Generation 2004’s position on ‘sofagate’ and beyond…

The president of the Commission published a speech  (26 April 2021) where she states that she considers the ‘sofagate’ events of 7 April to have been gender discrimination.  Until then, and in the absence of details and statements it was important to keep a cool head and to view the whole affair in all its complexity to look at all the factors that might have played a role. We appreciate that there is now clarity on the events in Ankara and in this article we will address the matter of discrimination in all its forms.

Generation 2004 is here for all our colleagues in any situations of discrimination and wishes to reiterate its support, not only to those at the highest level in the European Commission, but also to all staff in any EU civil services, including colleagues in Delegations.  We are committed to protecting your rights in all spheres of your professional life, regardless of your grade, type of contract, gender or other circumstances.

At Generation 2004 we continue our campaign against injustice and inequality. For example, we are committed to pursuing gender equality and to tackling issues disproportionately affecting women: this is not a once-yearly International-Women’s-Day-email activity.  When anyone is victim of discrimination, even a high-level representative of the EU, we will work to ensure that colleagues’ welfare, work-life balance and career development, are respected and that these matters are prioritised.  Therefore, we find it rather saddening to see that messages of solidarity are much less in evidence when colleagues are not having their contract renewed or are facing work-place harassment.

From the 2021 report on gender equality in the EU it is again confirmed that ‘[..] the pandemic hit women particularly hard [..]’, we saw elsewhere that in general national COVID decision-making teams did not include women and again within the EU institutions that ‘gender balance within EU services, especially for management posts and career progress, remains a challenge’.

Training on unconscious bias and basic facilities for parents such as those for child care were still far from optimal for colleagues in Delegations and elsewhere: work-life balance and equal opportunities should be there for all of us, regardless of our circumstances!

Even though the Commission Decision on Flexible working arrangements (Teleworking or Flexitime) states clearly that ‘[..] A flexible  approach  to  working  time  is  an  essential  component  of  modern  human resources   management.   Staff   can   adjust   their   working   hours   while   taking   into consideration  the  needs  of  the  service.  Staff  can  more  easily  balance  their  work-life needs,  in  particular  in  situations  where  they are parents and their  expatriate  status  does  not  allow  them  to rely  on  family  networks.  Flexitime  contributes  positively  to  a more even distribution of parental responsibility and therefore gender  balance  and organisational efficiency in the Commission[..]’, flexitime is often implemented randomly and subjectively across EU services and Delegations, just as the line-manager decisions on summer and Christmas teleworking were inconsistent.  In addition, teleworking is, until now, still not a mode of operation available in Delegations (teleworking in the pandemic is an exception).

Generation 2004 believes that true advocacy on discrimination must not end with setting the legal basis to fight it but extend to implementing the appropriate means to reach the intended impact and finally to design any new framework or decision with potential discrimination in mind: to consult widely enough to see the potential discrimination in action before committing to it.

We will continue to work in this area and keep you up to date with our progress.

 As usual, do not hesitate to share your comments and ideas with us.

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