We said it all along; now it is official: EU officials unhappy

For several years, Generation2004 has been pointing out that something is not working well with how EU institutions are treating their own staff.  Along the way, we have consistently proposed constructive solution to reverse the path towards unhappiness of staff. However, it looks like the “establishment”, with support of some staff organisations doesn’t see the same and proceeds with its own agenda serving personal interests and personal egos.  We believe however, that staff should be treated differently and, most importantly, it should be listened to. Needless to say, but most of our claims have been disregarded throughout time.

Thankfully though, it is no longer necessary to blindly believe what Generation 2004 says. Recently, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) issued a damning report on the result of 2014 reform where it concluded that huge savings – well beyond the goals set by the legislator – came at a real cost and rather negative impact for staff. We not only agree but we take the opportunity to reassert our long-standing position. How can we explain the increase of unhappiness among EU officials? How can we explain the growth of sick leave numbers? How can we explain loss of purchasing power? How can we explain millions of unpaid and lost overtime hours? Finally yet importantly, how can we explain a rather obvious loss of attractiveness of the EU Civil Service?  To us there is no reasonable explanation. However, we are well aware that our Administration only looks at any positive results in the staff surveys, no matter how dim, to show there are no problems, while sticking their heads in the sand regarding the blatantly negative aspects of our work environment.  Are they in denial? We have always believed so. Now we have the evidence!

The full report is 60 pages long but here are some of the highlights.

One does not need to delve too deep into the document to get its overall tone. Right on its cover page, the second part of the title reads “Big savings but not without consequences for staff”. We believe it to be self-explanatory…

Savings

The 2014 reform delivered significant savings up to 4.2 billion euro to the EU budget (Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020). It is also estimated that this number is going to increase in the long term.

In more detail, the projection of savings related to pay and pension shows that the results of the 2014 reform are well beyond the perspective of the current MFF.

The 2014 reform brought not only more than necessary saving (we cannot stress this enough) but it also had a huge impact on human resources. The ECA report took a close look at how the EU Institutions’ HR policies affected the distribution of staff by function group and grade, gender balance, age profile, number of contract vs. permanent staff as well as the attractiveness of the European Civil Service employment conditions.

Gender balance and function group distribution

As we already knew, there are serious issues to be addressed: not only there is a unwelcome gender gap as career progress is made, but we also got confirmation that last year’s Generation 2004 dubbed Mexican army is more than real.

It is also more than clear that   AST category is shrinking and AD category is gaining. The Generation2004 is pointing that out for last couple of years.

An ageing workforce

At the same time, we face the reality of an ageing workforce, which may bring problems ahead.

Why is this the case? Generation 2004 strongly believes this is because the EU institutions are no longer the attractive employers they once were.

Decline of job satisfaction

The negative consequences on staff and the decline of job satisfaction are also pointed out in the report.

The report addresses the decline in job satisfaction by pointing out ubiquitous concerns of increased workload and links this to an increased sickness rate. In some DGs there were increases of over 50% on the average number of days spent on medical leave.

Salaries and purchasing power

A negative evolution of purchasing power is always a very negative event and surely not something that makes staff happy.

Geographical balance

Geographical balance among staff is also addressed and, as expected it show an imbalance. The report concludes that this is related to changes in the conditions of employment, which have reduced the attractiveness of the EU civil service for some nationalities; notably Germany, France and The Netherlands.

Conclusions

Among other aspects, the report concludes the commission should have better prepared the 2014 package, and continues to say this would have helped limit its negative impact. It further underlines the financial targets were the priority in detriment of how these would affect staff.

Generation 2004 strongly believe this whole situation could have been avoided. However, we also add the old adage: “better late than ever” and we call on the Commission to:

  1. Stop playing with people to save a buck,
  2. Immediately address the situation and
  3. Implement the ECA’s report’s recommendations:
    • Develop a workforce management plan
    • Enhance the framework for monitoring and reporting on HR issues
    • Assess needs and potential impacts before any further revision of the Staff Regulation

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