ABC of staff representation at the Commission

An informal and unofficial alphabetical guide to the staff representation and social dialogue at the Commission

This guide is for everyone: it is necessary for each of us to know who represents us and how. If we are unaware of our rights, it is impossible for us to exercise them: the staff representation is here for us all, participate!

This article collects information that is of use always, whether you’ve already voted or will vote in 2024.

Local Staff Committee Last elections Next elections
France (Paris) 2021 2024
Geel July 2021 July 2024
Karlsruhe October 2021 October 2024
Outside the Union (CLP-HU) December 2021 December 2024
Ispra and Seville December 2021 December 2024
Brussels January 2022 January 2025
Luxembourg December 2022 December 2025
Petten March 2023 March 2026

It sheds light on several aspects of staff representation and social dialogue at the EU, and offers some reality checks for better awareness.

Social-dialogue rules governing how staff representatives interact with the administration are included in Article 9(3) of the staff regulations and elsewhere (see links throughout this article). It is not an easy task to make a quick summary of the workings of the whole structure and processes – therefore this is an attempt to provide some orientation within this maze and make the best of our active and passive right to vote. Items are in alphabetical, not in logical order!

A as Accountability

There are no clear instructions on how the staff representation and staff committees are accountable towards those whom they represent. There is nothing like a yearly event where the elected staff representation meets staff to present work done or to collect real needs from participants. Some of the 8 local staff committees (LSCs) and 1 central staff committee (CSC) produce a report on their time in office (what they have achieved within their 3-year mandate) which however finds little dissemination. There is a huge variance here: some staff committees have a website and some don’t: some publish minutes of meetings, dates for plenaries and how to attend and some don’t. Check out what your staff committee shares. Trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) communicate achievements to their members or all staff via email and meetings: these kinds of activities peak every three years during each LSC’s respective election time. Communication is a field with great room for improvement. A nice practice was established by the Brussels staff representation during the Generation 2004 period (2015-2018), where it routinely informed the electorate about its activity in a monthly newsletter providing a short summary of it plenary sessions.

A as ‘Alternate’ members (also called ‘deputy members’ but more akin to a backup)

One peculiarity of staff representation at the Commission is that members of all elected or appointed bodies such as the Central Staff Committee (CSC) and local staff committees (LSCs), or the joint committees, have a designated backup (‘alternate’). Alternates are sometimes ‘attached’ to their full members, i.e. they are elected and function as a couple/pair. Alternates in fact double the number of elected and appointed. They are entitled to participate in the debates but can vote only if the full member is not present.

A as Appointments

After each election to the LSCs a big battle starts among elected representatives and their trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) over the corresponding distribution of appointments to the CSC (‘delegation’) and to the joint committees, both at local and central level. The battle is sometimes for relatively relevant positions, such as chairs, vice-chairs, board (‘bureau’) members or members of particularly sensitive joint bodies such as the joint committee of Section 2 of Annex II Staff Regulations (COPAR) [Commission Paritaire] or the Joint Promotion Committees. Such fights lead to delays and paralyse staff-representation work. Fragmentation is almost inevitable when dealing with 8 LSCs (all with different voting rules and electoral cycles) and 17 OSPs: leading to a steady change of appointments and an overall distribution of seats and position not necessarily corresponding to the representativeness of the vote. Thanks to a Generation 2004 initiative the internal rules of procedure of the Brussels LSC were changed to speed up these processes and we encourage further change across all Commission sites to automate, standardise, improve transparency and simplify this whole process via electoral reform.

A as ASN, the active senior network, but also used to mean each active senior

Active seniors are  retired colleagues who volunteer with OSPs. The April 2022 CSC plenary minutes state that there are 15 in total. In July 2022  minutes queries conflict of interest/COPAR check for those holding  an ASN role (as is currently done for those leaving the Commission). No published participation rules on CSC meetings found on the CSC website.

A as general Assembly, or general meeting of staff

One would expect that such a meeting would be the occasion for staff to learn about the achievements of the staff representation/staff committee during their time in office (‘mandate’), or about the hot topics or what is at stake. Not at all! This specific meeting is provided for in Article 1 of Annex II Staff Regulations to lay down the conditions for election. So every three years each LSC convenes a general assembly for this purpose. Such assemblies have no minimum attendance specified for them to be considered valid (‘quorum’), no specifics on whether a 60-seat room is reasonable for the physical general assembly of a 4000-person site) and, in general, the participation of staff in these meetings is minimal. In 2018 DG HR contested decisions taken by the general assemblies in Ispra/Seville and in Brussels, leaving the question open of what exactly are the real powers and usefulness of such gatherings. Due to the huge number of geographically dispersed locations of delegations, their LSC decides on election rules via referendum (e.g. in 2008). Again, Generation 2004 encourages a move to standardise, improve transparency and simplify the whole staff-representation process via electoral reform.

