The dark side of new “General Implementing Provisions for Contract Agents”

On 8th July, DG HR has presented the draft of the new General Implementing Provisions (GIP) For Contract Agents (CAs)[1] to DGs and staff representatives, and on 10th September OSPs have been convoked to a social dialogue meeting to express opinions on it.

Even if this decision is meant to clarify and to implement a position already taken by the EC (cfr. Commission Decision 2011), the feedback DG HR received was almost in unison from all OSPs: a text lacking of transparency and clarity, very hard to understand for non-lawyers (and particularly for non-FR speaking) and still missing a concrete policy for CAs.

In spite of its apparently ambitious goals, the text is proposing:

  • A downgrading of recruits in all Function Groups, by means of  significantly reduced acknowledgement of professional experience (FG IV lose 4 grades, FG III lose 3 grades and FG II lose 2 grades (cfr. Ann. IV, Art. 3 par 10 of decision 2011 and5 par 3 of decision 2015).
  • As a consequence a significant salary reduction for all new contracts (including renewals of contracts which not directly follow an existing one).
  • A talent and career management which does not build on the full professional experience and which neglects the evolution of CAs within the Institutions (CAs stay on same grade throughout their contract, i.e. up to six years).
  • Discrimination between CAs recruited before and after 2015.
  • No guidelines based on unambiguous job characteristics for a proper differentiation of Function Groups.
  • No credible measures to facilitate mobility.

G2004 took part in the discussions, stating firmly that the individuals affected by this flawed policy have to be taken care of in a responsible way and that their number should not be further increased. In that sense, the possibility of an up to 6 year contract must be seen as an additional responsibility by the Institutions to assist every single “expired” CA with his/her re-integration in a permanent job, be it in inside the Institutions (by means of internal competitions), in one of the Agencies (by means of a transparent and flexible job market) or elsewhere (by means of attractive education, training and full transferability of pension rights).

We strongly underlined that if the current policy is pursued, it would have considerable, negative, socio-economic fall-outs for all CAs (and for their families) who would face even larger difficulties for appropriate employment after an extended stay at the Institutions. Moreover, the penalisation of work experience, downgrading of function groups and reduction of salaries will create new pre and post reform victims: CAs recruited after this reform will earn up to 1000 € less in wages, compared to colleagues recruited in the past with the same qualifications and the same work experience. This will foreseeably have further negative impacts on the already problematic (lack of) diversity with respect to gender and nationality prevailing in this staff category.

G2004 is following these developments with major concerns. First and foremost we advocate that temporary staff assumes exclusively temporary tasks and earns a salary comparable to that of the permanent staff they replace. The current practice supports a continuous ‘temporalization’ of jobs, induced and justified primarily by budgetary limitations and not by the tasks at hand. This abuse has already and will continue to severely threaten the cohesion of staff within the Institutions, risking a further deepening of the ‘divide’ between more and less ‘privileged’ categories of staff.

An HR policy following this path will ultimately jeopardize the functioning of the organization and destroy its credibility as an exemplary public administration living up to the principle that “the same work at the same place should be remunerated in the same manner”[2].

Next meeting with DG HR was held on Sep. 22nd, G2004 will was there to represent all of you.

[1] More info on CAs, available here: https://myintracomm.ec.europa.eu/hr_admin/en/external_staff/contract_agents/Pages/index.aspx#rules

[2] Jean-Claude Junker, “A new start for Europe – Political Guidelines for the next European Commission”, 15 July 2014