AST/SC SC6 the Loch Ness monster of staff grades

AST/SC SC6 is a very strange phenomenon indeed. Colleagues in this grade are not an endangered species, rather there are none, they don’t exist: no one has yet attained that grade since recruitment began to this newest of staff categories in 2015 (Slide 6). This has oddly resulted in no mention being made of it in the scales in EU-published statistics, allowing readers to overlook even the existence of this last grade.

Statistical bulletin FirstNationalityGrade

Figure 10, p.25, ECA.

‘Permanent and temporary staff belong to one of three function groups: administrators (AD), assistants (AST) and secretarial and clerical assistants (AST/SC). Each group covers a different range of pay grades: AD5 to AD16, AST1 to AST11, and AST/SC1 to AST/SC6.’ (Point 3, p.8, ECA)

We might finally have AST/SC6 colleagues when the first of those 15 AST/SC5 colleagues are promoted (average speed 8.3 years (slide 37)). For the first wave recruited at AST/SC2 they might reach AST/SC6 in the 2042 promotion exercise (though, since the average number of years spent by officials in the grade before promotion is increasing (p.106), maybe not even by 2042.

Some context

In the pre-2004 Commission there were 4 staff function groups: A, Administrators: B, Assistants: C, secretaries and clerks and D, those carrying out manual roles e.g. ushers or drivers (Slide 4). With the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations groups B, C and D became ASTs [1].  Apparently this had some unintended outcomes:

‘Specifically, the main consequences were: […] — a head of unit might earn less than all other officials under his or her responsibility, including secretaries and clerical assistants.’ (Point 23, p.20, ECA)

‘The new AST/SC function group was intended to improve the link between grade and responsibility. However, it will take considerable time to replace all secretarial and clerical staff currently in the AST function group with AST/SC staff. Based on the current structure of this population, the unintended side-effect of the 2004 reform regarding secretarial and clerical staff should be fully corrected in the 2040s.’ (Point 25, p.20, ECA)

The 2014 reform ostensibly re-establishes the distinction between the old function group B and groups C and D, at least in terms of function group and pay, but when we look closely at the entry qualifications we can see that these are very often the same as those for AST (Annex III, p.50, ECA) and the declared plan is to increase recruitment to this function group [2].

‘4.2.10. Recruitment Policy
The active population is basically kept stable all along the projection period with the following exceptions. […] In addition, following the introduction of the new Function Group of AST-SC, in the course of the first 20 years of the projection exercise, Secretaries and Clerks will gradually replace the Assistants till reaching the same number of members.’ (June, 2015)

‘Staff recruited after 2004 and 2014 are employed under less favourable conditions than applied previously. The 2004 reform reduced entry-grade salaries, and the 2014 package created the AST/SC function group with a less attractive salary grid.’ (Point 60, p. 34, ECA)

More unintended outcomes?

In re-separating these ex-B, ex-C and ex-D roles the Commission has taken the opportunity to label all AST staff recruited pre 1.1.2014 as being ‘in transition’ (this is an exceptionally opaque term: in transition to where?) as part of this project to identify and relabel what HR considers to be ex-C roles.

We’ve asked for figures on how many roles have been relabelled AST/SC [3] and how many mismatches (AST staff in a relabelled AST/SC roles) there are, we will update you on our progress.

Please note that where the type of post of the person (AST) does indeed match the type of job (AST) the label ‘in transition’ remains in sysper until the person applies for and is chosen for a published vacancy. (We are unable to fathom why this would be, but we’re working on getting answers.) [4]

What about AST/SCs making a jump to another function group or doing a competition?

While a limited number of ASTs (normally 50 per year) can compete to become ADs (via certification) and ex-C and ex-D staff can reach AST9 (until 2014 via attestation [5] and now simply by applying for a vacancy and being selected (p.2)), there is no such option yet available for AST/SCs, nor can they currently participate in AST competitions.

Why can’t AST/SC officials enter the AST competition? The Staff Regulations for officials do not provide a mechanism like that of certification for movement from the AST/SC function group to the AST function group. Furthermore, the AST/SC function group, which was created in 2014 in the latest revision of the Staff Regulations, consists of recently recruited staff whose length of service in the Institutions is short. However, it is clear that the issue of moving from the AST/SC function group to the AST function group should be re-addressed in future internal competitions.’ (Frequently asked questions, 2018)

We can all see the injustice in this current set-up [6]. Why should our 1032 (and growing) AST/SC colleagues be artificially held back in this way when opportunities exist for the other function groups?

When will we have our first AST/SC6 colleagues?

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us. 

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[1] With limitations: C (AST 1-7) , D (AST 1-5) (Slide 8).

[2] The lines are not yet fully fixed between the function groups AST and AST/SC: ‘Estimates requests the conversion of 222 AST posts into AST/SC according to the needs of each service.’ p.3 but ’30 posts in the function group AST may be occupied by officials and temporary staff in the AST/SC function group to reflect the gradual phase-in of the AST/SC function group). p.2

[3] ‘Requests for transformation of AST posts into AST/SC shall be justified taking into account the real availability of AST posts […] Please provide a concise justification for your request (max. 250 characters)’. p.5 (For comparison Twitter has a 280-character limit per tweet.)

[4] HR AST career-impact assessment

[5] ‘The attestation procedure is intended to offer certain C* and D* officials in service before 1 May 2004 the chance to be promoted beyond grades AST7 and AST5 respectively. The purpose of the certification procedure is to allow certain AST function group officials to be appointed as AD function group officials.’ (p.4, 2005)

[6] A 2018 DGT staff survey states: ‘AST/SC are promoted at a slower rhythm than the other ASTs […] there are unclear/unfair differences between AST/SC and AST […] we should organise internal competitions for CA and AST/SC to offer them career perspectives (they do the same work as AD and AST but are paid less)’. (p.4)

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