B as ‘Bureau’ (board)

Name of the group of members appointed to run the CSC or its LSCs: normally the board consists of the Chair, one or more vice-chairs, members and a secretary. It holds regular meetings (e.g. once or twice a week), where sometimes guests are invited to present or clarify matters. Until recently, the 41-member CSC had as many as a dozen vice-chairs (it now has almost 10 vice-presidents (plus one ‘first vice-president’ instead (point 5, 531 plenary minutes, January 2021) which shows how everybody wants to be important, independent of whether they participate or not. Attendance lists are available for plenaries, but not for bureau meetings.

C as Campaigning

Staff Regulations and CEOS provide that representative bodies of staff must be renewed every three years. Therefore every three years elections are called and the inevitable campaigning is launched under the slogan: ‘A la guerre comme à la guerre’! Our mailboxes are then filled with all kind of electoral promises, videos, debates, comments about contenders and adversaries. Although Codes of Good Conduct exist mainly to establish how and where posters can be displayed, they can hardly cover all means used to engage with staff, the latest original initiative being the (ethically questionable) distribution of treats, gadgets or tea/coffee vouchers of 1.5 EUR value to staff!

C as Categories

According to Article 1(4) of Annex II Staff Regulations, the elected members of each local staff committee (LSC) should come from all categories and function groups of staff (administrators (ADs), assistants (ASTs), temporary agents (TAs), contract agents (CAs) or other agents (OA)). Check out the ballot papers: Brussels, Ispra/Seville and outside the Union.

In the frenzy of further lowering staff working conditions, in 2013 the legislators forgot to amend the relevant article in order to include the new secretaries and clerks (AST/SCs) function group. However, DG HR generously interprets that by analogy AST/SC are also entitled to be represented.

See ‘6-year rule’ below: how well can temporary staff really participate?

C as CCP (2 options)

This a the French abbreviation for either:

  • le comité central du personnel: the Central Staff Committee (CSC)
  • le congé de convenance personnel: leave on personal grounds

C as Central Staff Committee (CSC)

The Central Staff Committee (CSC)  of the European Commission consists of 8 local staff committees (LSCs) which appoint its 41 members. The CSC is often also called the CCP [comité central du personnel] even in communications in English.

For a long time, a silent section still existed for the long-abandoned site of Culham, UK (see p. 31). A long-established dogma within the staff representation insists that Brussels have less than half of the seats, no matter whether its staff count for almost 70% of the total. It’s quite difficult to find any kind of proportionality in seat distribution among LSCs, or to guess at how anyone might explain this distribution of seats.

As you can see it takes more than 1 000 voters to elect one CSC member in Brussels, but just half of that in Luxembourg and less than 300 in Ispra/Seville. The smallest local section called ‘France’ represents all staff working on Commission sites located in that Member State, including the Representation in Paris. Staff working in all other Representations are instead included in the Brussels LSC.

The remit of the CSC covers all questions of a general nature or questions that may concern one or more LSCs. It coordinates the activities of the LSCs in all areas that fall within their remit.

The CSC is the statutory (i.e. described in the Staff Regulations) body responsible for representing the interests of all staff of the Commission in all sites. The CSC advises and discusses with the Commission administration almost all issues related to the application of rules on careers, working conditions and social policy. These include, among other things, recruitment, promotions, social policy, sickness, discipline, incompetence, leave on personal grounds, health insurance, training, equal opportunities and joint committees (bodies made up of equal numbers of colleagues from the administration and from the staff committees) deal with many of these issues. Generation 2004 has 2 CSC vice-presidents who participate in all bureau and plenary meetings (point 2, 532 plenary minutes (February 2021)).

C as chair

The most coveted position of any well-respected staff representative! No matter how many staff you represent (from approx. 32 000 for the CSC to less than 300 in the LSCs of Geel, Karlsruhe or Petten), the most important thing in life is being called a chair!

You will still find ‘chairman’ (even for women!) in many current documents, but ‘chair’ is much preferred: check our the Interinstitutional Style Guide.

C as Common Front (also Front Commun)

This is the name given to the majority of trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) together when we work on common action (‘Front Commun’) e.g. 25.01.2023:

C as Communication

Communication on social-dialogue topics of interest to all or of specific groups of staff is as much fragmented as the staff representation: 8 LSCs (all with different voting rules and electoral cycles) and 17 trade unions and staff associations (OSPs). Some information is made available by LSCs, other news is shared by OSPs, and DG HR publishes a great deal of content on the intranet (‘MyIntracomm’), which makes it quite difficult for staff to find their way in the maze. The battle to obtain an intranet page for the Brussels LSC took 2.5 years. Luxembourg LSC took 2 years. There is a huge variance: some staff committees have a website, some have a shared space and some have no digital presence: some publish minutes of meetings, dates for plenaries and how to attend and some don’t. Check out what your staff committee shares.

