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Will the most insecure employees (our contract agent colleagues) have to pay for the new Reform yet again? - 2013, June 24

Will the most insecure employees (our contract agent colleagues) have to pay for the new Reform yet again?

Will the most insecure employees (our contract agent colleagues) have to pay for the new Reform yet again?

The economy measures included in this new reform of the staff regulation will affect every single person working in the institutions.
The standards of salaries, careers, pensions and a great many additional factors (a levy of 6% to be paid by everybody) will all diminish.
This reform will come on top of yet further inequalities among the personnel and will increase the fragility of their units. A new generation of civil servants (2014) will emerge, and the insecurity of the contract agents will worsen. Indeed, many contract agents will find their financial situation becoming extremely complicated in the wake of this reform.
In its proposed amendment to the staff regulations as submitted by the Commission, the Council:
• rejects the internal competitions which are of  value to ALL contract agents, whether they have short contracts (3b) or open-ended contracts (3a), within the Commission as everywhere else;
• only agrees to the extension of 3-year contracts to 5 years for just half of the contract agents in the workplace at the time of the reform.

The Commission, still playing its part as the Community legislative initiative agent, has suggested that internal competitions be open to the contract agents. This example should be defended and should become the rule at European level. A favourable response is absolutely essential to meet the real needs of these agents.
As the new Reform is set in motion, we are calling for:
• the reopening of DGES negotiations for the contract agents;
• a financial review in the case of the contract agents on the lowest salaries;
• access to internal exams currently reserved solely for temporary agents;
• access to internal Commission exams for personnel (TA/CA) with the executive agencies (Commission offshoots);
• competitive exams for internal qualifications (promotion within the unit);
• a salary scale with more levels and hence greater opportunities for advancing from one grade to another and for promotions, along the lines of the system currently in place for the permanent civil servants;
• opportunities for transfers as is the case for the permanent civil servants, and as was promised during the previous DGES negotiations.

Situation:
Since 2004, contract agents (Personnel covered by staff regulations) have been as essential to the smooth running of the institutions as their colleagues, be they Temporary or Permanent, and hence form a part of the civil service. They are to be found in all departments. Most of them are working at permanent jobs, performing the same duties as their permanent civil service colleagues, although with inferior salaries and working conditions.
Their lack of security, a source of considerable savings, is acknowledged to be socially unacceptable. The individuals concerned feel ignored and undervalued. Some find that the fear of not being able to find another position, albeit in another institution, is hard to live with. For others, with open-ended contracts and hence vanishingly poor or even non-existent prospects of progress and advancement, effectiveness and job motivation are the first goals to achieve. This is the “butterfly effect”!
It should be remembered that there are a small number of contract agents currently working in the Council and the Parliament who have open-ended contracts (CA function I group).
In the Commission (offices, delegations, etc.) and in the agencies, there are over 8,000 contract agents of whom some 5,000 have open-ended contracts (CA 3a in the functions I / II/ III and IV groups).
This being the case, since it is in a different position from the Commission and the agencies, the Commission finds it difficult to measure the impact on the personnel of refusing to open up internal competitions to this sector.  How can these staff members ever launch themselves into truly professional existences if they are given no chance to improve their working conditions?
Salary levels for some staff grades, and the lack of any long-term prospects, particularly as regards opportunities to advance, are a constant worry, as their entire family and professional lives are at risk. In short, their situation is such that they can never achieve an appropriate standard of living and are unable to face the future with confidence. It is also becoming extremely difficult for single people (with or without children) to cope with even the most trivial unforeseen eventuality. They now have no margin of security to deal with some accident in their lives, however small. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, journalists, etc. etc. – none makes any distinction between the various categories of civil service staff!
Contract agents are scattered throughout the various institutions: in the Commission, in the offices/representations/delegations, certainly, but they are also to be found in the executive agencies (Commission offshoots) and the regulation agencies. Most of them certainly share the same expectations, but unfortunately not all are treated in the same way.
Staff in the executive agencies who are managed by seconded public servants hold contracts linked to the length of the life of the agency employing them. They do the work of their parent DG (for example: the seventh framework research programme (PC7)).
If internal competitions are extended to the contract agents, as proposed in the Commission plan, the staff at the executive agencies will be unable to take advantage, as they are not regarded as in-house personnel. In actual fact, the situation is that the temporary agents in these agencies do not have access to the Commission internal exams, which are reserved precisely for temporary staff (Ghiba F 10/11 ruling[1]).
Nor must we forget all the contract agents who felt obliged to leave our institutions, disappointed at not being able to stay any longer than the limit set down for the fixed-term contract! The situation is absurd, since extremely competent colleagues are being forced to leave their institutions solely on the grounds of ludicrous staff regulations. The departure of these agents does their department no favours and smacks of bad management. Wanting to work on past the three years as laid down should not be prohibited, particularly if their position is now taken over by a fresh contract agent who will also, when his time comes, simply fade away.
To plead for working conditions matching those of other open-ended contracts can hardly be seen as a passing fancy. “Pass an exam,” some say. What good advice! But how, when the number of exams is falling (or disappearing) for some grades; if the number of graduates is a tiny fraction of the number of registered candidates; and if not all grades are supplied with suitable exams?
Contract agents who have been doing their jobs for years have already demonstrated their ability to perform in the institutions. Not only have they achieved at least a CAST and a panel, but they have also undergone a long trial period and are now fully trained. On these grounds they ask that their skills and their work be recognised by allowing them to fully take their place through the internal Public Service entrance competitions.
Everybody would like to be a “civil servant” to be able to enjoy the security guarantees which are provided by this type of job. So what lies behind the trend towards contracting everything out, as is the case in some countries? It is just to save money?
Outsourcing the European civil service will only increase these feelings of insecurity and further destroy any confidence in our future. This is dreaded not just by staff, but by the citizens of Europe themselves. Every individual would like to have a stable job in which they can grow and develop in a way which is of benefit to society. Everybody needs to be able to believe in a better future for all, and defending the model of an independent, competent and permanent civil service strikes an optimistic note for all workers in search of an ideal model as far as employment is concerned. Not to mention the fact that the European Union preaches to the Member States what it fails to apply within its own institutions, since its behaviour is in breach of Directive 99/70/EC[2].


[1] Ghiba F 10/11 ruling:  [1] Ghiba F 10/11 ruling:  “The result is that the applicant, in his/her capacity as an agent of the REA, cannot be regarded as forming part of the personnel of the Commission or the “associated departments” within the meaning of section III, point 2, under a), in the opinion on examinations.”

(2) Directive 99/70/EC of the Council, June 28 1999, concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work.


 

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