  • not being the beneficiary of a retirement pension or disability allowance;
  • not having maintained one’s social security contributions to a national scheme during the period served in the EU Institution (art.112 of the RAA);
  • being resident in a Member State of the European Union (irrespective of nationality);
  • being unemployed and available on the labour market (a status that must be confirmed by the competent national authority). Non-renewal of contract and resignation

A non-renewal does not mean a resignation or termination, as the agent simply reaches the end of his contract.A resignation offered by an official can only result from a written document by the person concerned indicating his/her unequivocal desire to permanently end all activity in the institution. The decision of the authority with the power of appointment making the resignation definitive must be made within one month of receiving the letter of resignation. However, the authority with the power of appointment can refuse the resignation if a disciplinary procedure against the official is in progress on the date the resignation letter is received or if such a procedure is started within the following thirty days.The resignation takes effect on the date set by the authority with the power of appointment; this date must not be more than three months later than that suggested by the official in the letter of resignation for officials in the AD function group and more than one month for officials in the AST and AST/SC function groups.

Article 96 of Staff Regulation

  1. A former member of the contract staff who is unemployed after leaving the service of an institution of the European Union and
  • a) who is not in receipt of a retirement pension or invalidity allowance from the European Union,
  • b) whose service is not terminated as a result of resignation or termination of contract for disciplinary reasons,
  • c) who has completed a minimum period of service of six months,
  • d) is resident in a Member State,

will receive a monthly unemployment allowance under the conditions set out below.

For more information

Feb 2019

Open letter to President Juncker

How to improve the lot of contract staff without running the risk of weakening the European civil service: an open letter to the President of the Commission.

Dear Mr Juncker

At your meeting with the trade unions, you took a stance against the development of precarious positions at the Commission.

For staff, these precarious positions bring with them their share of inequality and discrimination. For the institution, they have major disadvantages in terms of staff turnover, loss of expertise, management costs for the administration and a worsening climate within the departments.

You have taken a courageous stand in favour of contract staff. It has been greatly appreciated. It has given rise to a great deal of hope.

Since its creation, U4U has put forward demands for contract staff that take into account both the interests of the individuals concerned and those of the institution, one of which cannot be achieved without taking the other into account. Attached you will find a working document, drawn up with the staff, which proposes significant improvements without requiring the opening up of the Staff Regulations, which would certainly constitute a danger for the civil service and the construction of Europe.

U4U is ready to meet with you to present the content of this document. The current electoral period in Brussels does not necessarily favour responsible trade unions that take the interests of the services into account in their approach, since our first duty is for the institution to accomplish its missions. This constructive approach that we are developing with staff must also be supported by the institution.

I am counting on a positive response to my request for dialogue.

I look forward to receiving your reply. Please accept, Mr Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Georges Vlandas
President U4U


DGE for CAs: update on conciliation with Commissioner Ottinger

The social dialogue meeting, known as the conciliation meeting, on contract staff has just ended: a step forward has been taken but problems remain! (May 2017)

Social dialogue: it’s not enough!

Letter sent to Ms I. Souka, DG HR, following a meeting at which the administration once again made a mockery of the unions, by passing on working documents during the meeting itself, preventing any preparation, and presenting indigent proposals.

Madam Director General,
Please find below a message from all the unions, from all parts of the Commission, concerning today’s information meeting on “Internal competitions open to Contract Agents”.

Thank you for your attention.

The Commission’s OSPs, from all locations.

Internal competitions open to Contract Agents

All OSPs from all sites were invited today to an information meeting about the organization of the next internal competitions to be published in January.At the start of the meeting, a document was distributed giving the conditions for this competition. This document contains both incomplete information and information which should be further detailed.The OSPs note that according to this document, this meeting is considered as a formal launching of the procedure under social dialogue.The OSPs thus decided to stop the meeting given the fact that social dialogue is not respected, in order to avoid that this meeting is considered as a formal consultation with the trade unions. In particular they deem that the conditions for this dialogue do not allow the OSP to defend their colleagues in full respect of their mandate.The OSPs from all sites ask for the establishment of a framework for a genuine social dialogue in a very important domain, given that this dialogue has for too many years been neglected by the administration.

