To return or not to return (to the office)? That is the question!

Have you been asking yourself questions like these?

  • Have the Commission and the EEAS (European External Action Service) put the health of colleagues at the heart of their strategy for return to the office?
  • Will staff members risk their health and possibly infect their families?

If so, then you are not alone.

Before we rush into deconfinement and risk restarting the whole adventure, we must ensure that all aspects and specific situations of our colleagues are considered and addressed in the strategy for return. This should be the case for colleagues, independent of where they are based: whether that’s at the Commission and EEAS HQs in Brussels or in EU Delegations. Interinstitutional cooperation would be welcome in order to apply what we learned from the lack of coordination experienced at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.

This is the reason why Generation 2004 analysed the Action plan for the gradual return to the office which was announced by the Commission during the sixth social dialogue coronavirus meeting (end of April). We concluded in our review that the action plan is missing a thorough risk assessment and we pointed out issues addressing the needs of all staff. The Covid-19 situation itself puts extra stress on families with small children (under 12 years). Thus, a couple of weeks ago, Generation 2004 launched a petition to raise awareness of the extra burden put on parents of young children.

Moreover, the circumstances in Delegations are even more specific as Commission colleagues there are administratively governed by the EEAS without being able to make use of Commission rules or decisions. Generation 2004 wants to ensure that colleagues in Delegations enjoy the same standards as colleagues in the Commission. Last week (19.5.2020), the EEAS sent some guidelines for the return to its offices but nothing too detailed or concrete.

Generation 2004 is of the opinion that the EEAS must make the health of staff as a priority before any diplomatic, political or economic considerations. It is also logical that different work plans should be drafted by each Delegation, to consider and adapt to national and regional circumstances as well as legal provisions, taking into account the relevant WHO recommendations. You can read our comprehensive analysis of the EEAS situation, which includes a proposal for different phases based on the Commission’s action plan.

Generation 2004 seeks assurance that the same degree of protection will be offered to all staff regardless of either the geographic location of their place of employment or the institution to which they are administratively assigned. We still do not know how and when we will be able to resume business as usual and during these strange and complicated times, information and transparency must play a vital role to reassure staff.

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