The saga of the discussions on the General Implementing Provisions (GIP) for Contract agents (CA) seems to have lasted for ages. Generation 2004 has followed it for you in a number of articles (see here and here).
The culmination came some weeks ago at a meeting of the social dialogue chaired by VP Georgieva (concertation politique in French) – one of her last actions before her departure to the World Bank.
Generation 2004 expressed a position that is crystal clear. The so-called compromise is NOT acceptable to us. It fails to address our main concern: the new initial classification grid for CAs which we see as the core of the problem.
The only visible outcome of the final meeting was a political declaration which is not worthy its name. We fail to see in it a reasonable explanation of WHY the Commission decided to lower down the initial grading of CAs, except for the implicit financial gains which will allow the Commission to hire even more CAs in the future. Moreover, it seems that the Commission is quietly leaving aside the concept of employing CAs on temporary contracts only to carry out temporary tasks.
This goes against the commitment of the Commission to Member States not to compensate the required 5% personnel cuts with increased employment of CAs, a category more vulnerable and exposed to pressure due to less generous labor guarantees in comparison to officials.
Globally, these GIPs may explode in the face of the entire EU civil service next time Member States start contemplating further changes to the “statute”. It is clear for everybody with eyes to see that if the door is opened for replacing officials with CAs you could wave goodbye to the concept of an independent EU administration. Moreover, this replacement process will mean more and more rivalry among CAs for the already tiny piece of the cake of permanent official positions (e.g. the famous 80 officials posts offered through internal competitions).
Generation 2004 has passed this message to Mme Georgieva and makes the commitment to pass it on to her successor. This is why we cannot support the majority of the trade unions which seem to feel now rather comfortable with the GIPs text.
Generation 2004 strong disapproval of the GIPs is based on three additional arguments given that:
- The GIPs create a new post-2016 generation of CAs that will be recruited at lower grades. This is to be contrasted with the ultra-generous treatment of senior experts that DG HR wants to promote to the AD14 grade. If DG HR is really serious about cutting administrative costs, they should start with permanent officials in double-digit grades, not with CAs. We at Generation 2004 know how humiliating it is to be treated less favorably than others just because of our entry date in the institutions, you can count on us to fight against this discrimination!
- HR has been unable to come up with a work-around for CAs who change institutions and/or function group: every change implies a new contract and every new contract implies worse conditions, in particular with regard to pension rights (retirement at the age of 66, 1.8% accrual rate). As a result, CAs are penalized when they change job. Improved mobility for CAs has become nothing more than an empty slogan, this is unacceptable.
- There is nothing in the GIPs that addresses the issue of CAs doing, for a fraction of the salary, tasks that should be done by AD fonctionnaires. President Juncker started his mandate by a declaration on “same pay for the same job at the same place“. Vice-President Georgieva’s political declaration fails to reiterate the commitment of the Commission to this essential principle. The Vice-President cannot ignore a principle put forward by the president of the Commission himself!
During the various meetings organized by the trade unions to inform CAs on the negotiations between the staff representation and DG HR, some suggested that the CA issue can only be addressed through a new reform of the Staff Regulations. Unions led by high-grade ADs certainly do not want to hear about a new reform which might this time target their very high benefits. We at Generation 2004 take a more balanced view. We are certainly not excited about yet another reform (for some of us, this is going to be the 3rd one…). However, we cannot ignore the fact that the pressure is mounting, and that a new reform might possibly be one of the many fallouts of the Brexit referendum or even simply an attempt to calm down growing euroscepticism throughout Europe. If or when discussions for a new reform start, let us treat this as an opportunity to address the injustice made to CAs as well as other systemic injustices. Generation 2004 is open to suggestions. If you have ideas on how to help CAs, come to us and let’s see what can be done. We need to be prepared to fight in order to preserve the unity of staff. We know that we cannot count on DG HR for that!