At his meeting with the trade unions on 6 May 2011, VP Šef?ovi? tried to put an end to the pessimist rumours regarding the reform of the Staff Regulations
Does the European Commission really want to defend its staff?
Staff must be ready to join forces and take action.
At his meeting with the trade unions on 6 May 2011,
VP Šef?ovi? tried to put an end to the pessimist rumours regarding the reform of the Staff Regulations Following Commissioner Lewandowski’s declarations on the financial perspectives and on the efforts which, in his opinion, must be made as regards administrative expenditure, the TRADE UNION MAJORITY requested an emergency meeting with Vice-President Šef?ovi? in order to clarify the true intentions of the European Commission and the scope of its forthcoming initiatives.
Controversial comments which call into question good working relations
The meeting took place on 6 May. At the meeting, the TRADE UNION MAJORITY reiterated their regrets regarding the comments made by the Commissioner with responsibility for the budget, which have plunged staff into turmoil because of the risk of transforming the Staff Regulations and the independence of the European civil service into a simple “adjustment variable” of the Financial Perspectives and an outlet for all the anti-European sentiment.
The European civil service previously reformed in 2004
On the subject of a possible “reform” of the Staff Regulations, the TRADE UNION MAJORITY reminded the Vice-President that a major reform had previously been carried out in 2004, that substantial savings had already been achieved as regards the European civil service, and that the consequences of those savings had already significantly undermined its long-term future and attractiveness. In addition, the TRADE UNION MAJORITY reiterated its view that the functioning of our institutions could be improved without any need to amend the Staff Regulations.
Other means of making savings without touching the Staff Regulations
Our message has been partially taken on board by the Vice-President who, in his speech on 9 May 2011 to the European Parliament, emphasised the savings and efforts made at the time of the previous reform. However, he has not abandoned his proposal to amend for the umpteenth time the Staff Regulations despite the risks linked to the current anti-European climate, despite the staff divisions created by the 2004 reform and despite the foreseeable sharp divisions likely to result from the inevitable battle with the Member States and, therefore, the Council.
According to the Vice-President, staff must take account of several elements:
The European Commission must:
- Submit a proposal on the multi-annual financial perspectives at the end of June;
- Submit several reports, including one on whether or not it is necessary to
derogate from the salary adjustment method (exception clause). It will submit a
proposal in September 2011;
- Submit a proposal to replace the salary adjustment method which expires on 1st
January 2013. According to the European Commission, it will be difficult to
propose a simple renewal of the method applied between 2002 and 2012.
At the same time, the European Commission must prepare a whole series of reports (equivalence of careers, cost of pensions, responsibilities and level of remuneration, etc.) requested by the Council and the Member States (MS) to weaken the European civil service and European integration. The inescapable fact is that the current European context is very difficult. Numerous MS are having to adopt very unpopular domestic measures and pretend to forget that they are themselves responsible for either their difficulties or the decisions taken at European level.
The MS have long blamed their difficulties on the European institutions and some of them want to take advantage of the economic crisis to intensify their traditional policy of
using Europe as a “scapegoat” and punishing the European civil service as the “cause of all their problems”.
2. How to approach the administrative reform
The European Commission’s approach is to negotiate all these points in a single package. On 29 June 2011, the European Commission will present its proposals because administrative expenditure (which represents only 5.7% of the EU budget as regards the proposed 2012 budget, while salaries and pensions represent only 2.6% of the total budget) is necessarily part of the financial perspectives.
At the end of June, the European Commission will also submit a proposal. On this basis, the social dialogue may be launched in accordance with the usual rules. Once the dialogue has been completed, a formal proposal will be presented to the College in the autumn. Nothing has yet been definitively decided as regards any of the chapters. More
concrete measures will be presented at the end of June.
According to the Vice-President, contrary to reports, the European Commission does not want a far-reaching review of the Staff Regulations. Nevertheless, the TRADE UNION MAJORITY considers that the European Commission cannot guarantee that the EP or the Council will not be tempted to intervene to alter the independence of the European civil service (see the example of the external service) and to undermine its working conditions. We should also bear in mind that substantial savings were previously achieved in 2004: 3 billion between 2004 and 2010 and approximately an additional 5 billion projected for the period 2010–2020 ….naturally at the expense of staff!!
The staff of the European institutions will therefore “pay” and will suffer TWICE from the effects of budgetary restraints: first of all, as a result of the ongoing effects and constant aggravation of the 2004 reform, then once again by being “offered as the necessary scapegoat” to the Member States. European officials and other servants have already fulfilled their duty of solidarity by taking part in the budgetary restraints: they should not be “punished” for what they are, pubic officials of a solidarity-based European action.
