Outrage over EC approaching 1000 senior experts/senior assistants’ nominations – widening career gap and waste of precious administration budget

The 2014 staff regulations introduced the so-called “career cap” (blocage des carrières in French). Regular ASTs and ADs who have no management responsibilities cannot reach grades above AST9 and AD12. At least in principle, see the next article on career inequalities which shows that the career cap does not apply to several thousand pre-2004 officials …

The 2014 Staff Regulations also introduced a special career path for those who are supposedly experts in their field, the so-called “senior assistant” and “senior expert” posts. Most of us know that these titles are nothing but a reward for those who have been in place for a long time, nothing to do with actual qualifications!

We have just received an update from DG HR on the number of nominations to these posts and on the resulting promotions since 1 Jan 2014.

A staggering 820 permanent officials have benefited from nominations to these high-ranking positions during the past 3 years. With the current trend, we should reach over 1000 officials in these positions before the end of this year.

Because these nominations open the way to promotions to grades beyond the AST9 and AD12 cap, we can expect that most of these lucky colleagues will reach the AST11 and the AD14 grades in a few years’ time. More than 500 of them have already benefited from promotions to AST10, AST11, AD13 or AD14 during the past 3 years.

The budgetary impact of these generosity is not public yet but a back-of-the envelope calculation suggests that it will be on the order of several million euros/year (a promotion implies a pay rise of about 13% if one neglects the steps; 13% of €10,000/month for 1000 people gives about €16 million/year; we don’t have yet access to the financial fiche of the draft General Implementation Provisions for Contract Agents, but we reckon that DG BUDG is trying to save a similar amount on the back of the Contract Agents, through for instance their downgrading at the occasion of a change of contract).

While it is encouraging to see that DG HR is becoming more transparent with this “senior something” scheme, it raises a difficult issue: how can the Commission afford to spend so much money to boost the careers of officials who are already ultra-privileged while cutting on every other possible expenses?

Don’t forget that the lucky “senior something” will not only enjoy higher salaries but they will also benefit from higher pensions since pensions are directly proportional to the last year of salary. When you consider that the pension liability had reached €57 billion at the end of 2014 (footnote 15, page 6) you start worrying, don’t you? You won’t be the only ones to be worried about the sustainability of our pension scheme, the Council is getting worried too and this is not good news for us! In particular, the Council conclusion #8requests that the Commission … reports … on the long-term sustainability of the EU pension scheme, taking into consideration … an evaluation of the pension accumulation rate, the staff contribution rate of 1/3 to the pension system, including for existing staff,…… and to propose appropriate policy measures … to ensure the sustainability of the scheme.“.

Read the Council’s lips: more cuts to the pension rights of “existing staff“. Most of those nominated to “senior something” posts during the past 3 years will have escaped from active service before the situation becomes unbearable (they will no longer be “existing staff“…) but those of you who have been recruited after the 2004 reform, or worse after the 2014 reform, will be targeted once again! In this context, one would expect DG HR to be more cautious with the “senior something” scheme.

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