Stop the phasing out of the AST function group!

A brief history of assistants, secretaries and clerks in the European Commission

Since 2018 Generation 2004 has been warning of and working against the phasing out of the assistants (AST) function group (FG) and the placing of all AST staff in ‘transition’. To better understand the issues at stake, we need to briefly examine the history and evolution of assistants, secretaries and clerks (AST/SC) in the European Commission. 

Before 2004, there were four function groups: A (administrators), B (assistants), C (secretaries and clerks) and D (manual workers) (Annex I, p. 37, pre-2004 Staff Regulations). The 2004 staff reform merged B, C and D into a single function group: AST, and put both AST and administrator (AD) function groups on the same salary scale. So these two have the same salary and pension rights but different promotion speeds (Annex IB1, 2014 Staff Regulations) though different levels of expected responsibility (Annex IA, 2014 Staff Regulations).

That was evaluated as having been a huge mistake since it ‘disconnected pay and grade from level of responsibility’ (Special Report 15/2019: Implementation of the 2014 staff reform package at the Commission – Big savings but not without consequences for staff, p. 20). Between 2004 and 2014, there were two entry grades for AST staff – AST1 (secretaries) and AST3 (assistants) – and there were annual EPSO open competitions for AST1 (secretaries and clerks) and AST3 (legal matters, audit, financial management, accounting, economics, statistics, communication, human resources, project management, programme management, contract management assistants) staff.

The 2014 staff reform created a new AST/SC function group that was ‘intended to improve the link between grade and responsibility’ (Special Report 15/2019, p. 20). In theory, that is fair and justified. In reality, however, DG HR is going beyond the stated aims of replacing only the secretarial and clerical staff currently in the AST function group (recruited as secretaries AST1 between 2004 and 2014 as well as former C and D staff recruited before 2004) with AST/SC staff and can now also be seen to replace former AST3 assistants with contractual agents (FGII), temporary agents (TA1) and AST/SC1 staff, and thus to slowly phase out the entire AST function group [2].

The planned obsolescence of the AST function group started as early as 2010 and is manifested in three separate but interconnected ongoing sub-processes;

  1. Converting former AST1 posts into AST/SC1 posts [1];
  2. Upgrading former AST3 posts into AD5 posts;
  3. Replacing former AST3 posts with AST/SC1, contract agent (CA) FGII, and temporary agent (TA)1 posts.
Draft budget: Working document II (p.75, DB-2020-WD-II; p.71, DB-2021-WD-II; p.75, DB-2022-WD-II) 2020 2021 2022
Number of AST posts converted into AST/SC posts 222 140 45
Number of AST posts converted into AD posts 150 91 90

Below is further proof that the slow phasing out of the entire AST function group is a reality and a long-term plan.

Human resources report 2015, p. 61

Own elaboration, based on figures in DG HR, 2015, 2016201720182019, 20202021 Key Figures

Generation 2004 ASTs & AST/SCs 2018 election campaign message

EC HR key figures 2016

(staff as of 01.01.2016)

EC HR key figures 2021

(staff as of 01.01.2021)

2016-2021 (evolution of staff in 5 years)
AST officials 9134 7144
AST temporary staff 338 398
Total AST staff 9472 7542 -1930
AST/SC officials 81 512
AST/SC temporary staff 223 557
Total AST/SC staff 304 1069 +765

We ask DG HR to stop immediately the illegal practice of replacing non-secretaries, former AST3 staff with AST/SC1, CA FGII, and TA1 staff as well as the phasing out of the entire AST function group!

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[1] AST1 is normally equivalent to SC2 (Figure 10, p.25, Special Report 15/2019).

[2] Check the details and differences summarised in Annex III — Entry requirements for each staff category: p. 50, Special Report 15/2019

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