Social Dialogue, or the big hypocrisy: do as I say, not as I do!

The Commission recently presented an initiative to strengthen social dialogue with actions at both national and EU level. Generation 2004 agrees that this is necessary (long overdue) and we agree also with the inspiring statements reproduced below. Unfortunately, we observe that, in spite of all these nice words and good intentions, the corresponding follow-up action appears to simply vanish when it comes to social dialogue within the Commission itself: the dialogue with the staff committee (CSC/LSCs): the statutory body elected by staff and the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs). 

“Every day across Europe, representatives of employers and workers come together to agree on the essence of our working conditions such as pay, hours, and health and safety measures. (…) To make sure that Europe remains competitive and inclusive, we need strong social dialogue and strong social partners.[1]“. (Commissioner Schmit)

“We need to support social partners in their endeavours to negotiate, to build their membership and to adapt to the new employment challenges. We also need to encourage Member States to foster an environment of trust and transparency at the national level. And we, as an institution, need to continue to improve our working methods and the quality of our exchange with the European social partners[2]”. (Commissioner Schmit)

 “Social dialogue is essential for our future economic growth and the resilience of our economies. It plays an important role in preserving and strengthening the competitiveness of European business, raising productivity, improving labour conditions and equipping workers with the skills needed to succeed in the green and digital transitions.” (Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis)

The current situation is not only poor in comparison to the employer the EU once was, but it is further degrading with each passing month. In fact, if social dialogue was already neglected in the more recent past, it is now becoming a SOCIAL MONOLOGUE. Social dialogue meetings aim to negotiate all rules that have an impact on the work, life, health and well-being of Commission staff are increasingly transformed into “information meeting”, where OSPs are expected to listen, to “be informed”, and perhaps to make a statement, but not to negotiate anything on behalf of the employees they represent. This has been the case since March 2020 with the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when OSPs and the staff committee where invited to more than 25 “information meetings” on all issues related to the health crisis and the safety and support measures to be taken. Since then, other topics of major importance were considered to be for “information only”, for example the reform of the self-assessment and appraisal process.

On other side, other topics completely disappeared from the agenda, as the administration arguably deemed that no discussion was needed with the social partners: for example, the crucial and very much-criticized reform of EPSO and the recruitment procedures (see also the staff committee note). On such an all-important topic, which will impact the future of our institutions for decades – as the new officials hired through it will stay in the institutions for at least 20-30 years – the OSPs and staff committee were only informed. No possibility to negotiate any changes: the decision was already made!

The same goes for the ongoing move to hot-desking and building policy (temporary and permanent closures with little warning) that the Commission is implementing without negotiation, without even listening to its staff and sometimes even without informing the staff representation, we hear you, (former) Hitec (HTC) colleagues! More and more middle and senior managers are now realizing that this building policy is making it more difficult to meet the needs of their service and their staff. Is working from home really voluntary after all?

What did Commissioner Schmit and Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis have in mind when they presented the initiative aimed at strengthening social dialogue?

“The social dialogue aims at ensuring the permanence, the independence and the competence of the European civil service. This dialogue impacts on the staff policy and plays an important role in the human resources management in the Commission.” (Staff Matters, MyIntracomm)

 “The OSPs defend the general interest of the staff of the Institution. They maintain stable and structured relations with the Administration, which are governed by the Framework Agreement concluded between the Commission and the OSPs. (Staff Matters, MyIntracomm)

“Article 10b of the staff regulations emphasizes the mission of the OSPs to defend the general interest of the staff of the Institution, even though they are not statutory organs.” (Staff Matters, MyIntracomm)

It is clear that the deterioration in social dialogue, something under way for a long time, has reached new depths under this Commission. Generation 2004 calls on the Commission to stop this hypocrisy of “do as I say, not as I do!” and restart an open and honest social dialogue with all parties as a matter of urgency.

We reiterate our demand to receive at least an indicative calendar with planned social dialogue meetings for 2023, and to receive all relevant documents in good time for the meetings, putting an end to the current practice of transforming negotiation meetings into presentations of draft decision we are not informed about. Social dialogue is not a show, and being forced to react on the spot to measures that impact the life and health of our colleagues is in no way conducive to a fair negotiation.

Generation 2004 believes that killing social dialogue is in no way in the interest of the staff and of the institution. We therefore ask that Commissioner Schmit and Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis look at the situation of social dialogue within the Commission together with Commissioner Hahn. Social dialogue inside the Commission should be a role model for all Member States of the European Union, not a sterile monologue, where OSPs and the staff committee are expected to rubber stamp ready-made decisions.

Generation 2004 calls for an urgent meeting at the highest political level, with President Von der Leyen and the commissioners involved, on this crucial topic in the interest of all staff and of the “permanence, independence, and competence of the European civil service”.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have questions: we’re here for you!
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[1] Commission proposes actions to strengthen social dialogue (europa.eu)

[2] The Commission presents its new initiative on social dialogue: “Thank you” from Joost Korte and Nicolas Schmit (europa.eu)

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