I wake up and it is just another ordinary day. I prepare breakfast and get my child ready. Then head to the crèche before going to the office.
But to my great surprise, the crèche is closed. Nobody seems to be around. When I finally spot someone I know, I ask what is going on. Maybe a strike? “Not really. Weren’t you informed? This service is not provided any more to Commission staff. You need to find a place in a local crèche. And considering how crowded they are, good luck!”
I am flabbergasted, but there is no time to reflect: I have an urgent meeting to attend. After calling a babysitter to take care of my child, I head to the office to understand what the matter is.
“No madam, you cannot have a desk today on the same floor as your unit if you have not booked it in advance. Even if you say you had an emergency with your child, I can make no exceptions. Except if you are a senior manager, of course…then you have a comfortable corner office always available!” “But how is it possible there are no desks available? There were always to be spare desks! Booking in advance was a request, not an obligation!” “Well, now there are only 4 desks every 10 people, no spare capacity, so you have to plan ahead! When there were still staff representatives in the committee on health and safety, they made a lot of opposition to hot-desking and how the administration wanted to impose it. Some of its worst consequences were at least avoided. But, now that they are not in the committee anymore, all new decisions pass very easily and the implementation of the new ways of working was quick and smooth: no friction!” What? So, we really do not have the right anymore to a dedicated workstation to perform our duties? Not to talk about an office where I can concentrate on my files and make the necessary calls without disturbing others! And all this was decided without anyone noting a dissenting voice?!
I just sit in the office kitchen and start my laptop. By the way, it is that time of the year again: promotion time. But even if I have reached the average seniority in my grade and have excellent reports, and my head of unit (HoU) told me he would propose me for promotion, I am not on the list published today. I know I can file an appeal and ask the promotion committee to review my case, so I call one of the trade unions to help me out with the procedure. “You are right, there used to be an appeal procedure to rectify those cases where people deserved a promotion but were not proposed by their hierarchy. The promotion committee used to be made of 50% staff representatives and 50% the administration. Unfortunately, without the staff representation such a committee would not make sense anymore and the whole system was abolished.” So what? Do I just have to accept that I am not promoted? Where has any sense of fairness gone?
I hope at least my medical bills were reimbursed correctly, as I spent quite a considerable amount of money on tests and consultations lately. I check RCAM/JSIS and all seems in order…but hang on a second…only 50% reimbursement?
“Yes madam, this is the new policy. Without staff representatives a new agreement was found pretty quickly: you are very lucky to get 50% back, now for many types of expenses it’s only 30%!” I am speechless. The person on the phone must be joking, right?
Time is passing quickly, and I have an appointment for lunch with a colleague. We meet and head to the canteen…only to find it closed! I look around and spot a brand new vending machine selling ready-made pasta Bolognese and other “delicatessen” snacks wrapped in plastic. We look at each other: no way we are going to eat that unhealthy food! We look outside the window, and a food truck is just arriving in front of the building: maybe it offers healthier options? Well, not really: we discover it sells some French fries with sausage for almost 20 euros! All accompanied by a substantial amount of single-use plastic and packaging! The man in the truck says he will come every day as the canteen is closed and will never reopen. Wasn’t the Commission going to become “green”? I guess that again, without anybody representing the staff in the discussions with the administration, someone must have taken the chance to further cut costs by proposing junk street food instead of offering any attemt at sustainable, freshly-made food in a comfortable environment where people can socialise, network and relax while enjoying lunch.
Now my head is spinning…I feel angry, saddened, short-changed and disconcerted: what should I do?
I call the trade union again, but they say there is not much they can do now that they do not officially represent staff anymore: the Local and Central Staff Committees were shut down, just like the dozens of joint committees that once existed. Since staff did not see them as useful or representative anymore, they had simply become obsolete.
I am really lost…I sit on a chair holding my head in my hands: Have we really lost any chance to have some say in the decisions the administration is making? Even when they deeply affect our lives? Even if this means I cannot perform my work properly and my family is going to suffer the consequences? I cannot believe this really happened at the European Commission.
All of a sudden, I hear a sound. I try to ignore it, but it gets louder and louder. What is it? It sounds like…just like…oh My, the alarm clock!
I open my eyes and I am still lying in bed. So, it must have been only a nightmare. But it seemed so real, and too ominous to ignore. I make a mental note: the first thing I am going to do as I open my computer is to use my right to vote for someone to represent me in the staff committees and anywhere else where my rights can be defended.
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Brussels local staff committee election did not reach the minimum number of votes (quorum) and so is to be repeated in early 2022.
France, Petten and Luxembourg will also have elections in 2022.