Social dialogue on Temporary Agents

The Decision on Temporary Agents (TAs) has been reported to the next Commission.

Last May, Director of HR.B ‘Talent Management & Diversity’, C. LEVASSEUR presented and hastily pressed for approval of the draft decision on TAs at the European Commission (EC), a proposal setting out new selection procedures and working conditions. The initial draft decision was not a mere update of the current GIPs for the purposes of the service, but a radical change on our institution’s HR policy.

OSPs rejected the HR invitation to Social Dialogue meetings and sent a note to Commissioner Oettinger on 27 June asking a meeting to better understand the scope of the initiative before negotiating, and to know the political framing of the HR initiative. At the same time, OSPs also asked for several indicators on staff in order to be able to estimate the impact of the new rules.

Generation 2004 co-signed OSP notes to Commissioner Oettinger claiming that this initiative means a fundamental change to the usual HR recruitment policy as it lifts the ceiling of 3% TA vs officials. It was also criticized that TAs could be hired at grades up to AD11, as well as the introduction of an overly “light” selection procedure – requiring that candidates only “sit” cognitive tests without needing to pass them (the latter is required both for officials and contract agents). In short, instead of implementing a necessary simplification and harmonization of recruitment procedures, this draft decision makes “the staff landscape” even more diversified.

On 10 July, in a meeting convened by Commissioner Oettinger, delegates of the Central Staff Committee (CSC) and representatives of the five OSPs protested against the proposal for various reasons and asked for it to be withdrawn from the table and left for the new Commission to decide.

The Commissioner explained in his intervention that this proposal was necessary: the proposal has been drafted in the context of imminent Brexit, where HR intends to fill in all vacant positions in the staff tables with TAs in order to reduce the impact of possible staff cuts. He also mentioned several aspects of the modern EC HR policy, such as:

  • New fields of action – new competencies needed
  • Attractiveness of the public sector
  • Need to consider geographical balance
  • Simplification and harmonization of recruitment processes
  • Broad agreement obtained during ISC
  • Better connection between experience and remuneration needed

Generation 2004 called for a clear legal framework establishing the limits, conditions and procedures for the use of temporary staff as established in the GIPs in force, and while backing the other OSPs on the general resistance to the draft decision, Generation 2004 seized the opportunity to, once again, point out:

  • Contradictions between statements and actions (less and less “equal pay for equal work on the same working place”, no improvement, rather worsening of the situation in spite of a lot of lip service),
  • Lack of remedial measures for post 2004 staff (whose experience has been denied, while now new TAs are hired at the correct grade, amounting to a real slap in the face of staff hired since May 2004),
  • Discriminatory hiring measures (creates new and lighter selection and recruitment conditions for a subset of staff, while maintaining more severe conditions for others in an already excessively differentiated landscape of recruitment and working conditions)
  • Lack of a clear distinction between permanent and non-permanent tasks, and the subsequent blurred line between Contract Agents (CAs) and TAs.

Moreover, since among the announced objectives of this HR initiative are “simplification” and “harmonization”, Generation 2004 requests:

  • Same selection and grading rules to apply to officials, contract agents and temporary agents – equally taking into account previous internal and external experience (this will result in easier daily implementation of provisions).
  • Transforming all CAs currently occupying permanent posts and performing permanent tasks into TAs, following an appropriate screening.
  • Remedial measures to recognize internal and external experience to staff recruited in junior grades since 2004, to implement a correct grading system based on the same criteria to all, not only to some selected ones such as TAs.

After a series of meetings and correspondence, OSPs were again invited to meet the Commissioner on 12 November. The meeting aimed at summing up several files before the end of his mandate. Mr. Oettinger promised to trasmit staff concerns to his successor. Not satisfied with the CAs’ working conditions in the Commission and with the decision on TAs still pending, he promised to urge his successor Mr. Hahn to meet staff representatives in January 2020.

To be continued…

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