Note for the attention of Ms Pia AHRENKILDE HANSEN
Director General of DG COMM
Subject: Situation of the staff of the Commission’s Representations in the Member States: time for a change of tack!
Recruitment procedures and conditions for staff working in the Representations: the situation keeps worsening.
1. Recruitment of the Head of Representations
We have already repeatedly mentioned the inacceptable situation of some posts remaining vacant for long periods of time.
This tendency has been reinforced in the last couple of years and not for the best.
A year ago, there were many acting Heads of Representation (HoR) for months:
– In 6 capitals, namely Copenhagen, Helsinki, Malta, Sofia, Vilnius, Warsaw
– In 3 regional Reps, namely Bonn, Munich, Marseille,
Which means that 9 out of 33 posts – practically 30 % – were fulfilled by acting heads of representations, some of whom have been acting for 2 or 3 years.
Currently, at a distance of one year, for 3 capitals, the posts of HoR are still vacant (Sofia, Malta, Warsaw) as well as for 2 regional Reps (Bonn, Munich) and there are new vacancies in 2 capitals (Budapest, The Haag), which make a total of 7 vacant posts out of 33 posts.
We have already voiced the frustration of the staff concerning the decision to select for these posts more and more often temporary agents recruited from outside the Commission, as if there were not good enough candidates inside the institution (recently Luxemburg, Malta).
Why is there such a long delay in appointing a HoR? In some cases, the selection processes took months, or even one or two years, and at the end, the Commission does not take any decision on the shortlist drawn up by the selection panels. Such a situation keeps our colleagues (either shortlisted candidates or acting HoRs) without any visibility on their career perspectives.
On the other hand, the Commission can indeed speed-up a procedure and appoint a new HoR in record time, without even publishing the vacancy of such posts. That was the case for Madrid indeed, whereas Paris had to wait for two years.
This situation reveals a structural problem and raises the question of the likelihood for staff to be appointed to such a position as a career development. If the Commission, at the highest level, prefers to keep these posts for external recruitments of TA colleagues, it must be stated clearly. If among the staff only former Directors General, Deputy Directors General or former Secretaries General have a chance to be appointed, then, the political option must be transparently admitted.
The Commission can no longer deceive the staff by letting them believe in career development perspectives that, in reality, do not exist.
What are the objectives and the prospects of DG COMM or at the highest level?
R&D has already addressed all these questions to DG COMM and required concrete answers, which unfortunately have never been provided.
2. More than excessive workload and management through fear!
We would like also to point out that the workload remains particularly high and many reps are understaffed. Political reporting, social media coverage, communication never stops. The war In Ukraine and the energy crisis have further loaded the boat…
Just to give a concrete example, concerning the representation in Paris, it appears that the workload and official visits during the French Semester were more than double compared to the normal workload, and the additional resources for this period were not more than 7- 8%.
The same totally unbalanced situation seems to be systemic on the occasion of each Semester. Many colleagues, even if they do their job with passion, complain about the workload, the lack of schedules to cover events constantly and in some cases insufficient information flow from the HoRs.
What is worse, when managers lack true knowledge of the culture and values of the European civil service and try to manage staff through fear by imposing “the law of silence” in order to avoid formal complains, the situation becomes conflictual, unsustainable and leads experienced colleagues to looking for a different job.
This is the situation currently experienced in several places. Work conditions are getting worse and worse, and colleagues get ill or have to consider leaving their workplace.
R&D has already addressed all these questions to DG COMM and no action seems to have been taken.
3. Salary adaptation for the staff in Representations
Furthermore, we received signals that the recent (sometimes radical) reduction of the already low salary coefficients in many Representations is not fully considerate of the extreme and fast changing inflation, in particular, sudden and unpredictable rise of energy, food and travel prices as well as rental costs, which sensitively impact on the daily expenses/budget of staff. It is all the more surprising since many
Representation staff received an exceptional payment this summer, to compensate for the negative impact of spiralling inflation, acknowledging the gravity of the problem.
Among these circumstances, introducing an extra salary deduction does not only appear as unfair and have an effect of reducing real wages but also deter good quality, experienced staff to apply for vacant posts at Representations.
We urge DG COMM to react on the above mentioned concerns.
R&D is, as usual, at your disposal in order to discuss all possible measures that could improve the working conditions of our colleagues in the Representations and the perception of their missions and invaluable added value towards European citizens.
I’m sure that you agree, that this is both what staff and European citizens do deserve.
Ms. G. INGESTAD, Director General HR – Human Resources and Security
Mr. R. KUEHNEL, Director DG COMM – Representation and communication in the Member States
Mr. C. LIETZ, Head of Unit DG COMM – HR Correspondent
Central Staff Committee
Staff of the Representation