NO MORE COMPULSORY WEEKLY PRESENCE IN THE OFFICE

DG HR announced yesterday evening (24/11/2021) that going to the office one day per week will not be an obligation any longer. Therefore, teleworking 5 days a week will be possible for all, except critical staff. However, those of you who would like to come to work can still do it!

The obligation to telework four days per week does not apply to staff:

– who cannot perform their tasks remotely;

– who have to be in the office to ensure business continuity.

You mobilized for months on this important issue, you discussed it at length on My Intracomm, you contacted us through hundreds of emails and phone calls. More than 600 of you commented Commissioner Hahn’s message that stated: “All of us in principle will be at the office at least one day a week”.

And more than 1.000 of you signed our petition to Commissioner Hahn to support our note of 16 September 2021, where we asked him to postpone the forced return to the office. Already in September, it was clear that this Commission strategy to force people back to the office could carry major risks.

Although some colleagues were relieved to go back to the office and can still do so, many others had reached out to us to express their astonishment and fears at this acceleration in the strategy while the sanitary situation was again deteriorating in several sites – especially Brussels. The Commission follows the decisions of authorities in the country of each site: however, in September the Brussels authorities were recommending continuing teleworking. Such recommendations became stronger by the week, until the Belgian national authorities stated that from Friday 29.10.2021: “Teleworking is strongly recommended for all staff members of companies, associations and service providers, unless this is not possible due to the nature of the business or service.”

We questioned again why the Commission was overlooking this site-specific guidance on a crucial matter of public health on 22 November.

It has been a long and sustained effort to come to this result, which is in fact just a plain application of common sense. So don’t be fooled: don’t let any trade union say that they fought for you to get to this result. By the way, can anyone truly believe that the Commission changes its mind within 24 hours, based on a request from a trade union? If you want to know more on empty promises and fake news, here is more on “Promising and selling unicorns”.

We know that teleworking is not the most comfortable situation for all, the pictures of your working space at home that you sent us for our “Wild West of Teleworking Photography Contest” are there to prove it. In spite of our many requests during the last 20 months, the administration is still in denial about the difficulties of many colleagues who lack the appropriate space or adequate conditions to work at home. Colleagues with the lowest salaries and the most precarious working conditions are disproportionately impacted by the obligation to telework and constantly growing costs. That is why we reiterate our request to have a lump sum covering the costs of teleworking for the lowest salaries.

The Staff Regulations are clear on who should pay for work expenses:

An official shall be entitled, as provided in Annex VII, to reimbursement of expenses incurred by him on taking up appointment, transfer, or leaving the service, and also to expenses incurred by him in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties. (Staff Regulations, Article 71 )’

From spring 2020 we have provided a template and guidance for requesting the reimbursement of additional teleworking costs: Although this led the administration to finally provide a chair and screen in 2020 and a more comprehensive IT package in 2021, we believe this is still not enough. As inflation is rising steadily and bills are skyrocketing, while the Commission is cutting its costs by pushing people into hotdesking, a reimbursement of extra costs is due to staff, as the European parliament has been doing since the start of the crisis for its own staff.

A first right step is however enshrined in the new draft Commission decision on Working time and hibryd working. Article 12(2) of version (10/11/2021) reads: “If appropriate, DG HR may adopt a decision providing for a lump sum covering certain costs of teleworkers, subject to budgetary availability.”

As usual, we will continue to work for fair working conditions for all.

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