The Senior Expert against the Contract Agent

Les fonctionnaires sont un petit peu comme les livres d’une bibliothèque. Ce sont les plus hauts placés qui servent le moins…”  (Georges Clemenceau)

Recently, the staff representation has become very excited about a controversial email exchange between an informal collective of the EC’s Contract Agents called the Non-Permanent Staff (NPS) Forum, and some prominent staff representatives. Most of you probably don’t care, but it is nonetheless worth spending 5 minutes to understand what’s going on. To summarize crudely: the NPS forum, in its February newsletter accuses the staff representation of using their position to advance their own careers at the expense of the defence of the precarious Contract Agents (Quote: “…unions … do more damage than good, to all staff recruited after 2004, using public money and entertaining a friendly relation amongst themselves and particularly with some members of DG HR, for decades. We have … proof of the existing conflicts of interest, …. We also need to see who they are, before and after elections, we need to see their real CVs made public.”).

Although the tone used by the NPS network might be exaggerated, we at Generation 2004 agree that there is a problem with many staff representatives serving foremost the interests of the ‘old guard’. We have noted in the past that there are a surprisingly large number of very high ranking officials among the staff representatives: 40% of them were AD13 in 2014!

(CDP-OSP means Comité du Personnel – Organisations Syndicales Professionnelles)

We also observe that the same high-ranking officials are being granted senior expert posts when they go back to their DG at the end of their secondment to the staff representation, especially so if they go back to DG RTD, which is the DG where the bulk of the members of the NPS Forum work. At Generation 2004, we are 100% against the senior expert scheme, because it is unnecessary and comes at the expense of the lower grades.

However, not so the other unions! One of the prominent staff representatives, who happens to be a lucky beneficiary of the senior expert scheme, seems to have got offended by the accusations of the NPS Forum and managed to convince the Brussels Local Staff Committee to endorse a resolution condemning the NPS Forum in very strong terms and in particular requiring them “de retirer publiquement les allégations formulées“, which was passed against the votes of Generation 2004’s representatives in the Committee. But rather than grumble about this pathetic controversy, let’s try to come up with concrete proposals to improve the staff representation, and make sure that Contract Agents, in particular those who have fixed-term contracts get a better representation.

At the moment, it is extremely difficult to convince precarious staff to engage in staff representation activities simply because they are afraid that their contracts will not be renewed if they do so. DG HR does not help: Generation 2004 has promoted one of its CA3b elected members to the position of General Secretary of the Brussels Local Staff Committee. Without going into the details of the rules for the allocation of resources, it is logical that this CA3b gets a so-called statutory secondment because the Local Staff Committee is a statutory committee. DG HR said ok, but in exchange Generation 2004 will have to give up the corresponding CA budget. Moreover, DG HR threatened not to renew the contract of this CA in March next year. Thus, Generation 2004 has had to back-pedal and cancel its request in order to preserve the interests of our CA colleague. This shows how DG HR makes no effort (to say the least) to help precarious CAs to get prominent positions in the staff representation. To be compared with its generosity when it comes to allocating senior expert posts to the former prominent staff representatives that belong to the old guard!

An additional important consideration is that our colleagues working in the executive agencies should have a say in the negotiations with DG HR, in particular when the negotiations deal with the situation of Contract Agents. For the moment, all they get is a “fait accompli” situation whereby the provisions negotiated in the Commission are imposed on them “by analogy“. Moreover, their few staff representatives get virtually no resources: no offices, no secondments and they are subject to constant pressure from their hierarchy not to spend any time on staff representation activities (is that what the social pillar of the EU is about?). In contrast, the staff representation of the established civil servants in the Commission get an allocation of altogether 41 Full-Time Equivalents (FTE) worth of secondments. These 41 FTEs sit most of the time in useless committees which seem to have been created to justify the … 41 FTEs. Why not improve the representation of the agencies staff in the negotiations with HR dealing with CAs since the vast majority of the staff of the agencies are Contract Agents?

The uselessness of the current 41FTEs is made worse by the fact that most staff representatives have been there for ever. There is in theory a 6-year rule saying that no one should be seconded to the staff representation for more than 6-years. This rule is blatantly circumvented by DG HR by allowing staff representatives to rotate between so-called statutory and union secondments. This is to be contrasted with how strict DG HR is when implementing the other 6-year rule: CA3bs are kicked out with no remorse at the end of their 6 years.

An additional issue is that DG HR keeps granting an extension of their careers to staff representatives who have reached retirement age. If DG HR’s relations with them had not become too cosy, then surely enough DG HR would not grant these extensions, would it?

Last but not least, a significant number of senior managers in DG HR, at director’s level and higher, have been around forever. Wouldn’t it be healthy to rotate them to other DGs so they can see what life in a frontline DG is? Wouldn’t it also make sense to make sure that the management of DG HR reflects the distribution of the staff presently working in the Commission: a vast majority of post-2004 and a minority of pre-2004 staff (currently, it is rather the opposite among HR managers, 80% of them are pre-2004. Maybe this rotation should be the priority of Commissioner Oettinger: make sure that a new generation of HR managers are put in place before the next reform of the Staff Regulations begins. Then things might really change!

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