Time for the Commission to address the cost of living

Generation 2004 requested DG HR open a formal negotiation (social dialogue) right after the summer break on measures to tackle the effects of inflation. The one which has been on the table the longest is the need to compensate in some way the additional costs of teleworking: this is one that we have repeatedly made noise about (most recently 07.11.2022 and 30.11.2022, but at least since 27.04.2020). Thanks to the social dialogue, the provision is there for this to happen (Working Time and Hybrid Working (WTHW), Article 13(4)), but is there any willingness to  make it happen?

Generation 2004 recognises that the cost of living is being impacted on several fronts simultaneously and is particularly important for those in the lower salary range. We therefore list the many different responses possible:

  1. implement the lump sum provision [1]

    ‘Where appropriate, DG HR may adopt a decision providing for a lump sum covering certain costs of teleworking staff, subject to budgetary availability.’
    (WTHW decision, Article 13(4))

  1. set a social price or discount in canteens and cafeterias for staff in the lower-paid grades and categories and for stagiaires as is currently done in Luxembourg.[2]

Formal replies to our  requests are still pending, but in the meantime the same requests formulated at the margin of other meetings were met with a blank refusal, generally based on budget constraints (constraints not applicable in other institutions). However, we notice that the situation for many colleagues is degrading further after months of rising inflation and skyrocketing living costs[3].

Salary update

Although Generation 2004 welcomes the intermediate salary update for this year, that amounts to +1.7%, we remark that it is absolutely insufficient to keep up with historically high inflation rates that are rapidly reducing staff purchasing power. The well-known reality is that the increase in energy and grocery prices, rents and interest rates on loans are far higher than the salary update. What is more, according to projections, the next salary update in December could be negative, which would effectively reduce staff salaries (and possibly necessitating a repayment of monies received July-December 2023). The situation is particularly worrying for staff at the lower end of the income ladder, who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet.

Building closures and hot-desking

At the same time, thanks to the seasonal building-closure (Buildings Energy Saving Together (BEST)  (summer) and  ‘Save gas for a safe winter’ ) exercises, temperature reductions, and move to hot-desking in open spaces, the Commission announced having decreased its energy consumption and carbon footprint last winter and is now repeating this exercise for summer. However, no consideration is given to the increasing carbon footprint and especially the raising costs for staff having to work from home, especially since the war in Ukraine and energy crisis started. Uncertainty is still high concerning price dynamics in autumn and beyond. It is still unclear, in spite of repeated questions, to what extent ‘reasonable accommodation’ is indeed being made for colleagues with specific needs e.g. those with disabilities: is a comparable workstation/set-up available in the alternative buildings or is the Commission counting on these colleagues working 100% from home? The flexibility required so far in the ‘new normal’ appears to be rather one sided.

As a matter of fact, working from home – although officially voluntary – is now unavoidable for the increasing number of DGs moving to hot-desking in open spaces (’dynamic collaborative spaces (DCS)’), that have a ratio of workstations to staff of 7:10 or lower, and are therefore unable to host all staff in their premises at the same time; unit meeting, anyone?

Canteen price increase

To add insult to injury, in July a price rise for canteens and cafeterias over 11% came into effect in Brussels, following other price increases in recent months, thus resulting in a number of cases in a price surge of around 100% as compared to the pre-Covid period (2019): this is the case for example for a dish of grilled meat or fish with a serving of vegetables and one of carbs. In the same period, the price of coffee increased by more than 50%.

As a result, many colleagues are contacting us to complain that they can no longer afford to eat at the canteen with their salaries eroded by inflation and are thus forced to resort to sandwiches on a daily basis or obliged to bring their own food.

This situation is unacceptable because it has worrying repercussions not only on staff health, but also on our cohesion, as it widens the gap between those with a safe and well-paid job in the Commission and those who are increasingly struggling to cope.

Constructive collaboration on our shared future is possible!

The administration cannot play the waiting game any longer: urgent measures are needed now, and they should be negotiated with trade unions and staff associations.

Generation 2004 is always by your side, to protect your rights and create a better working environment for all, especially those who are left behind by careless decisions or policies that do not put the human at their core – contrary to the rhetoric of the New HR strategy.

If you have any comments or need help, get in touch!

For any other questions, do not hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004

[1] Remember that the colleague who sought reimbursement of costs via the courts lost, not because it was an unjustified request, but because of all the possible teleworking-related costs, internet is not listed.

[2] See our 2021 position paper on canteens, cafeterias and water and how it’s use it or lose it at the Commission.

[3] [Added 31.08.2023] Please don’t get stuck: there are options available. If you don’t see your circumstances here then please check out staff matters, send some emails and get in touch!

3 thoughts on “Time for the Commission to address the cost of living

  1. Additional burden in Baltic Countries are skyrocketing interest rates, because almost all Mortgage loans have fixed rade + Euribor, so for example my mortgage payments have increased by 38%, and this is in no way reflected in cost of living, or methodology used to calculate Correction coefficient.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch with Generation 2004. In the short term, are any of the options mentioned in footnote 3 to this article available to you? Get in touch if you’d like us to assist. In the longer term, while accommodation costs are making an increasing dent in take-home pay and the Commission has mentioned specific allowances (e.g. for Luxembourg), there has been no concrete or measurable outcome to date in spite of our repeated reminders.

      1. No it is not that bad t survive, but these costs are not taken into account anywhere. And a comment on correction coefficients, for example in mid-year review coefficient for Riga dropped by 0.9% and this was in times of 20% inflation, which led us to wonder what kind of statistical data (no complaints about methodology) the Eurostat gets from the National Authorities.

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