Office-space reorganisation: reply from DG Trade

Generation 2004 sent a note to Ms WEYAND, Director-General of DG Trade on 4 November 2020 to request clarification on their plans for an office-space reorganisation.

We were contacted in relation to plans to move only assistants/secretaries and clerks (ASTs/AST-SCs) and contract agents (CAs) into shared offices.

In our note we reminded the director-general of the need to comply with the 2013 European Commission Housing Conditions Manual (Manuel des Conditions d’Hébergement). Also, we stressed the importance of appropriate communication from senior management and of prioritising the safety and well-being of staff, especially given the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic. Any transition to a shared-office structure could in fact pose a health hazard in the current situation. We finally requested that the management of this project be more transparent.

Ms WEYAND replied to our note on 30 November 2020. In her reply, she stressed that the planned office move of DG Trade is the consequence of a service reorganisation that started in July 2020 and had been discussed with staff and management since September 2019. DG Trade is housed in Charlemagne, a building that is under considerable pressure for spaces as it houses several DGs. Although this DG Trade reorganisation did not increase staff numbers, it led to some staff being relocated in offices that (under the Housing Conditions Manual rules) could be shared but were used instead as individual offices.

According to Ms WEYAND, the main priority of office-space reorganisation (alongside staff health and well-being) was to have the new units and departments located as close to each other as possible and to keep the DG in one single building. She also states that Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels (OIB) has confirmed that the new office plan is fully in line with the 2013 European Commission Housing Conditions Manual. Concerning shared offices, the reply note underlines that a large number of assistants (ASTs) and CAs are already sharing offices. These shared offices host a maximum of 3 people. However, DG Trade is not proposing to extend the current open-plan office space (so far only IT intra muros [1] staff and trainees are hosted in small open-plan offices).

Ms WEYAND recognises that this reorganisation of office space requires effort on the part of (a small number) of staff, but considers this reasonable given the objective of keeping all staff in the same building. She further warns that any future staff increase would lead to administrators (AD) also having to share offices.

Regarding the timetable of the moves, Ms WEYAND states that the majority of office moves will start when the heath situation allows.

As at Generation 2004 we are aware that the devil is often in the detail, we welcome this reply but followed up with an email to ask DG Trade the hard data: how many ASTs/AST-SCs and CAs are already sharing offices? How many are affected by the decision to move staff to shared offices?

We are now waiting for a reply to these important questions.

In the meantime, contact us if you have any comment or input for follow-up.

[1] ‘What is meant by intra muros contractor or service provider?

Intra muros contractors are employees of companies, which have concluded an outsourcing service contract with the Commission, who need to regularly access the Commission premises to implement that service, as opposed to “extra muros contractors” who do not need to regularly access Commission premises. They are not EC staff and should not be considered or managed as such.’

Frequently Asked Questions on outsourcing to intra muros contractors in DG COMM

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