Reform of the promotion system

The previous article has described how the promotion exercise works in theory, with three levels of ‘merit comparison’ along the exercise (at Directorate-General level, by the Joint Promotion Committees and their preparatory groups, and finally by the AIPN) on the basis of comprehensive and unambiguous appraisals. In practice though the promotion system is riddled with many problems, especially concerning merit comparability and comparison. These problems have been highlighted over and over again but to no avail. It took countless notes and requests by the Central Staff Committee, and two reports by a  working group, before a first meeting between DG HR and the Central Staff Committee was finally held on March 16 2018, to discuss concrete proposals for improvements to the current system. The outcome was disappointing. So the appraisal and promotion system will in all likelihood remain as it is: arbitrary (staff regulation criteria for promotion not translated into applicable standards), non-transparent (neither minutes nor reports of the various meetings are available) and unfair (plenty of unjustified too fast or too slow careers).

But first things first: After the end of the promotion exercise 2015, following complaints by staff representatives Ms Souka, the Director General of HR and AIPN, convened a working group consisting of members of the AD promotion committee from both the staff and the administration side with a view to come up with suggestions on how to fix some of the most important problems. The group took off immediately and drafted a first report, as requested right in time for the appraisal exercise 2016. The report was submitted to HR – only to be ignored thoroughly thereafter.

In spring 2017, the matter had in the meantime reached the cabinet of Commissioner Georgieva, at the time Commissioner in charge of HR, the group was finally reconvened in order to also reflect on possible improvements to the promotion exercise. It did, submitted the amended report to Ms Souka, and endured a déjà-vu experience: again the report ended up in the deepest drawer of Ms Souka’s desk – or should we say it was dealt with following the Standing HR Executive order for Dealing with Difficult and dangerous Evidence and Requests (SHREDDER)?

Be that as it may. The official response to most of what the group had suggested – summarized already in a document which HR had prepared before the meeting – was non, no, nein, nie, não, njet, 不. Examples? Here you go:

  • Describing responsibilities according to (groups) of grades as requested under the 2004 Staff Regulations (Art. 5.4) in order to provide reporting officers with a means to assess and compare responsibilities as required by the SR? Too much work
  • Inserting in Sysper a link to the existing e-learning module for the self-assessment to raise colleagues’ awareness? Too difficult
  • Tasking someone outside the hierarchy with dealing with appeals against the CDR to avoid possible conflicts of interest and ensure an impartial review? Impossible
  • Imposing a word limit for self-assessments to avoid unnecessarily long texts? We don’t want to go to court because of that … (The latter argument is interesting insofar as the very court which would have to settle any dispute on the matter imposes itself a page limit on appeals.)

In a nutshell, no matter whether it’s a big or a small change, HR do what they like and no evidence whatsoever, not even the fact that their own representatives in the working group supported the proposals, would convince them otherwise.

PS: In the meeting, there were even two full-time “staff representatives” who were furious about the idea to clarify responsibilities as this would penalize everybody with less responsibilities. They did that shortly after wailing about there being allegedly nothing in the report that would help ASTs. But aren’t ASTs doing often AD work despite being recruited on an AST posts? How hypocritical can one be? Well, it perhaps helps to know that both “staff representatives” were recently granted an extension of their employment with the Commission beyond their normal retirement age (65), of course “in the interest of the service” while others are being refused. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

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