LACC canteen closed permanently, what’s next?

*Update 06.12.2023: here are building closures and alternatives in Brussels, but we don’t (yet) see equivalent information for other places of work e.g. Grange or Luxembourg. Remember you have the right to work from the office 100% if you so wish (and you are prepared for the temperatures there).* *Update 23.11.2023 What is a cafétéria plus?[0]*

Original article: The Commission continues to make savings, this time by permanently closing both the childcare facilities in Grange, Ireland and LACC canteen in Luxembourg. We’ve already mentioned the short-notice permanent closure of the Hitec (HTC) building at the end of 2022 and the short-notice change of the newest Commission building (MERP) from open space to hot-desking in open space ‘dynamic, collaborative space (DCS)’ just as staff moved in (March 2023).

We were unfortunately mistaken in November 2022 when we stated that it was ‘use it or lose it at the Commission’. It appears now that whether a facility is used or not is immaterial: it’s all about the money. The trade unions and staff associations are witnessing a move from the one-way communication encounters (‘social monologue’) of recent years to the administration  simply announcing the action and saying there are savings to be made. As with DCS, or summer and winter building closures [1] there is no debate, no negotiation, no impact/risk assessment and no evaluation/improvement follow-up.

Please participate in our Follow-up survey on teleworking, hybrid working and teleworking from anywhere (TWA): we would like to make a comparison with the answers you provided to our two original surveys. Your ideas and recommendations are very valuable for us in future negotiations with the administration: they make it possible to compare the opinions you have expressed in all surveys with those expressed by a sample group in the official evaluation.

Who needs a canteen when there’s a vending machine?

The Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Luxembourg (OIL) has not updated the Where to go dynamic list of food options to explain what a cafeteria+ does, nor has it added there information on planned closures, in spite of our repeated requests. It almost seems as though OIL is just not interested in ensuring their services are used. It’s like the urban legend of the bus which was only able to comply with its published timetable if it did not stop or collect passengers. Does poor communication make future closures inevitable? Is this the self-fulfilling prophecy in action? We note with dismay that LACC has been included in all summer and winter closures so far, why not rotate closures?

The closure of the LACC canteen leaves only 2 functioning canteens where there were previously 5. Note that this area of Luxembourg is particularly poorly served in terms of restaurants or cafes, leaving staff with very few alternatives. With the planned closure of the EUFO building, this will leave 3 buildings in the area of Gasperich where there were previously 5.

[*] promised in the OIL email 21.08.2023 but not mentioned/explained on Where to go/[?] there is no mention of FISR in the OIL email. Source: Where to go and Luxembourg: list of buildings

The displaced staff are all still in the same neighbourhood, just packed in tighter in the surrounding buildings and perhaps discouraged from exercising their right to come to the office 5 days a week. Working from home is, after all, voluntary. Working from home is even more of a challenge in Luxembourg, given the high cost of accommodation. The ingenuity shown by the winners of our ‘Wild West of Teleworking’ competition (from Luxembourg) is evidence of this.

So, staff will now have to go to another building to use a canteen (time) where the queues will be longer (again, time) due to fewer canteens serving the same number of staff in a neighbourhood with almost  no alternatives. Check out our position paper on canteens. How does this closure of canteens fit with the diversity and inclusion (D&I) plan and the legal requirement for reasonable accommodation for staff with specific needs or reduced mobility? What are staff to do in winter, when the inside temperature is 19°C (Brussels)/20°C (Luxembourg) and the outside temperature below 0°C? Or is it simpler just to close the buildings again (under the guise of Save gas for a safe winter, again at short notice) and ‘invite’ staff to work from home or to find somewhere in another building.

While the ultimate aim is for almost all staff (except MERP) to move to the new Jean Monnet 2 (JMO2)  once it’s ready, this is still at least a couple of years away, does the Commission risk making the Commission in general, but  Luxembourg in particular even less attractive in the meantime?

There are too many unanswered questions:

  1. Who decided about this closure and based on what facts?
  2. How were the services that will be impacted by these changes consulted?
  3. How and when was the Joint Management Committee for Restaurants and Cafeterias in Luxembourg consulted? Quoting from their internal rules:
    « Le Comité exerce notamment les compétences suivantes, en ce qui concerne les restaurants, les caféterias, […] (1) participer à la définition de l’orientation générale des activités de ces services,[…] »
    It seems obvious that the closure of canteens and their transformation into cafeterias falls under the “general orientation”.
  4. What are the expected repercussions for staff, both financially and as regards access to healthy food? We note that there is no alternative Commission canteen in close proximity to the T2 building; the closest one is in the BECH building which is a 10-minute walk. Assuming a one-hour lunch break, 1/3 of said lunch break would already be taken up just by walking to the BECH building and back again.

Communication with staff is paramount: transparency in all changes!
We urgently request that immediate action be taken to address staff concerns on all changes outlined above. We strongly urge a sincere effort to fulfil promises previously made and to formulate and communicate alternative plans to staff in a transparent and timely manner. Savings cannot and should not be made again and again at the expense of staff.

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

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[0] There is very little information available on the new offer of ‘cafeteria plus’ and it is not (yet?) mentioned/explained in the Where2go dynamic list of canteens and cafeterias. All we have so far is  ‘cafétéria plus * = sert également des plats chauds‘/“cafeteria +” model (extended offer of hot and cold snacks). How extended? Is a hot snack the same as a plat chaud? Does it ensure that everyone who wants to do so can have a hot lunch? It is not clear, nor is it clear what reasonable accommodation is made for colleagues with specific dietary requirements.

[1] This is ostensibly a pilot project, but be wary of the word ‘pilot’ as used in the Commission. This word should normally be used for a programme or project that is still in a trial phase, but it was used erroneously to describe the Junior Professionals Programme (JPP) in all 9 of its (largely unchanged) editions and still after the  decision to make the programme permanent post-JPP5. The stages of the pilot project so far:

  1. BEST (summer 2022):
    • close buildings to reduce energy consumption
  2. Save gas for winter (post-summer 2022):
    • close buildings to reduce energy consumption
    • reduce temperatures in still-in-use buildings
  3. The next stage in the ‘pilot’ project are undeclared but might include: 
    • close buildings to reduce energy consumption
    • reduce temperatures in still-in-use buildings
    • permanent closures? as we have already seen with the HTC building, LACC canteen and Grange childcare.

3 thoughts on “LACC canteen closed permanently, what’s next?

  1. Thanks for this nice summary. I have had people remark to me that the additional time required to get to a canteen should count as working time. Anyway, that will be a point of discussion at next week’s LSC plenary meeting.

  2. At the Court of Justice, they clock in when they enter the car park in their car (I believe there was a judgement about it at the time when the car park was across the street); at the Court of Auditors, they clock out for lunch but clock back in for the coffee after. When I say ‘they’ I mean I have heard it referred to as common practice at these places.

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