C as ‘Concertation (cooperation aiming at joint (‘concerted’) action)

The 2008 framework agreement signed between the administration and the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) on the functioning of the social dialogue at the Commission includes several provisions i.e. three levels of negotiation/talks (‘concertation’) of OSPs to be convened until an agreement is reached:

  • administrative concertation: with the relevant director and/or the manager in charge of social dialogue at DG HR;
  • technical concertation: with the director-general of DG HR;
  • political concertation: with the Commissioner responsible for HR and administration.

C as ‘Conciliation’ (dispute resolution)

As provided for by Article 20 of the 2008 framework agreement, in the event of persistent disagreement at political level, either the Commissioner or the signatory representative organisations may propose the opening of a dispute-resolution (‘conciliation’) procedure. The request by the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) for the opening of a conciliation procedure listing the items submitted for negotiation/talks (‘concertation’), the opening of a cooling-off period during which the Commissioner shall report to the full Commission on the positions of all the parties or the convening of a conciliation meeting shall follow.

Generation 2004 called for conciliation in February 2022 in the context of the new decision on working time and hybrid working.

C as staff committee Constitution

Each LSC must appoint its representative/s to the CSC at its first meeting. The Staff Regulations state that the CSC and the LSCs so this by absolute majority of their respective members. The CSC is not considered constituted until this happens, which can take years, meaning the CSC does not have an official president during that time. Different election and appointment rules together with different election dates and sometimes surprising election results have made the constitution of the CSC particularly difficult. Again, Generation 2004 encourages a move to standardise, improve transparency and simplify the whole staff-representation process via electoral reform.

C as CSC (2 options)

D as Decision of 1997

The 23.12.1997 administrative notice sets out the rules for the composition and functioning of the staff committee. It is still in place no matter various inconsistencies linked to two subsequent reforms of Staff Regulations plus several reorganisations. One of its most interesting features is the number of members of the outside the Union section, 14 in the French version and 7 in all others… together with another 4 decisions this text is currently under review (see reform of social dialogue).

D as Delegation (there are 3 possibilities)

  • European External Action Service (EEAS) Delegations. Over 3 500 Commission staff currently work in delegations (outside the Union) disseminated in more than 140 non-EU (‘third’) countries and international organisations. They mostly belong to DG International Partnerships (INTPA) (previously DG International Cooperation and Development            (DEVCO) and DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR), but also to several other DGs. Some 60% of them are local agents (LAs), the rest includes all other staff categories (AD, AST, AST/SC and TAs and CAs). They have particular working conditions, severely worsened with the 2014 reform of Staff Regulations. Staff in delegations have their own LSC, but since Commission and European External Action Service (EAAS) staff coexist, the LSC was duplicated as well. Therefore each new or amended provision concerning staff in delegation needs double approval by two different staff committees, the one for the Commission and the other for EEAS staff.
  • Delegations: an elected group of representatives who speak on behalf of a specific group at the staff committee. These are are different from trade unions or staff associations, they are liaison bodies for specific groups of staff. There are currently 5 in total. These 4 are attached to the Brussles Local Staff Committee (LSC): interpreters (SCIC), nurseries and after-school childcare facilities, OIB proximity team and the Delegation of Drivers. This one is attached to the Central Staff Committee (CSC), since it covers staff on more than one site: Permanent Delegation of Translators (DPT).
  • Delegations: Those from each of the 8 local staff committees (LSCs) who attend the Central Staff Committee (CSC) plenaries e.g. here is the Luxembourg CSC delegation.

D as Democracy, representative

The specific form of power delegation from people to elected representatives to which our internal elections for staff representation belong. As in any indirect democracy, power is held by the elected staff representatives, who discuss and debate on matters of general relevance with the administration.

D as social dialogue

From the intranet: ‘The social dialogue aims at ensuring the permanence, the independence and the competence of the European civil service. This dialogue impacts on the staff policy and plays an important role in the human resources management in the Commission.’ This is actually an umbrella description for the participation of staff in decision made on HR matters at the Commission e.g. working time and hybrid working, the new HR strategy, hot-desking and open ‘dynamic’ offices spaces. The extent to which these discussions translate into practical improvements to working conditions is quite questionable and at best variable, but there is a certain tendency by the administration and certain trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) to accept only superficial changes to rules which are sometimes quite complex and hard to implement.

E as E.1

The unit of DG HR in charge of social dialogue (and legislative affairs). They are known for their impartial and timely handling of all items linked to the activities of the staff representation, as well as for the equal treatment they provide for all OSPs.

E as Electoral rules

The 8 LSCs have of course different election date sand rules.

This covers even ways of voting (paper/digital) and how to count those votes: some use proportional representation, others use ‘first past the post’ (majoritarian), other mixed systems to award seats. Different dates make it possible that due to mobility between sites some staff are never on an electoral roll, while others can vote twice within the same term of the staff committee. This does not seem to bother DG HR, even though on other matters HR might make noise about defending ‘representative democracy’. Different electoral rules together with a seat distribution in the CSC which is not proportional to the number of staff makes it that a vote cast for certain LSCs has a much higher weight that the same vote cast elsewhere. Generation 2004 promotes a standardisation and simplification of the electoral rules, lowering the barrier for participation: we need new staff representatives, the learning curve should be made as user-friendly and accessible as possible.

