Social Dialogue on “External Activities”

The Commission is currently revising its implementing rules on so-called “external activities”. These rules are meant to prevent conflicts of interest, either real or perceived, when active or former EU officials take on jobs or other duties outside of the institutions. Generation 2004 has been the most vocal staff organisation during the negotiations to denounce the fact that the rules proposed by the Commission make no distinctions between staff categories and between precarious staff and permanent staff: whether you are a former Director General looking for activities to keep yourself busy during retirement or a CA3b who is being kicked-out of the Institutions because your contract has reached the 6-year cliff makes no difference in DG HR’s mind.

Generation 2004 thinks this is unacceptable: senior management, even after retirement, should be heavily scrutinized when taking up other activities. After all, it is them who are most likely to raise conflict of interest concerns among the general public. Moreover, it seems to us that their very generous pension benefits are there to ensure that they can have a comfortable life without needing to work after retirement (some of us will not be in such a comfortable position when we retire, if we ever retire…). Note that the implementing rules under discussion do not concern Commissioners but one can anticipate that the treatment of former Commissioners is unlikely to be more stringent than the treatment of former Directors General, so it is important to put in place strict rules for senior managers right now.

In contrast to senior managers, Generation 2004 thinks that a former CA3b who needs to find a job to feed his/her family after having been kicked-out of the Commission should benefit from a different and much lighter treatment. DG HR’s reasoning for treating them just like permanent officials is that some CA3bs have heavy responsibilities and have access to sensitive information during their period of active employment. There you go: low wages, heavy responsibilities and on top of that hurdles to find a job after your 6-years in the Commission! Ironically, Council Directive 1999/70/EC of 28 June 1999 on fixed-term work, recommends “to improve the quality of fixed-term work by ensuring application of the principle of non-discrimination, and to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships… The agreement forbids employers to treat fixed-term workers in a less favourable manner than permanent workers solely because they have a fixed-term contract, unless the difference in treatment can be justified on objective grounds.”

 DG HR argues that the “objective grounds” are that former CA3bs should look for jobs that have nothing to do with what they did in the institutions in order to avoid potential conflicts of interests. This is completely unreal and contrary to how things work in the real world. You usually find a job in an area where you have experience. Therefore, former CA3bs (as well as former TAs who are not so lucky to be politically connected) have their best chance to find a job in an area that may not be allowed to them because of potential conflict of interest. The cherry on the cake for CA3bs is that DG HR (the appointing authority in the HR jargon) has 1 month to reply to you if you request the authorisation to take on a new job. What employer would be ready to wait for 1 month in the current job market? Thus DG HR’s treatment of Contracts Agents is simply a blatant discrimination against those who have fixed-term contracts. Instead of discriminating them, DG HR should employ CA3bs for tasks that are not sensitive so that they are free to take up whatever job comes after the end of their contracts. With regard to sensitive tasks, they should be carried out by permanent officials, recruited for that purpose. The resulting recruitments would offer much welcome career prospects to the current generation of CA3bs.

Generation 2004 will continue to fight discrimination against CA3bs. We have some reasonable hope that some small and more enlightened staff organisations will side with us. We don’t expect much support from the leading organisations though. Indeed, the seconded members of the leading organisations are too busy trying to get an extension of their employment beyond retirement age and their non-seconded members are too busy looking for senior expert posts in the Commission. CAs are not their priority…

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