Council request to further reduce spending on staff

*Update 20.07.2022[1], the Commission has stated its intention to defend Commission staff purchasing power when it responds to the Council in September 2022. It will also undertake a risk assessment/study as per ECA Special report no 15/2019 Recommendation 3.*

Generation 2004 is studying the Council of the European Union Budget Committee statement (13.07.2022). We are gathering information and preparing a formal response. In this statement, the Council requests that the Commission further reduce its staff spending and suggests a number of means to arrive at this aim, many of which directly impact the take-home pay of staff and therefore also the attractiveness of the EU civil service as a whole. We expect the Commission to outline its response 20.07.2022 and will provide updates here on our site.

We say further reduce staff spending because the Commission already made significant savings with the 2014 Staff Regulations reform. The European Court of Auditors (ECA) Special report no 15/2019: Implementation of the 2014 staff reform package at the Commission – Big savings but not without consequences for staff lays out what changed for staff lists where those savings were made.

In fact, with the 2014 staff regulations reform, the Commission went above and beyond what was originally asked for, so much so that the ECA cautioned against further changes without doing the necessary groundwork and impact assessments.

‘All in all, the direct budgetary impact of pay and pensions savings on the 2014-2020 MFF is likely to reach around €4.2 billion — more than what was planned.’ (Point 17, Special report no 15/2019) [bold is not present in original text]

 ‘Assess needs and potential impacts before any further revision of the Staff Regulations’ (Recommendation 3, Special report no 15/2019)

‘… the impact of the 2014 reforms package on HR management has been Mixed … Raising the retirement age and reducing recruitment is contributing to an ageing workforce. The Commission is placing greater reliance on contract staff to cope with increased workloads and fewer recruitment opportunities, although the impact on the Commission’s departments varies considerably. Finally, less favourable conditions of employment have reduced the attractiveness of working for the EU at a time when it is struggling to attract sufficient staff from a number of Member States.’ (Point VI, Special report no 15/2019)

‘… we found that the Commission carried out little assessment of the likely HR management consequences of the cost-saving and non-financial measures in the reforms package. Its monitoring arrangements did not enable it to identify negative consequences fully or at the appropriate time.’ (Point 7, Special report no 15/2019)

The Council request looks at the budget across the Parliament, Commission and Council. If we’re being invited to make comparisons, note that no tangible, concrete, measurable action was ever taken by the Commission to address the additional costs posed by teleworking for Commission staff. That is, the costs shifted by the Commission onto staff from March 2020, costs which greatly impact colleagues in lower grades, particularly those in Luxembourg (remember the wild west of teleworking?). Contrast this with the European Parliament (EP) which began to pay its staff  a monthly flat-rate allocation of €40 (within a month of general teleworking, in April 2020!)[2].  The March 2022 Commission Decision on working time and hybrid working does indeed mention that a lump sum payment may be possible ‘where appropriate’ (Article 13(3)), the fact that teleworking is ostensibly voluntary (Point 8, Page 2) and that the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) were told in negotiations that the budget does not allow for it (in spite of the savings make in two years of teleworking and the ongoing building policy of reducing overall office space) means that there is unlikely to ever be any such a payment at the Commission (it will exist on paper only).

This all fits into a much bigger picture of cuts and Generation 2004 continues to advocate for addressing both the inequalities created by the past two staff regulation reforms and the declining job satisfaction.

‘Almost 18 years after the drastic 2004 Kinnock Staff Regulation reform – further intensified by the 2014 reform – the division of staff and the inequalities created have not yet been addressed.
Generation 2004 believes it is particularly important that the administration finally recognise these problems and take the strongest possible measures to close the gap between staff hired under the pre- and the post-reform conditions. This is for us the only way forward to reunify the Commission’s staff.
Straightforward evidence of the damage done is provided in the ECA report on the implementation of the 2014 reform. The report confirmed that employment conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that the EU is struggling to attract certain nationalities.’  (Generation 2004 Manifesto)

We highlight particularly the issue of attractiveness (‘attractivity’) of Luxembourg, where accommodation costs are very high (a housing allowance would address this). We would like to see the 12 actions proposed to increase the attractiveness of Luxembourg as a place of employment of Commissioner Hahn’s high-level initiative shared with staff. We also query whether the  06.01.2020 Call for expression of interest which exceptionally gave the possibility to work in a DG Health and Food Safety (SANTE) unit in Luxembourg from any Commission site ‘for about six months’ set a precedent where an initial Luxembourg-wide call is unsuccessful. See section ‘Attractiveness of Luxembourg/cost of living’ in our external resources.

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

[1] The phrase ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’ (Karl Marx) was mentioned at that meeting. And it inspired us to revisit the reasons given for the need for the 2014 staff regulations reform. The Q&A: Staff Reform from 2011 is very similar to what we are hearing now. ‘Why are you proposing these reforms? Three reasons. First and foremost: the need to make efficiency gains and savings in administrative expenditure during difficult economic times……Second: sunset clauses in the Staff Regulations require new solutions for the annual adjustments of salaries, pensions and pension contributions as well as the replacement of the so-called special levy, an extra tax introduced in 2004 which increased over time from 2.5% to 5.5%…Third: to provide answers to concerns expressed by the Council. Over the last couple of years, the Council has expressed different concerns on four main elements – pay, pensions, the method for annual adjustments of salaries and pensions and career-related issues.’

[2] Generation  2004 wrote to HR in April 2020 to request that Commission staff receive the same compensation as those in the EP.

Teleworking costs was one of the many reasons Generation 2004 wanted to continue  to negotiate the Decision on Working Time and Hybrid working (February 2022).

We drafted a note for the Central Staff Committee to send to HR on this same topic ( February 2022) .

2022: We have seen the EP lump sum quoted as €50 per month instead of the original €40, but we are unable to find  a source for this.

August 2022, the Common Front (all representative trade unions and staff associations, of which we obviously form part) wrote to the Commissioner for Budget and HR in response to the Council statement.

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