E as ‘Exemptions’ (also called ‘detachments’ (from French ‘detaché’) but normally called secondments)

This is where a staff member does staff-representation tasks as part of their daily work and that work counts as work time, instead of having to do these tasks around and in between all of their other tasks. A seconded colleague would have a set part of their time formally dedicated to staff-representation activities. So, essentially the staff representation would ‘borrow’ that staff member from their current service for 25%, 50% or 100% of full-time equivalent (FTE) (note 75% is not available). Individuals can be seconded to a trade union or staff association (‘union secondment’) or, if they are elected in the local staff committee (LSC) elections, seconded to the staff committee (‘statutory secondment’). Secondments are provided in order to efficiently implement the 2008 framework agreement with OSPs. DG HR grants ‘representative‘ OSPs a number of resources, e.g. 12 ‘exemptions’, i.e. staff seconded to the staff representation by the administration (statutory secondment). Another 29 exemptions are granted to the staff committee to fulfil its tasks (union secondment). Altogether 41 staff can be seconded to staff representation. Although they are intended mainly for the functioning of the staff committee, they are distributed among OSPs proportionally to their representativeness at central level, and therefore remain linked to their OSPs, something that does not make the staff committee more efficient. The until-recently tolerated practice of people staying there forever and there being no cycle of older colleagues training up the newer colleagues and ‘showing them the ropes’ has potentially distanced much of the staff representation from those it represents.

F as internal Fights

As the current election campaign also shows, internal fights and point scoring are not uncommon within the staff representation – there are examples of some appearing particularly excited and motivated to deny newcomers any space, or to conquer positions in committees that are then scarcely used. Coalitions are formed and dissolved according to the spirit of time, and friends and foes change all over the place. This game playing and time wasting is exacerbated and facilitated by the fragmentation e.g. 3 function groups for officials, 3 function groups for CAs, 4 staff categories (official, TAs, CAs and LAs), 2 staff-regulation reforms (2004 and 2014), 17 OSPs, 8 LSCs and 8 independent and distinct electoral cycles and systems.

F as Fragmentation

Fragmentation of staff representation is mainly due to the excessive number of categories and subcategories of staff, which determine different interests to defend (e.g. 3 function groups for officials, 3 function groups for CAs, 4 staff categories (official, temporary agents (TAs), contract agents (CAs) and local agents (LAs)). However this is also favoured by social-dialogue rules that create a matrix between local (LSCs) and central (CSC), statutory (Staff Regulations) and associative levels (OSPs) [organisations syndicales et professionnelles]. For example there are at least 17 Trade unions and staff associations (OSP), we have 8 LSCs and 8 independent and distinct electoral cycles and systems. Low representativeness thresholds allow for small groupings to become ‘recognised’ and ‘representative’ OSPs (Generation 2004 fought for this barrier to be raised to 5% for Brussels LSC in October 2021, otherwise an OSP could end up with less than one staff committee member: how to manage that?). The quality and quantity of work done in favour of staff greatly suffers under such cacophony. Such fragmentation (8 LSCs using asynchronous and diverse electoral cycles and systems, and 17 OSPs which may or may not be present on each site) leads to a steady change of appointments and an overall distribution of seats and position not necessarily corresponding to the representativeness of all forces in place.

F as Framework agreement

The 2008 framework agreement sets out the relations between the administration and the staff representation to implement the social dialogue. It includes provisions on freedom of union membership, representativeness of OSPs, the need to consult the OSPs at different levels, the dispute-resolution (‘conciliation’) procedure in case of disagreement after several rounds at administrative, technical and political level, and several other details governing the presence and action of OSPs in the Commission. A founding document absolutely worth reading!

F as Front Commun – see C as Common Front

F as Full members

Full members elected to the staff committee or appointed to joint committees are accompanied by backups (narmally called ‘alternates’ or ‘deputy members’). While according to legal-service interpretation a full member is the only ‘member’, the alternate being allowed to act only when the full member is absent, alternates can actually fully participate in debates. Therefore their respective roles appear sometimes blurred.

G as Gender balance at Staff Representation

Although several women appear among candidates standing for elections, the staff representation remains a male-dominated domain, with comparatively less women – there are no constraints to address and balance this state of affairs. Check out the current state of affairs: CSC, Brussels, Luxembourg, Ispra/Seville, Petten (there are no links on MyIntracomm for Karlsruhe, Geel, France or outside the Union).

G as General Implementing Rules (GIPs)

Rules drafted to implement articles of Staff Regulations, such as for instance Article 43 on appraisal reports or Article 45 on promotions. They are negotiated between the administration and OSPs and establish the details of how a given article is implemented at the Commission. This might differ from implementation of the same article in other institutions.

