Internal competitions – fast careers… for some

Although Generation 2004 welcomes the planning of the upcoming internal competitions, we must regret that DG HR failed, yet again, to listen to its staff and to the staff representation.  

Let us have a close look at this planning promising to “create opportunities for faster careers within each function group for many officials” and to retain “in-house talent (temporary and contract staff)”. 

DG HR plans to organise 17 internal competitions between 2022 and 2024. At first sight, there is already a clear imbalance in terms of options open to staff depending on their status and starting grade:  

  • 2 for AST/SCs covering 1 grade (AST-SC2)
  • 4 for ASTs covering 2 different grades (AST2 and AST4)
  • 6 for CAs covering 3 different grades (AST-SC2, AST2 and AD6)
  • 11 for AD covering 7 different grades (AD5, AD6, AD7, AD8, AD9, AD10 and AD12)

As you can easily see, we have almost as many competitions for ADs as for all other categories combined! 

Favour vs disadvantage

These internal competitions seem to offer good chances for career progression to AD staff (officials and temporary agents). However, the same opportunities are not offered to the AST-SC and AST staff, which do not have access to most of them. For the AST staff the scheduled internal competitions target only grades 1, 2 and 3, which amount to a small population of the total ASTs (7 144 equal to 22.1% of total staff).  

For ten long years Generation 2004 has been addressing the lack of opportunities for ASTs, and how difficult their careers have become. Already in 2012, Generation 2004 listed shortcoming of the internal competitions in its position paper, which are unfortunately still valid today. So far, the administration has turned a blind eye to this issue, neglecting the talents of a very frustrated staff category. In fact, many of the ASTs have the necessary qualifications, over 10-15 years of work experience and in many cases, they are also conducting AD tasks. 

ASTs have certification 

To our concerns, DG HR has kept its policy for years, the ASTs have certification procedure and that’s it. There will be no internal competitions for the ASTs grade 5 and above since they have the certification procedure to become ADs. HR just fails to understand that the certification procedure may only offer career benefits in the long term, while internal competitions target short term career progress. So, needless to say that we are shocked by such the HR position. The certification procedure is limited to approximately two people per DG per year offering a total of around 50 positions per year for colleagues AST of grade 5 and above. They are selected following two interviews by two panels (DG level and Joint Certification Committee), then follow the programme for nearly 2 months, and finally must succeed three exams. It is no surprise that many colleagues feel that only a few lucky ones, usually more visible to the hierarchy, pass the first round. In fact, for some colleagues it takes several years to get to the top selected and then to pass the second panel. This exercise is very outdated and difficult when, for example, compared to the Junior Professionals Programme. 

Compete with the thousands 

Unfortunately, the ASTs are left with the highly disadvantageous external competitions, for which usually more than 5,000 people apply. These conditions are not comparable with those of internal competitions, which are much more favourable in terms of conditions to apply, the selection process and grade offered and the number of years of experience needed. 

Attractiveness has its limits 

Although many unicorns were promised under the New HR Strategy, Generation 2004 was not naïve and all along expected something like this; while the new strategy claims to offer “an attractive workplace for all” and promises to “guarantee the well-being and satisfaction of staff”, it is clear to us that the restrictions put on so many members of staff regarding the internal competitions do not confirm these arguments. The Commission may be an attractive place but not for everyone, and probably not even for a majority. If you think we are exaggerating, just ask colleagues who have taken part in the juries of selection panels: it has become quite normal to do second round of a competition because none of the selected candidates took up the offered job. 

While the Staff Regulations do not prevent the ASTs from applying for AD competitions (it was possible in the past (e.g., COM/INT/EU10/08)), it is only the Commission that is imposing such restrictions. The European Parliament and the European Court of Justice do allow their ASTs to take part in some AD competitions. Therefore, it sounds quite paradoxical that the European Commission presents itself as an employer that claims to defend values such as justice and well-being of all staff when its actions say otherwise.  

AST/SC internal competitions 

Background 

We are the only trade union that genuinely cares about and fiercely fights against the unfair treatment of AST/SC staff. To show how important this is to us, we nominated an AST/SC colleague to be part of the leading pair of our election list in the latest Brussels Local Staff Committee (LSC) elections and we are very proud that he was elected. We are also using every opportunity to fight for improving the situation of AST/SC colleagues: in the social dialogue with DG HR, through a petition to the European Parliament, and pursuing legal action against the Commission’s internal competitions.

Generation 2004 position and actions  

As we left abundantly clear above, our position is that AST/SC staff must be given access to Commission’s AST internal competitions. We explained in detail and defended systematically this position in our notes to DG HR of 26/11/2020 and of 06/10/2021.

The draft New HR Strategy of 02/09/2021 denied AST/SC access to AST internal competitions saying that ‘in cases where the Staff Regulations limit the possibility for cross function group mobility (i.e. from AST/SC to AST) the Commission will organise regular external competitions’. 

Following our detailed and well-argued recommendations, DG HR changed its position on AST/SC and amended accordingly its proposal. The draft New HR Strategy of 31/01/2022 incorporated our recommendation on AST/SC and explicitly provided for ‘consider giving AST/SC access to AST internal competitions’. 

The same wording – ‘consider giving AST/SC access to AST internal competitions’ – is used in the final text of the New HR Strategy adopted by the Commission on 05/04/2022. 

2022-2024 Commission’s internal competitions planning 

Sadly, the Commission’s internal competitions planning fails to deliver on the promises made in its New HR Strategy.  

The 2022-2024 cycle of internal competitions includes two internal competitions at grade AST/SC2 planned for Q4 2022 and Q2 2024, which will be open to officials and temporary agents in function group AST/SC as well as to members of the contract staff in function group II. 

Contrary to what was promised in the New HR Strategy, AST/SC staff (officials, TA, CA FGII) are not allowed to participate in the four AST competitions planned for 2022, 2023 and 2024 at grades AST2 and AST4. 

We urge the European Commission to deliver on its promises in the New HR Strategy and to give AST/SC staff access to AST internal competitions. 

We will continue to fight this injustice but, so far, and given the unresponsiveness of the Administration, the only available tool seems to be to go to court. We are already planning to do this regarding the latest internal competition. If you are ready to challenge any of the upcoming competitions, please join the internal group on internal competitions and future legal actions. More information and events on these issues will follow.

Find out more on our Facebook page and in our past newsletters.

Leave a Reply