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Social Dialogue

The aim of the social dialogue between the administration and the trade union and professional organisations (OSPs) is to ensure the continuity, independence and expertise of the European civil service, thereby influencing personnel policy and playing a key role in human resources management.

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).


Working time and hybrid working guidelines

Building policy

Simplification of the valuation report

Project to simplify the evaluation report (dec 2022)

European Schools

Study on European Schools done for the EP CULT (Draft 2022)

New HR Strategy : greening the Commission

Working documents:

Diversity and inclusion

Use of e-mails by the trade unions and data protection requirements

Social dialogue in the EU

The European Commission has published a new initiative with the aim to strengthen social dialogue in Europe at the EU level and in the Member States at the national level. The initiative comprises to texts:

  • A Communication, of non-legal character, in which the European Commission outlines
    (1) measures which it intends pursue to strengthen European social dialogue at the EU level and
    (2) complementary commitments it expects to this end also from the European social partners.
    For the most part, the does not affect CESI’s member organisations but CESI as a European trade union umbrella organisation of which U4U is a member.
  • A proposal for a Council Recommendation, of non-binding legal character, which sets out suggestions from the European Commission on how Member States and their governments and the national social partners could further strengthen social dialogue at the national level. This concerns in principle all of CESI’s national member trade union organisations.
    Note that this proposal first has to be adopted by the Council before it will enter into force – and even then its provisions will not be obligatory as would be through an EU Directive or an EU Regulation. Still, a new Recommendation could be an important political sign and also instrument for trade unions at national level to strengthen social dialogue and collective bargaining.

How can we make progress on social dialogue today?

If the European Commission is to function in the service of society, it needs intense and ongoing social dialogue at all levels. To this end, following our first meeting on this subject, I propose very briefly for joint consideration, in addition to and echoing what has been said by my colleagues from the other trade union organisations, the following avenues:

1°) First of all, to quickly restore confidence, by taking immediate measures: a) Allow the CPPT to function again, and to this end respond positively to the unions’ request, b) Convene the meetings of all the joint committees, and send them, except in cases of great urgency, the documents necessary for trade union dialogue at least 10 to 15 days in advance, to allow them to consult the staff and their bodies c) Provide the unions with the statistical data necessary for them to be informed, d) at least systematically inform the trade unions of the outcome of their requests, and respond to them e) at least systematically inform them of the institution’s activities before it publicly announces its position, for example during budget discussions, etc.

2°) Then make social dialogue work more easily: a) Ensure bi-annual planning of social dialogue topics, backed up by the documents needed for this dialogue to take place properly, b) guarantee a right of referral for trade unions on topics of importance to them for social dialogue c) take greater account of their proposals, in the case of common perspectives, etc.

3°) Subsequently improve social dialogue: a) establish procedures for joint reflection before decisions are taken b) broaden the areas of social dialogue c) promote decentralised consultation procedures

4°) Finally, to reflect together on a reform of trade union, statutory and joint staff representation: several proposals exist on this subject that could be the subject of a common position.


Reform of the staff representation: nothing moves

The Commission had offered the opportunity to improve the functioning of the staff representation. For now, the staff representation, the unions, have not yet seized this opportunity.

It was indeed urgent to improve things for, for example:

  • give the opportunity to each workplace to have a local committee, Seville does not;
  • to allow each location to have the same weight in the central committee, the Outside Union is under-represented, Luxembourg and the JRC sites overrepresented;
  • ensure equality of treatment between union lists, some of whom participate in the elections under different names, which gives them an advantage over organizations which, as is normal, only appear with one list;
  • elect at the same time the central staff committee and its local committees: today, 7 months after the elections, for example, the constitution of the central committee’s organs is not completed, or even risks being called into question by the elections of the staff local committee of Luxembourg, which is due to be elected next November.

The reform of staff representation is necessary, even if it calls into question acquired situations or advantages. It is necessary to enable staff to be better represented and to take on new challenges when member states want to challenge the Staff Regulations. The greatest fears are allowed at this level since even some lists in the European elections of May 2019, considered as European, propose to question the European civil service.

Only staff unity and the strengthening of its staff representation will be able to oppose it effectively.