H as DG HR

In most cases, the Directorate-General for Human Resources and Security (HR) is the counterpart of staff representation within social dialogue. For the purposes of administration seconded staff belong to DG HR. DG HR has a unit especially dedicated, to the social dialogue (E.1). It organises all social-dialogue meetings, negotiation/talks (‘concertation’), dispute resolution (‘conciliation’) and gives support to the organising of the local staff elections.

H as Help

The staff representation is there for more than just elections, or to negotiate with HR, but also to offer individual help to staff in need or even just staff who have questions and can’t find a clear answer: we are here for you! Anyone can ask for help from an OSP, the LSC or its members or the CSC. Seconded staff representatives are there to listen and support you with advice or legal action whenever needed.

I as Interest of the service

Generic term by which several actions concerning certain staff are taken by DG HR e.g. to approve training, to put someone on leave pre-retirement. At the staff representation this is used as a justification to extend the term of certain staff representatives, who are allowed to stay after they are 65 ‘in the interest of the service’.

This option is open to anyone. Here are the figures: 133 extensions of service above the age of 65 in 2020 (p. 36 Human Resources in 2020)

81 extensions of service above the age of 65 in 2019 (p. 39 Human Resources in 2019)

nearly  70 extensions to carry on working beyond the normal retirement age (p. 29 HR in 2015)

I as Internal rules

Each LSC and the CSC have a set of internal rules, drafted by members at some point in time and communicated to the administration. Internal rules are often ambiguous, outdated, available in one language only (if at all), require clarifications and are source of litigation among staff representatives.

I as ISG (interservice consultation)

HR consults the OSPs and the DGs on new decisions

J as J-70

J-70 or the OSP stronghold is the Commission building in Brussels where seconded staff representatives in Brussels have their offices and can be visited by staff needing support or information. The equivalent in Luxembourg is the Joseph Bech (BECH) building on Kirchberg. The main meeting room of the CSC (6 of the 10 annual plenaries are held in Brussels) is however to be found across the street at J-79 (nice cafeteria just below the room).

J as joint committees

Some 30 joint committees exist at central level, where representatives of the administration and staff representatives jointly discuss matters and take decisions. Some of them are provided for by the Staff Regulations (such as the joint committee (COPAR), or the reports committee), others are established by the general implementing provisions (GIPs) of certain articles of the Staff Regulations. Commission decision of 15 July 2005 on improving social dialogue in the Commission through joint committees (‘Action 56’) lists the existing committees. Several other joint committees or groups exist at local level (e.g. Luxembourg, Brussels or Ispra/Seville) where they mostly deal with health and security matters but also with canteens or other locally relevant items. There are also interinstitutional joint committees. Altogether there might be some 100 such bodies to be served.

K as HR Key figures

Every year HR publishes its key figures on staff numbers, distribution, gender, age etc. Reading it gives an interesting view of how the European civil service is shaped and changes over time. For instance, the staff reduction by 5% in recent years has been accompanied by a slight, but steady increase of middle and senior managers and a significant increase in non-permanent staff. Check for yourself DG HR, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 Key Figures.

L as Legal basis for staff representation

Staff representation is a workers’ right enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights: Article 27 (worker’s right to information and consultation within the undertaking) and Article 28 (right of collective bargaining and action). Our Staff Regulations of Officials (SR) and CEOS of the European Union include such rights in Article 9 (staff committee), Article 10b (Trade Unions, staff associations etc.), Article 10c and 24b, as well as Annex II Staff Regulations on composition and procedure of the staff committee and other bodies. There are several other provisions of the Staff Regulations mentioning situations where the advice of the CSC must be requested.

L as Lobbying

Although the 2008 framework agreement stipulates that OSPs must represent all staff without distinction of grade, category or other characteristics, the analysis of human resources management of the last decade and a half shows several imbalances that show how both HR and staff representation have allowed for certain lobby-like interests to be better represented than others.

L as Local

In an institution counting more than 180 places of employment scattered around the world, the local dimension of staff representation is essential and very well developed. Different working sites in different countries have different issues to cope with, e.g. different local legislation to take into account as far as health and safety are concerned or, more recently, different COVID-19 measures. Therefore the local level of staff representation must be preserved. It also must correctly interact with the central level.

L as Local staff committees (LSCs)

There are 8 LSCs (also called CLPs: Comités locaux du personnel):  Brussels, Luxembourg, Ispra/Seville (a shared LSC for historical reasons), France, Karlsruhe, Petten, Geel and Outside the Union (HU [hors Union]). Each of the 8 sends some elected representatives to the Central Staff Committee (CSC).

M as Mandate

This is used to mean  different things:

  • noun: the time in office (e.g. of a staff committee: the Luxembourg LSC 2019-2022 term/’mandate’)
  • noun: the number of votes received in the election in relation to the rest (e.g. to have a strong/weak mandate)
  • noun/verb: permission to take action on behalf of someone/something (e.g. to have a mandate from/to be mandated by the CSC to take certain action)
  • verb: to be ordered to take a specific action (e.g. to vote in certain way)

M as Manipulation

Where there is a need, there is politics. Where there is politics, there is the risk of manipulation. Like any other kind of representative democracy everyone is well advised to pay careful attention to the follow-up action on political promises (particularly those made during election time).