If administrative expenditure needs to be cut further, instead of continuing to target salaries and pensions, an effort should be made to improve the way in which services operate and are managed. Considerable waste could be avoided by revisiting and streamlining our internal institutions and organisations, by improving coordination rather than multiplying services, the mushrooming of agencies, etc.
According to Vice-President Šef?ovi?, he wishes to achieve three objectives:
- Protecting the salary adjustment method in the interests of everyone in order to
avoid creating a noxious social climate every year. Nevertheless, the method will
have to be amended, in particular in order to include more Member States in the
calculation base. However, it should not be forgotten that in 2004 it was the
Council which limited it to 8 MS because it feared the increases of the new MS;
- Ensuring that the European civil service remains attractive and above all
multicultural. It must be able to attract the best professionals across the whole of
- Remaining in synch with the current European situation. Sacrifices – without
any details at this stage – will have to be made in order to ensure that the
general proposal is accepted.
Vice-President Šef?ovi? has declared that he is “ready to fight” for salaries, pensions, European schools and day nurseries, but overall, according to him, the European Commission has the necessary political courage to withdraw its package if the MS attack the European civil service.
This welcome undertaking by the V-P is nevertheless wishful thinking. First, the proposal to amend the Staff Regulations will be included in the proposal on the financial perspectives. Secondly, the overall choices and decisions will be made at the level of Heads of State and government. The TRADE UNION MAJORITY, and indeed the staff
as a whole, has already seen similar promises broken at the time of the 2004 reform. By its choice of a comprehensive method, the European Commission may expose us to further setbacks while exonerating itself in advance from any responsibility for the results.
For the time being, abandoning the salary adjustment method is not an option for the College, since that would mean an increase in salaries (!) because of the elimination on the same date of the crisis levy that staff have paid for a good twenty years!!!. Vice- President Šef?ovi? wants to move quickly – why so quickly? The social dialogue will apparently be launched in July, in difficult conditions for the staff representatives. The official proposal will be presented in September/October together with the “financial perspectives” package.
Vice-President Šef?ovi? believes that it will perhaps be easier to conduct the debate on administrative expenditure (and to defend staff expenses which are included in this expenditure) by placing it in the context of the added value of the European civil service having regard to the European policies which the EU has to manage: cohesion, CAP, regional policy, research, external policy, etc. As a result of the actions of the staff representatives, Vice-President Šef?ovi? has undertaken to take the time necessary to work and negotiate seriously.
A difficult climate and widespread bad faith
For the TRADE UNION MAJORITY, Commissioner Lewandowski’s comments have created a serious malaise within the services concerning the European Commission’s real intentions as regards reforming the Staff Regulations and the Method. But there are other grounds for concern and distrust. Because of the political climate and given that the Member States do not even respect the laws that they adopt themselves (see the non-compliance with the Method last year), it is the duty of the staff representatives to stress the difficulty, if not impossibility, of responding to staff and above all negotiating everything in…. less than 30 days (!!!), especially as the European Commission has been aware since 2004 of this deadline.
There is no need to reform the Staff regulations
For the staff representatives, there is no need to reform the Staff Regulations since several measures intended to offset the harmful effects of the 2004 reform could be introduced without changing the Staff Regulations. Savings could also be achieved without amending the Staff Regulations. As it has already done and will continue to do without fail, the TRADE UNION MAJOIRTY is currently preparing alternative proposals to satisfy the expectations of colleagues
penalised by the 2004 reform.
The proposed negotiating time which we are supposed to accept is pointlessly (or deliberately?) short. The timetable needs to be reconsidered in order to organise a credible social dialogue by involving the staff representation as a whole (unlike in 2004) and by allowing the trade unions to listen to staff, and therefore to consult them on the basis of hard information.…
Negotiations which concern all staff and all institutions
The negotiations are not limited to the OSP and the European Commission. This package will have to be negotiated with partners acting in bad faith. The staff representative bodies are willing to negotiate provided that the timetable is reasonable and the dialogue is pursued in a climate of trust.
The TRADE UNION MAJORITY has called for a joint working group to be set up as a matter of urgency, in order to involve staff in a concrete way in one of the potentially most important changes they have faced since 2004. Vice-President Šef?ovi? has accepted this proposal and has declared that he is willing to analyse jointly the constraints faced by the European Commission in putting together its proposals.
In order to restore trust between staff and their administration it is necessary to establish forthwith a social dialogue worthy of the name.
This dialogue must address not only the substance of these issues, but also the best strategy to adopt to defend and ensure the independence of the European civil service. This independence is particularly important for the EU and its citizens in order to tackle the challenges of our times.