Who represents the staff and for how long: Staff representatives secondments and the 6-year rule

Existing rules provide for the Commission to ensure sufficient resources for staff representation activities. This includes a number of reserved posts outside of the DGs dedicated for full-time staff representation activities – the so-called detachments or secondments. At present, there is a well justified limit to a maximum of 6 years to occupy such a post after which one must return to a regular job in a DG (There is no limit to how many times you may be elected as Staff representative though!). There are in total 41 Full Time Equivalents available for staff representation secondments, distributed to each staff organisation proportionally to the percentage of votes received in staff elections (only the organisations that pass the 5% threshold benefit from these secondments, which explains why organisations tend to merge just before the elections).

Surprise, surprise! Some staff representatives have been seconded forever, nobody has seen them in a DG this century! DG HR turns a blind eye on those switching from so-called statutory secondments and union secondments. This way, the lucky beneficiaries can spend 6 years on the first type of secondment then 6 years on the second type and then revert back … forever. Those who can’t benefit from union secondments are now reaching the 6-year limit and are getting nervous. Nervous enough to request that the issue be discussed with Commissioner Oettinger in person and ask the rule to be abolished!

As a result, a meeting with the Commissioner and staff representatives took place on 19 September with the 6 years rule featuring first on the agenda.

Generation 2004 feels we owe colleagues some feedback from that meeting.

First of all, the meeting never got to the second agenda point and the majority of the meeting was devoted to the secondments of staff representatives. Generation 2004 made one clear intervention on the topic – the 6 year rule should stay!

Rotations are imposed in many services of the Commission, so why not in the staff representation? We argued that it is important for staff representatives to stay in touch with the services. However, we suggested to the Commissioner that there is a need to revamp the notion of work in the interest of the service, even in exchange for concessions on the number of secondments.

At the end of the meeting, at the demand of most staff organisations (with the obvious exception of G2004) Commissioner Oettinger proposed to suspend the application of the 6-year rule for 6 months, subject to approval by College. In the meantime, he invited DG HR and the staff representation to prepare a joint paper with proposals for a reform of the Staff Representation. Another meeting with Commissioner Oettinger is foreseen to take stock of progress in January 2018.

Generation 2004 considers that the issue deserves a wide and transparent discussion. This is why, notwithstanding the accusations of populism, we will shortly launch a survey amongst all Commission staff. Meanwhile, if you have views or ideas, including radical ones, feel free to contact us. We will compile your proposals and feed them into the discussion with the hope that some of the proposals make their way to the joint paper.

Reminder: Generation 2004 has a very strong position on this point. Bringing staff representation closer to staff (including through strict application of the 6-years rule) was an essential element of our platform in the 2015 Brussels elections and 25% of colleagues supported it. Therefore, we feel democratically mandated to defend the 6 years rule which make sure that at least once every 6 years those who represent you will be put in the same shoes as any other regular staff member and will not become part of a closed class of “professional syndicalists” who have lost sight of reality.

[*] Update 08.06.2021: HR is now trying to apply this 6-year limitation.

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