M as Members

In order to be admitted to the benefits included in the 2008 framework agreement (ability to negotiate with the administration, to receive resources and be able to operate within Commission premises), every OSP needs to be ‘representative’. To this purpose it needs to have at least 400 paying members and ensure democratic internal processes. Members are therefore essential for the existence and ability to work of any OSP.

N as Negotiations

Negotiations are an essential part of a staff representatives’ daily business. Beyond negotiating with HR for GIPs or other legal texts, they may be called to negotiate on individual situations with managers. Other negotiations happen among OSPs when a (possibly common) position (e.g. common front) of OSPs is needed, as well as within the one OSP (particularly when there are composite groups).

N as Newcomers within staff representation

In a typically hierarchical environment, newcomers are generally considered to be a source of cheap labour that longer-established staff can easily delegate tasks to. Being a newcomer at staff representation is no better: you can count on some disagreement and even disrespect from senior staff representatives, especially when you are not aligned with some common mantras ‘we have acquired rights’, ‘you knew what the conditions were’. At least you are using up some of the resources made available to the staff representation, and hopefully putting them to good use. There is a steep learning curve (and an infinite number of abbreviations) but where there’s a will there’s a way!

O as OSPs

Trade unions and staff associations (OSP) [organisations syndicales et professionnelles] are the recognised organisations allowed to participate in the social dialogue at the Commission. According to the 2008 framework agreement, to be a recognised and representative and be admitted to the staff representation, each OSPs needs to fulfil the following requirements: a) to have obtained at least 5% of votes at a local election + b) to prove an overall representativeness of 6% at central level + c) to have at least 400 paying members.

O as Other Agents (OA)

All staff covered by CEOS (temporary, contract and local staff, special advisers). All together they count for approximately 1/3 of all Commission staff. Their right to vote and to stand for elections is linked to the nature and length of their contracts (indefinite or limited in time, overall length around election time).

P as Plenaries

Approximately every month (10 per year), the CSC and LSCs hold their plenary meetings. Further to discussing on the various issues at stake, they often have guests from various branches of the administration, who come to explain new projects or to reply to questions related to the implementation of money- or non-money-related (‘pecuniary or non-pecuniary’) rights relating of staff. Such contributions are quite interesting and should be made accessible to all staff. Generation 2004’s request to web stream all plenaries has always been opposed by some committee members from other OSPs. Nevertheless you can attend as an observer if you see something you’d like to attend, get in touch!

P as Powers

The powers of staff representation stem from the Staff Regulations. Several articles mention cases when the staff committee must appoint members of joint bodies or juries, or be consulted, deliver an opinion etc. Certainly such powers could be better implemented if the fragmentation of staff representation would not stand in the way of swift and effective action.

Q as Quorum

The minimum number of participants (‘quorum’) for all elections of staff representatives is set out in the Staff Regulations at 2/3 of voters. It is a quite high quorum, which generally requires an extension of the voting time. If it is not reached, a second voting period with a lower quorum of 50% of voters is launched: i.e. the election process starts again from the beginning. There are quorums also for decision-making at LSC and CSC meetings, quite often not reached. Certain internal rules provide for written voting procedures in that case. Unfortunately members do not participate as often as they should in the plenary sessions and it often happens that the quorum is not assured.


Régime Commun d’Assurance Maladie/joint sickness insurance scheme: members are charged more for services in Luxembourg than users of the national system. The overcharging was previously set at 15% but this was overturned in court, leaving the overcharged undefined. So far this has resulted in an increase in the administrative burden and uncertainty for colleagues undergoing non-emergency care since they must first request an estimate (yes, like for work on a car) and submit it to the JSIS who then decide whether the price is acceptable. Please consult the Luxembourg CHL price list before paying any medical bill.  If you believe there may be overcharging involved, consult the PMO before paying the bill. Note also that the JSIS has limitations (‘ceilings’) for reimbursement, so you might be reimbursed well below 85% of what you paid. Check out the list here, starting on p. 15.

R as Referendum

The consultation method the appointing authority can choose according to Title 1 Article 2 of Staff Regulations to give staff the opportunity to express their preference on the conditions for elections to the staff committee. This staff consultation method is certainly preferable to general assemblies that in a big organisation like the Commission cannot be attended by a reasonable and representative number of staff, particularly when the room booked for a 4000-person site has a 60-seat capacity.

R as Reform of social dialogue

Most legal texts regulating the functioning of the staff committee as well as the distribution of resources to OSPs and the staff committee are quite outdated and need (partly major) amendments. A reform of social dialogue is a long-pending matter and was proposed by Commissioner Oettinger himself as a condition to extend the so-called ‘6-year rule’, according to which any staff member can be exempted (i.e. seconded to staff representation) for a maximum of 6 years (corresponding to two mandates). Generation 2004 has sent proposals to simplify and complete the composition of the staff committee, and have one single direct election to the CSC while respecting the specific representation needs of each site.