All PSOs, everywhere 13/11/2015

Note from Ms Souka, Director General of DG HR, in response to the above email, regarding internal competitions open to contract agents.

Internal competitions open to CAs: proposals from all staff representation (note to Ms Souka)

Contract Agents at the Commission: It’s better, but it’s not enough! Talent must finally be fully utilised (Oct 2016)

Let’s give it a try!

Presentation at the social dialogue meeting on 12/11/2014 concerning the review of the GIP on contract agents.

Demonstration to demand that the Commission keep its promises

Leaflet calling for the demonstration on 23 April 2013

Concrete results for staff

At the meeting with DG HR on 29 May 2012, and on the basis of the action taken by the trade union majority in general, and U4U in particular, the following points were agreed in favour of contract staff, with constant status, pending progress in negotiations on the Staff Regulations and other more structural transitional measures:

  • Package of measures to make it easier for colleagues who have completed their three years to find a job in another institution;
  • Maintenance of CAST lists;
  • Re-employment of AC colleagues who have completed their three years for a further 2 or 3 years, following the entry into force of the revision of the Staff Regulations, without reapplying for CAST;
  • Funding through the global interim envelope to enable colleagues to remain in post until the new Staff Regulations come into force.

The Vice-President does not rule out other favourable measures for CAs, once negotiations with Parliament and the Council are more advanced and the parameters have been specified.

Useful links :

EP condemned for abuse of temporary agency work

France: Memorandum of understanding of 31 March 2011 on securing the career paths of contract agents. Access to permanent employment and improved employment conditions

France: Draft law on access to permanent employment and the improvement of employment conditions for contract agents in the civil service, the fight against discrimination and various provisions relating to the civil service.

Request for consultation of all the unions on DG COMM’s policy on contract staff in the representations (Nov 2010)

Contract agents: new recruitment and promotion rules: the results (May 2010)

Putting an end to discriminatory statuses: moving from a diversity of statuses to a working community

Our findings: a worrying process of segmentation

Over the last 5 years, we have observed a worrying trend in the departments of our European institutions: the segmentation of Community staff, which can lead to a division of staff that is not conducive to promoting their point of view and defending the institution. The fate of colleagues in the European Parliament, the Council, the ESC and the other institutions is increasingly divergent from our own, whether in terms of promotion, social policy or status, creating divisions and disparities in treatment.

Within the European Commission itself, new divisions have arisen between old and new officials. The latter are paid less on recruitment for the same work. The Commission’s management has been catastrophic. Colleagues who have passed the same competitions receive different salaries, depending on whether they were recruited before or after 1 May 2004. Worse still, lower promotion rates have been imposed on them since 2004, even though the Staff Regulations provided for higher rates to take account of the fact that they were recruited at lower grades.

There is also a growing divide between civil servants and non-civil servants, who are increasingly numerous but with divergent statuses (contract staff, SNEs, temporary staff, private law contractors, etc.). As a result, there are almost 7,000 temporary staff, contract staff, SNEs, local staff and agency staff working in various capacities within our institution.

Contract staff include those on one-year contracts, renewable twice, for a total of three years, and those who can look forward to a permanent contract. There is thus a difference in treatment between those working at head office and those in the Delegations or Agencies. This segmentation reduces the independence and strength of the institution. It leads to disharmony between particular interests, which makes it increasingly difficult to defend the collective interest.

This segmentation or division of staff is not accidental: it obeys a short-term economic logic, but also a medium- and long-term political logic. This policy aims to reduce wage costs in the short term. It runs the risk of gradually transforming the nature of the Commission institution by undermining its independence.

This process has begun, but it is not yet complete. We know that, following the so-called “report of the three Directors-General”, it is planned to go even further by increasing the divisions, the differences in treatment between multiple categories of staff, and the casualisation of many of them.

