From the beginning of the open-space saga Generation 2004 has been consistently questioning the wisdom and practicalities of the implementation of collaborative workplaces (‘open space’) in different Commission services. In order to cut costs, the Commission is putting its employees into open-plan offices, spaces it knows to be incompatible with many of the tasks performed and which are known to compromise staff well-being.
In parallel, the Commission is obliged by Belgian national law to set up an internal committee for prevention and protection at work. This is done through a joint advisory body (the joint committee for prevention and protection at work (CPPT)) responsible for looking after the well-being of the European civil service workforce in Belgium. The CPPT, as a joint committee, is composed of members appointed by the Commission administration as well as members appointed by the local staff committee, (including Generation 2004). Among other things, one of the missions of the CPPT is to give opinions and to provide the administration with recommendations concerning open-space projects.
The Commission Communication on The Workplace of the Future in the European Commission declared its commitment to the foremost importance of staff health and well-being. In recent projects discussed at the CPPT, however, this new policy was ignored by the representatives of the administration, despite the necessity to implement its provisions being confirmed last March 2020 by a legal opinion of the Commission Legal Service (in French only).
Therefore, just before the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, all staff-representation members resigned from the CCPT. This was a formal act of protest against a planned and ‘wild’ open-space project at DG BUDG, for which there was no staff consultation and staff well-being concerns were left unaddressed. In addition, all trade unions and Generation 2004 sent a note to the President of the Commission and HR explaining their decision and asking for an open dialogue in order to solve the problem. That note is still awaiting a response.
Generation 2004 has been closely following all open-space projects and supporting colleagues in their struggle by sending notes to the administration (Commissioner, HR, Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels (OIB) and DG Trade), by organising inter-union (‘intersyndical’) and social dialogue meetings as well as conferences and by preparing surveys and petitions to collect staff opinions on this matter. According to the survey results (see ‘further reading’ below) it is clear that many colleagues are strongly opposed to this ‘new way of working’ because of a lack of comfort, privacy and well-being. We have been requesting a discussion in the Brussels local staff committee (LSC) on the CPPT situation for several weeks. Based on our initiative, two LSC extraordinary meetings were organised and one of the main topics, next to the COVID-19 crisis, was the CPPT situation.
- Generation 2004 report on the survey to DG BUDG’s staff on the collaborative workspace project, May 2019
- Section 6.2 Identified areas of improvement, Satisfaction survey – Collaborative space Buildings CSM1 / MERO / MO15, European Commission: OIB, 12/01/2018