R as Representativeness and recognised trade union or staff association (OSP)

According to the 2008 framework agreement, in order to be ‘recognised’ as such by the administration to the purposes of social dialogue, OSPs must declare that their legal purpose (‘statutory aim’) is the defence of the interests of all members of staff without any discrimination based on any grounds, and if they confirm that they have been legally created (‘constituted’). The conditions for being called ‘representative’ following signature of the 2008 framework agreement are to represent at least 6% of European Commission staff at central level and 5% at local level; as well as to have at least 400 fully paid-up members who are officials, other servants or retired officials of the European Commission.

The relative strength of an OSPs at central level, stemming from different LSC election results. It determines, the amount of resources received by each OSP to fulfil its tasks. It is therefore essential for each OSP to gather as many votes in as many elections as possible, as this will be decisive in its ability to take action during the term (‘mandate’).

R as Resources

The results of LSC elections also contribute to the overall representativeness at central level of OSPs, which in turn determines the resources allocated by DG HR to each OSP to be able to perform their staff-representation tasks (general representation, collective bargaining and individual counselling) – another big potential for endless friction.

R as Respect of rules and staff representation

As explained in various items of this ABC, several rules govern the functioning of staff representation. Some are to be found in the Staff Regulations, many others in various implementing decisions or regulatory documents. Not all however seem to have the same value… DG HR seems to insist on respecting or complying with some rules, sometimes difficult to interpret such as the duration of a staff committee term in office, but not others, such as the maximum duration of secondment to staff representation (6-year rule).

S as Secondments to the staff representation (see also ‘exemption’, above)

There are two types of secondments to the staff representation: the so-called statutory secondments, whereby staff is assigned to the staff committee (central or local), and the so-called union secondments, where staff are assigned to an OSP. While there are few (12) of the statutory type and more (29) of the union type.

S as Self-referential

An adjective that unfortunately can be applied to a number of items put to debate in plenaries. Staff representation often falls into the trap of talking about itself and indulging in internal political fights that nothing have to do with real staff needs.

S as Seniors within staff representation

You may be aware of the active senior scheme allowing for retired colleagues to continue to work if they want to as volunteers. One of the advantages of certain staff representatives is that once they reach the age of 65 they get an extension of their term as an official instead, and this in the interest of the service. They can continue working with full pay, accumulate further pension rights and stand once again for election. Indeed how could staff be represented without them?

S as shouting

Shouting has been quite a common way to state one’s opinions at LSC and CSC at least during the last two terms in office (‘mandates’). Shouting at each other seems to be the preferred way by some long-established staff representatives to interact with newcomers. They seem to believe that this is normal and allowed by the condition of being elected. If staff could attend plenary meetings they would certainly enjoy the kind of theatre put on especially by certain staff representatives who should have retired long ago.

S as 6-year rule (there are 2 possibilities)

  • Staff representation: several texts governing staff representation mention that staff can only be ‘exempted’, i.e. seconded to staff representation for a maximum of 6 years, that need to be followed by at least 4 years of work within another service. This rule was given a legal exception (‘derogated from’) by an official 2017 Commission decision to allow staff representatives (‘career trade unionists’) who should have long been back in their services to stay longer (forever?) at the staff representation.
  • Contract Agents (CAs) type 3b are limited to 6 years of employment (7 years if the individual achieves the ‘unicorn’ final year as a Temporary Agent (TA)): this not only impacts the services in general, but the staff representation in particular. How many temporary staff are elected and their contract ends before the next elections? How attractive is it to include temporary staff in election lists knowing that their contract ends before the end of the term? How many temporary staff are reluctant to be seconded since they are less able to insist that their daily work be reduced to accommodate their secondment? How well represented are temporary staff in the staff committees?

S as Statutory representation

The first branch of staff representation at the Commission (staff committees, local and central), as opposed to the associative one (trade unions and staff associations (OSPs)). It consists of all elected staff to the staff committee and its sections, as well as to all other joint bodies included in the Staff Regulations. Its tasks are mostly consultative and informative, but not exclusively. If fully and well used the statutory branch can yield good results for the well-being of staff and its working conditions.

S as statutory staff

These are officials, temporary agents (TAs), contract agents (CAs), and special advisers. This excludes other staff working for the Commission such as persons employed under private law contracts, experts on secondment from national civil services (SNEs), trainees, and external experts. (Practical guide to staff ethics and conduct)

T as Transparency

One of the items staff now called to vote should most urgently require from anyone elected. Indeed some of the latter consider the time in office (‘mandate’) received as some kind of personal reward for which one does not need to be accountable to anyone. More transparency of processes, debates and better communication of opinions submitted would certainly reinforce the sometimes fading link between staff and those elected.

