Locals Agents Salary Method – Time to adapt to the reality on the ground!

It is clear that the current salary method, and the idea of “One system fits all” in some 140 Delegations all over the world is not working. Here are some insights and suggestions.

The idea behind any salary update in the world is to make sure that the organisation’s salaries are competitive, keep employees satisfied, and do what they can to attract and retain the best people. This is also the case for the European External Action Service (EEAS).

 “The Commisison/EEAS’s policy is to offer to local staff serving in delegations remuneration competitive with those of comparable employers of local staff. This policy is aimed at recruiting and retaining the highly qualified and motivated staff which the institution requires”. (Chapter 1, Point 2 ‘Remuneration’ of  Decision EEAS DEC (2014) 004, on the method for the establishing and adjusting the remuneration of local agents serving in Delegations)

Does the EU stick to this principle as regards the salaries of its Local Agents (LAs) in Delegations? The answer is, unfortunately, negative. Moreover, the system should be simple, transparent and accommodate developments on the ground. Unfortunately, and perhaps on purpose, the system is cumbersome, opaque and conveniently omits any reference to the situation on the ground in many EU delegations.

Without delving too deeply into history, the terms of the 2014 staff regulations reform revised conditions downwards. A reduction in the range and number of employers used for the comparison calculation, together with the suppression of Article 11 (this previously allowed for an increase even where salaries were already above the average), made salary increases smaller and less frequent. On the contrary, this made the life of those in HQ who calculate the salary in each delegation easier. Unfortunately, this is a zero-sum game. What is good for management is often not good for Local Agents. How does this impact recruitment, retention and morale?

There are many deficiencies: we look at the four most prominent

1: The Cost of living problem

While the salary update system of other staff categories takes the cost of living into account (e.g. looking at purchasing power parity (PPP)), as regards Local Agents, it doesn’t matter how high the inflation rate (and the subsequent loss of purchasing power) is in a host country, the method does not take it directly into account. The method wrongly assumes that the comparator employers  will increase salaries of their local staff to compensate for the inflation, which will then be reflected in the annual salary survey of the Delegations. This negatively affects Local Agents in Delegations, especially in countries with a high inflation rate, where their purchasing power weakens, and the management offers no solution.

The Cost of living solution

To take the cost of living into account, at the very least to insert a mechanism similar to that used by the United States embassies, by which a 2% increase is given if in 2 consecutive years there has been no increase.

In this respect, it is worthwhile to mention that under the current method, Local Agents in some delegations, such as Peru, Serbia and Israel, have not received a salary increase for the past decade.

2: The comparators selection problem

For the purpose of  easier comparison with other employers, the EEAS has changed the definition of “comparable employers” and imposed a very limited list of potential comparators, all international, not necessarily comparable with other local employers in the host countries, and on top – the EEAS limited the change of comparators from the list to once in 5 years.

The comparators selection solution

To increase the number of potential comparators to 10 and to include local employers. Also, if the EEAS really wants to be a competitive comparator, the selection of comparators from the list should be abolished, and ALL comparators in the host country should receive, on an annual basis, a questionnaire for analysis, allowing the staff to select the best comparators for each year.

3: The transparency and cooperation problem

The role of staff representatives is less than minimal, and each Delegation consults them at a different stage of the process. Moreover, they are not generally given access to the raw data received from the comparators. On the odd occasion where they do indeed have access, they cannot have a copy for any meaningful analysis or basis for dialogue, so the so-called consultation doesn’t really exist. In other words, the ability of staff representatives to know, understand and find the issues in each annual exercise hardly exists.

The transparency and cooperation solution

As for the sensitivity of questionnaires received from the employers used for comparison, staff representatives could sign a written commitment on confidentiality, and be allowed to get copies of the questionnaire and study them. Otherwise, staff-representative involvement is meaningless.

4: The subjectivity problem

The room for maneuver at HQ is very small and in most cases this results in negative outcomes, which do not allow for an increase. For example, Delegations are not allowed to use comparators located in another city in the same country. Moreover, in some cases, HQ refuses to adhere to local legislation and court rulings.

The subjectivity solution

The EU’s point of view should change to “how can we continue to attract the best” and not “how can I avoid salary increases”. Also, the EU should lead the way and always adhere to local legislation and court rulings.

The salary-revision method for LA staff is due for revision in 2025. Generation 2004 is committed to supporting the introduction of a procedure that will make the method fairer, more transparent and to ensure it corresponds to the situation on the ground!

As always, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

One thought on “Locals Agents Salary Method – Time to adapt to the reality on the ground!

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights and suggestions regarding the current salary methodology.

    It’s apparent that the current financial challenges, including the impact of unfair tax policies, have created a complex situation for local agents in Sri Lanka also. These difficulties have also affected the perceived attractiveness of the European Union as an employer in Sri lanka also , leading to the departure of several experienced and talented local colleagues already within the EUD SL.

    Sri Lanka’s economic landscape presents unique challenges that warrant careful consideration. The economic strain, exacerbated by the financial crisis and unfair tax policies, has placed additional pressure on local staff. Moreover, the rising cost of living in Sri Lanka has made it increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain their standard of living on current salaries.

    Despite these challenges, we, as local agents in Sri Lanka, remain steadfast in our dedication and commitment to our work.

    Given the exceptional circumstances, it is essential that the EU takes proactive measures to retain its valuable local staff by considering attractive salary revisions. Ensuring that local agents are fairly compensated and motivated will contribute to maintaining a strong and effective team capable of advancing EU objectives in Sri Lanka.

    I deeply appreciate your attention to these important matters and commend your advocacy for addressing the unique needs of local agents worldwide. Thank you for amplifying our voices and championing our cause.

Leave a Reply