Two rounds of Social Dialogue bilateral discussions between Director Francoise Collet of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Trade Unions (TUs) and staff associations (SAs) of the EEAS and the European Commission (EC), as well as one round with the Director General Gianmarco Di Vito (EEAS) were held through videoconference from our homes during the confinement.
The Social Dialogue meetings concerned the reform of the working conditions of the Local Agents (LAs) in the EU delegations. The decisions in question should provide a legal framework with a focus on the improvement of the conditions for the staff concerned. The EEAS representatives highlighted that the intention of the reform is to give equal rights to all staff as much as possible, especially in the areas of health.
There are approximately around 3200 LAs in total among the EC and the EEAS, working in the EU delegations, out of which nearly two thirds are employed by the EC. LAs working for the EC elect their staff representatives in the EC and not in the EEAS. Consequently, they deserve to be fully represented by those they gave a mandate to do so. However, this is not exactly the case. Since LAs belong administratively to the EEAS, and the EC, although not obliged to do so, usually plays along anything the EEAS proposes, the obvious outcome is that the Commission TUs and SAs are unfortunately not equal partners when it comes to the social dialogue affecting a large part of its staff in EU delegations.
To the current Social Dialogue, TUs and SAs of the Commission were invited only as observers and at the very last minute. Generation 2004 is looking into this matter on how to become an equal partner at the negotiation table.
The stakeholders (EEAS Director and Director General, EEEAs TUs; and, EC TUs and SAs) met digitally on the 2nd, 8th and 15th April 2020, and discussed three decisions concerning the Working Time, Special paid leave, and Accidents at work and occupational disease for local staff. The administration of the EEAS was very much in a hurry to close the Social Dialogue with an excuse to implement it as foreseen by June 2020. Therefore, they requested the TUs to provide their feedback by Good Friday without any respect for the Easter break/office closing days. They did come back, bringing the negotiations to the level of Director General.
Generation 2004 raised several questions during the social dialogue and contributed to the debate.
One of the points we negotiated, was the fact that the members of local staff employed in LA Function Group (FG) I and II were not entitled to overtime compensation or remuneration. We pointed out that they could not be forced to do overtime. Thus, we asked the reference to these FGs to be removed or to add the possibility for exceptional cases when doing overtime, because they do exist. Unfortunately, this was not accepted.
Moreover, we strongly supported that 12 days instead of 10 days of the annual leave would be carried over to the following year, which is the Commission standard. The EEAS administration positively agreed to modify this number.
Generation 2004 also requested the removal of the term “natural” in relation to family links in order not to limit the scope of the ‘relative in the ascending line’ such as father, mother or grandparent of the LA member of staff.
We also supported adding an extra 5 days of special leave to LAs that are not eligible for maternity leave. The increase to 10 days in total was accepted. We also pointed out the fact that in some delegations the less favourable conditions are being applied instead of the more favourable conditions by virtue of the local legislation. We were invited to inform the administration on this matter separately. Therefore, please let us know if you are awarded lower conditions than those included in your contracts just because your local laws predict lower condition. We would like to help you.
Generation 2004 is of the opinion that the subsequent negotiations around any decisions affecting LA staff in EU Delegations should consistently involve the Commission Local Staff Committee Outside of the Union (LSC HU). Otherwise, the EC Local Agents who elect their representatives in the EC Staff Committee and not in the EEAS, are left without a voice in the Social Dialogue. “Nihil de nobis, sine nobis!”