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The same electoral rules for all!

Uniform and fully democratic electoral rules throughout the Commission, synchronised electronic elections at all sites and, last but not least, a separate local staff committee (LSC) for Seville [1]: these are the key elements of a proposal for staff-representation reform developed by Generation 2004. We have been raising these issues in one form or another since at least 2013 and have actively led on related efforts to address these three points on several occasions. Generation 2004 recently sent a proposal to all  (OSPs) [Organisations syndicales et professionnelles] for discussion in order to reach a common position on this matter.

What is behind the proposal?

Anyone who follows the work of the staff representation can see (and for most staff representatives it is self-evident) that staff representation in the European Commission is more of a labyrinth than an organisation. It is rather complicated, confusing and its workings opaque: our proposal would go a long way to simplifying the whole set-up and making it substantially more user-friendly. The electoral rules, for example, vary greatly from one location to another. Some sites allow electronic voting and a virtual general assembly, others don’t. Since a general assembly must take  place before an election, that means that while some elections are on hold indefinitely (Ispra/Seville LSC was due to have elections in May 2021) others have been able to work around these limitations (Geel  and Karlsruhe elections (postponed from 2020) will now take place in June 2021) [1]. In some other LSCs the current rules are more than questionable from a democratic point of view (for instance the Luxembourg principle of ‘the winner takes (almost) all [2]’).

2016 [3] Luxembourg elections (see bigger [4] version)

2019 [5] Luxembourg elections: ‘Generation 2004: We gained 7 percentage points as regards representativeness, which translates to the same situation in terms of seats as we have been getting since we first participated in LSC elections in Luxembourg.’

What is the proposal?

For all of these reasons Generation 2004 has proposed to introduce uniform rules and timing for the election of local staff committees (LSCs) based on proportional representation and with electronic voting as the standard procedure. In addition, according to the proposal, the LSC representatives who will then attend Central Staff Committee (CSC) meetings (‘delegates’) will be designated automatically based on the local election results. Hence the CSC would be able to start working immediately after the elections (i.e. time would not be lost while the OSPs choose and declare their delegates: the elections themselves would determine who is a delegate). This standardisation would allow the CSC to focus on its work instead of having to deal with the fact that there’s always an imminent election somewhere and a never-ending stream of new delegates, most of whom understandably take a little time to be fully functional (especially in the current incomprehensible set-up).

The issue of timing: right now, there are 8 LSC [6] elections scattered across a 3-year period (e.g. Ispra/Seville (original date May 2021), on hold: Geel and Karlsruhe (with workaround), June 2021: Brussels, October 2021: Outside EU/Delegations, November 2021: Luxembourg and Petten, November 2022). Brussels elections are used as the corner stone: in practice this means that the CSC can only officially start its work (have its constitutive meeting) after the elections in Brussels have taken place, i.e. 2 years into a 3-year mandate for the LSCs of Luxembourg and Petten. The upshot of this is that, since somewhere the next elections are usually just around the corner, majorities are not stable and OSPs are in constant campaign mode. So it is not surprising that the constitutive meeting of the CSC can last for more than 2 years as was the case for the current CSC, meaning it does not have an official president during that time.

Generation 2004 has instead proposed that elections be held simultaneously at all locations on a fixed date every 3 years. Coupled with electronic voting, this means that the results are available after a few hours and the Central Staff Committee (CSC) can start its work immediately afterwards without having to wait for the results of elections several months down the line and on the selection of delegates.

The last key element of our proposal is the setting up of a Local Staff Committee in Seville. Currently, for  historical reasons, there is one joint staff committee covering both Ispra (Italy) and Seville (Spain). This worked when Seville site had fewer than 50 staff, but today there are almost 400 staff there [2]. It would be like Brussels and Luxembourg having a joint staff committee. Can you imaging that? This also does not reflect the wishes of the staff at each location, nor does it have any practical advantage. Quite the contrary. The administration has not openly opposed an LSC in Seville and the process for the setting up of such an LSC [7] is ongoing, we invite all colleagues to participate in the debate.

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[1] Virtual general assemblies raise new issues e.g. how to find a platform with the capacity to accommodate the whole electorate? (An electorate of 21587 [8] for Brussels.) Or is this a case of double standards? Was there ever a physical location that would host those 21587? See Unofficial minutes of the General Assembly in Luxembourg of 9 July 2019 [9]: 155 people out of around 4000 working in Luxembourg attended a general assembly in a meeting room with a stated capacity of 60. Also, what was the topic of discussion at that general assembly? You guessed it: electoral reform!

[2] DG HR, Statistical Bulletin – HR – 1/10/2020 [10]