We are also witnessing the rise of corporatist demands among some staff: since overall demands are stalling, the temptation is strong for everyone to look after their own interests first. There is still time to counteract this exogenous force by working towards the convergence of staff interests and demands, both within each institution and between institutions.

Our approach

This approach must be based on simple principles, principles which differentiate real trade union action from corporatist action, principles based on the real place occupied by employees within the institution:

  • “Equal pay for equal work,
  • “sustainable employment, sustainable contract”, (reduction of precarious situations),
  • public tasks, public management (refusal to privatise tasks),
  • a clearly open-ended mission, an open-ended contract (when the mission is already being carried out by a contract worker).

It also means rejecting discrimination based on gender or age, etc.

Applying these principles requires a collective effort. It must involve all the staff concerned and bring together the will and action of the various trade union organisations. It is crucial to avoid the development of corporatism which, on the pretext of supporting one category rather than another, contributes to the fragmentation of the interests of all staff, thus favouring the petty games of the Member States, and sometimes even of the College.

With this in mind, U4U is putting forward for discussion a number of demands which we consider to be coherent, making it possible to support together the different categories of colleagues who work in our institution and to promote their unity.

1. SNEs:

  • period of employment within the institutions systematically of up to 5 years (duration of the Commission’s term of office)
  • the right to vote in staff elections, after one year’s employment
  • access to crèches, nurseries and Community schools under the same conditions as officials
  • exclusion of SNE years from the anti-cumulative rule that limits presence in the service
  • possibility for SNEs with 3 years’ seniority within the Community institutions to take part in integration competitions enabling them to be established, where appropriate

2. Services providers

  • internalisation within the Offices of all service providers (language teachers, IT specialists, caretakers, crèche staff, etc.) under the Contract Agent scheme for an indefinite period following serious professional selection tests
  • in the case of Offices and Agencies, the granting of open-ended contracts
  • access under the same conditions as civil servants to crèches, nurseries and community schools

3. Contract agents

  • maximum duration of successive contracts increased from 3 to 5 years (duration of the Commission’s term of office)
  • beyond that, 2A temporary agent contracts may be awarded for an indefinite period
  • EPSO selection tests to be maintained, with their professional dimension to be refined
  • creation of “inter-institutional skills grants” enabling CAs to work in other Community institutions at the end of their contracts
  • maintenance for CAs of access under the same conditions as officials to the crèches, nurseries and Community schools, which some would like to call into question
  • allow CAs in delegations to be mobile, enabling them to be posted to several delegations and, for a limited period, to headquarters
  • provide local staff with proper social protection and pension schemes
  • the possibility for CAs who have become TAs and who have 4 years’ seniority within the Community institutions to take competitions to become permanent staff, the success rates of which will be negotiated with the administration by staff representatives.

4. New civil servants and those who passed a competitive examination and were recruited before 1 May 2004:

  • to ensure that civil servants recruited after 1 May 2004 have the same career as those recruited before that date. This can be done by accelerating their current careers or by organising internal competitions.
  • Establish monitoring indicators and adopt corrective measures if necessary;
  • accelerate the careers of new civil servants to take account of the non-application, between 2004 and 2010, of the more favourable rates provided for in the Staff Regulations.

5. Ensuring careers for women

  • introduce real monitoring of women’s careers, with equivalent qualifications and experience, based on the principle of “equal merit, equal career”.
  • establish career plans to make up for lost time.

6. For the 50+:

  • put in place effective monitoring to ensure that the experience of “seniors” is not sterilised, 10 to 15 years before they retire – guarantee their professional recognition
  • establish functional positions for the 50+, and develop coordination, support (task forces), tutoring, training, leadership and coaching functions for new civil servants for the 50+.
  • give them an important role in information policy vis-à-vis civil society
  • limit the number of compulsory transfers and support those that are necessary by allocating additional posts to DGs hosting “senior” civil servants
  • introduce lifelong training courses

7. At inter-institutional level:

  • promoting the inter-institutional mobility of officials and other staff
  • developing inter-institutional training
  • approximate standards in terms of social policy and promotion
  • developing strictly inter-institutional services