T as Term of office

The term of office (‘mandate’) of the staff committee is three years according to Staff Regulations. However, the 8 LSCs hold elections and appoint their representatives at different times, therefore the starting and ending time of staff committee term is quite difficult to determine. The appointing authority can however decide to fix a shorter term, which may not be less than one year.

T as in TWA

‘Teleworking from abroad/anywhere’. Please prefer ‘anywhere’ since colleagues working in Luxembourg frequently live abroad: Belgium, Germany and France (60-minute commute) all fall within  Article 20 of the Staff Regulations  ‘An official shall reside either in the place where he is employed or at no greater distance therefrom as is compatible with the proper performance of his duties.’

T as Two-tier system

The legal basis for staff representation allows for a two-tier structure of social dialogue at the Commission. On one hand, staff elect their representatives to the LSCs (‘statutory bodies’) to enjoy the rights to information and consultation by the Commission. On the other hand, they may also join OSPs to exercise their collective bargaining rights and to enjoy protection against administrative abuse or other work-related issues.

T as in TWOPE

‘Telework away from the place of employment’ in the text but we note this does not fit the abbreviation. In the menu on the left it is ‘telework outside  the place of employment’.  The abbreviation ‘TWOPE’ is synonymous with TWA (above) but, since it is used exclusively on the dedicated MyIntracomm site and is unlikely to be understood spoken or written. Please use TWA.

U as Unity

A feature often called for by several OSPs, but quite far from being achieved at least during elections, as the number of electoral lists show. However, often in social-dialogue negotiation/talks (‘concertations’) OSPs submit common positions to the administration. Although there’s sometimes just one OSP sometimes breaking the front of all other OSPs …

U as Urgent

Although the 2008 framework agreement provides for a yearly calendar of activities to be conducted together with staff representation, DG HR never makes it. As a consequence, certain items for which the opinion of staff representation is required land on the negotiation/talks (‘concertation’) table out of the blue, on a Friday afternoon to be discussed on Monday. Manufactured urgency therefore becomes the way by which the administration forces approval and reduced discussion on files.

V as Voters

The staff committee represents all Commission staff, but not all staff are allowed to vote in the inevitable elections that take place every three years. Notable exceptions to the rule ‘1 person, 1 vote’ are

  • other agents whose contract is for less than 6 months
  • Commission staff seconded to agencies (although their employer is the Commission and their interests are defended by Commission staff representatives, for some inscrutable reason they are not allowed to vote at the Commission but forced to vote for the staff committee of the agency to which they are seconded)
  • Commission staff having moved from one working site to the other just before elections are held in their site of origin, and just after they have been held in the site of arrival.

There are also voters called to express their preference twice in a year for two different LSCs (if they move from one site where elections have just been held to another where they are just to come) – their vote count for two, and they possibly compensate for the colleague above who could not vote!

V as vice-president or vice chairs(?)

If you cannot be the president, be a vice-president at least! In recent times the CSC has named 10 vice-presidents (or vice-chairs?) (point 2, 532 plenary minutes (February 2021)), all theoretically in charge of 3 or more files (see Annex, 546 plenary minutes (June 2021).

W as daily Work of staff representatives

Seconded staff representatives have quite varied and complex daily tasks, which range from attending LSC and CSC meetings or joint-committee meetings, preparing OSP communications to members and staff, and assisting members in situations of distress, ranging from dealing with bullying/harassment, writing the annual self-evaluation, fighting for one’s rights against the administration (drafting of Article 90 complaints). During social-dialogue meetings staff representatives convey the opinion of their members on legal acts or initiatives that the Commission takes within HR management: e.g. working time and hybrid working, the new HR strategy, hot-desking and open ‘dynamic’ offices spaces.

W as social-Welfare bodies

The Staff Regulations provide for certain social-welfare bodies to be jointly managed by the administration and staff representation, and dealing with issues such as exceptional schooling costs, disability adaptation of accommodation or social services in general. In the past the administration has shown the tendency to dispose of such committees and to decide autonomously on the use of their budgetary allocations.

W as Web streaming

A revolutionary technology allowing anyone to broadcast an event live so as to allow for people to follow (part of) the proceedings from their office. Too revolutionary for a staff representation including several members around already in the past century! Even in these COVID times of Skye, Zoom, Teams and Webex, where staff are more familiar than ever with videoconferencing, there is still no web streaming available, but you can attend plenaries as an observer, get in touch if you’d like to do this!

Y as Your take out all of this

The staff representation is there for you, to represent your interests and to defend you in case of need. It’s up to you to believe in it and make use of it, to select your representatives reasonably and to follow their activities and hold them to account.

Z as Zero tolerance for…

… all those who take from staff representation but don’t give accordingly. For those who tell you ‘I will defend your case’, take your vote but then go in the opposite direction or leave your calls unanswered and ghost you. For those who stand for elections on one list and immediately after move to another. For those who play games instead of defending staff. For those who ‘après moi le deluge’ etc., etc., etc.…

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