A reasoned (and partly smiling) opinion on a recent conference organised by the local section Brussels of the Commission Staff Committee
On 17 October 2019, under the trendy and self-explanatory (or Freudian?) title “#staffrepresentation&you” (of course, one thing are staff representatives (i.e. the Elected), another is you (i.e. the mere Staff), the Chair of the local section Brussels of the Commission Staff Committee pushed the organisation of a 3 hours lunchtime debate. The event enjoyed the presence of the DG HR’s Director responsible for social dialogue, Mr. Moricca and these were the debated questions:
- Why is staff representation needed? (indeed, why? maybe just to – together with DH HR – ignore many important requests of large parts of staff, as can be seen from staff surveys and staff committee elections?)
- What should be its priorities in the next 5 years? (not only in the next two years of their mandate before next elections, that would not be ambitious enough, but nothing less than 5 years, just coinciding with the new Commission’s mandate, and feeling sure of one’s re-election and eternal secondment to staff representation?)
- How to better involve staff in social dialogue activities? (yes how to? maybe by not monopolising them? maybe by including all stakeholders and not only friends and old tested fellows?)
Out of the 5 representative OSPs, 2 rightly decided not to participate in what was likely to be a farce organised precisely by those “professional staff representatives for life” who in 2018 had sabotaged the social dialogue precisely on the reform of staff representation itself (you do not dare changing something that suits us so well). Generation 2004 had decided to after all attend, in order not to miss yet another opportunity to face certain people with their contradictions and fake intentions, something that attracts lots of insults on us, especially when we then win elections. Altogether the “Conference” was nothing else than empty, self-advertising blah blah as we usually must endure on a daily basis.
After the event, one participant wrote to all OSPs to communicate his discontent for the little time awarded to non staff representatives to express their concerns and wishes, although the conference poster promised an “interactive event”, “a collective reflection” “to collect new ideas”. He highlighted how a second round of questions was left unanswered, how DG HR main representative’s intervention (planned to end the event) was anticipated by half an hour compared to the schedule announced, which translated in a lack of politeness and respect for the attending public, whom a total of 7 minutes speaking time was awarded. He further defined HR’s statements as fairly hypocritical and just chanting the big importance of staff representation for DG HR, while regular tracts by OSPs say just the contrary. It goes without saying that none of the addressees publicly replied to this catch-up intervention, unwillingly showing one more time how self-referential you can be as staff representative.
We don’t know if any staff followed the event via web streaming, and ask ourselves why precisely those who have several times rejected Generation 2004 requests to have all local and central staff committee plenary meetings web streamed, suddenly opted for this revolutionary feature… (a – to us obvious – exercise in self-advertising cannot be excluded at this stage).
The final communique of the “politburo” sounded as if there were many to participate and back a number of particularly original findings: the reply to Question One was that staff representation was vital for social dialogue (we actually have the impression that the current one is sometimes lethal to it), and that it was entitled by election to represent staff (no matter how, as there is no time to listen to them – election is in any case a blank check, isn’t it?). On the priorities, Question Two, we learnt that fair career prospects and good working conditions should be a priority, not only, but that we should defend the European public service (that is us and ourselves) as we find ourselves indispensable for the European project (of course how could it prosper without us? it would certainly disappear). Replies to Question Three proved a call to better reward staff representation activities (staff please, join us in the quest to give more to us poor staff representatives!). On top of this, the final declaration as announced in the program should have been a “Joint declaration of the OSPs (i.e. unions and professional associations), but it became a “declaration of the LSC (the elected Brussels local section of the staff committee)”, of course without any formal debate or vote in its plenary. We therefore requested this to be amended, to no avail as usual.
So this is what the big strategists and political analysts of staff representation could publicly deliver to reassure staff in Brussels about their own legitimacy and usefulness. Most of them have been here for decades, in this helped by DG HR who did not hesitate to suspend a Commission decision to keep this people seconded for life (you wonder why…) or their term extended until they are well over 65 years of age… how could we prosper without them?
All jokes apart, to the first question, Generation 2004’s reply is that staff representation is needed, but not this one, which as in the most classical of totalitarian system is just another expression of the administration. To us, the main priority for the years to come should be to strive for a level playing field in terms of recruitment and career prospects, thus creating from scratch a respectful working environment, not only in slogans but in working conditions that do not favour harassment, within an institution that in case of doubt opts for the most favourable option for staff, and does not oblige it to resort to the European Court of Justice to obtain a fair implementation of the staff regulations. In an ideal Commission, staff representation would objectively fight for better conditions for all, and would not indulge into self-referential happenings that are just a fake substitution of real, effective work for staff such as this one.