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40 Hours…Every minute counts! - 2014, February 13

40 Hours…Every minute counts!

40 Hours… Every minute counts!

Timesheets are used in many Member States. They are used to record overtime (flexitime), but above all, in some cases, to check that their staff actually works the required number of hours. A question of discipline to avoid abuses!
But what is the real aim of this new rule? After more than 50 years of existence, we have suddenly decided to start using timesheets in our institutions. Have we all taken advantage of the system over all this time? At a time when new information and communication technologies have become part and parcel of our everyday lives, this type of timesheet system seems obsolete and needs to be adapted.
Since timesheet management has started to be introduced in the services, personal testimonies have started to arrive: with computers running slowly at start-up, lifts that are often crowded and slow, being late unintentionally, etc., the stress to be on time and above all to leave on time (public transport) is huge!

Work/life balance… but what about social life? Must staff choose between the two in order to use their flexitime hours?
As flexitime is above all a tool to reconcile professional and personal lives, staff are currently asked to choose between one and the other. Following the application of the new Staff Regulations, staff has to arrive early in the morning or finish late in the evening in order to complete their 40 hours per week. An extended lunch break would rapidly erode their hard-earned flexitime hours.

The “lunch” break which, previously, was a nice opportunity to take a break, catch up with (old) workmates, etc. has become a mad dash!
It is only possible to eat in a Commission restaurant in 30 minutes if you eat on your own and keep your head down to avoid speaking with other people and if, of course, the restaurant is not too crowded.
If you wish to visit a site where meals are more affordable, between travel time, queuing (often long queues depending on how busy the site is) and the time needed to eat, you need at least one hour a day to eat outside. This is not something that you can do on a regular basis, especially with the risk of finding yourself very quickly “in the red” as regards working hours.

Have professional relations between colleagues during the lunch break become a luxury?
Who has never lunched with (old) colleagues? Often to discuss work over lunch, which facilitates working relations. At a time when the Commission is investing in training to promote well-being at work, and also organising teambuilding exercises, away days and other training exercises to improve staff relations, the increase in working time to 40 hours is counter-productive. In order to avoid sacrificing precious minutes, everyone will stay at their desk, and very few staff members will use their flexitime hours for a lunch break with colleagues. Over the long term, these relations are at risk of becoming non-existent for staff members (daily routine of commuting and work!).

Work more and earn less!
In addition to this race against the clock, the new Staff Regulations (reduction/abolition of travel expenses, leave days; salary freeze; non-indexation; 40 hours (with, into the bargain, checks on working time)) and rule changes (lost “meal” discount) have imposed additional constraints on staff.
Working even harder to earn less! Staff will need to spend more time at work, and the personal lives will be even more intense in terms of household tasks and family duties, with less time available to spend on these activities. Over the long term, staff members may very quickly find themselves physically and mentally exhausted. This combination of fatigue and stress could result in lengthy periods of absence (burnout, sickness, etc.). Long live social progress in our institutions!

Suggestions

Conf-SFE suggests that DG HR should create, as is the case with internal training, without a reduction of working time, an additional option in Sysper 2 which would allocate a bonus of at least 3 hours (desirable and basis for discussion) per month for staff, which they could devote at their convenience to professional relations between colleagues.
Conf-SFE calls on DG HR to open a dialogue concerning the application of the 40 hours.

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