ECB´s fundamental governance flaw
To answer this question, we have to go back to the heart of ECB´s governance. While the Maastricht Treaty transferred the monetary policy competence to the European Central Bank, there were strings attached to it, namely that the control of the institution would remain in the hands of the National Central Banks (NCBs) . Each of them would indeed have a share of the capital of the European Central Bank, granting them a corresponding decision-making power over its budget and staffing. Somehow, this compares to a situation where the central entity is controlled by its subsidiaries. Beyond the six members of the ECB´s Executive Board, the ECB Governing Council is composed of the Governors of the National Central Banks whose countries belong to the euro area. Whereas such Governors are expected to keep the interest of the Euro area as a whole in mind – and therefore, that of the ECB – they are de facto also in charge of defending the interest of their own central banks or countries. And here comes a crucial conflict of interests: the more the ECB grows, the more the National Central Banks shrink. In the same vein, NCBs compete with the ECB in the labour market to attract and retain talents. The more positions available at the ECB level, the more competition for them.
Overall, this conflict of interest developed into creating a significant understaffing situation for the ECB, which materialised by the imposition of a headcount cap by President Trichet in 2004, set independently of the ECB´s business needs. This headcount cap constituted the root of many evils, as business needs continued to grow – and even more so when the financial crisis hit in 2008. The ECB therefore had to find creative ways to overcome the resource limitations. One way was to request ECB staff to perform overtime on a structural basis. Another way was to engage in off-balance-sheet hiring, leading to the exponential growth of non-standard forms of employment such as temporary contracts, agency staff, and consultants, which also had an impact on the increase of psychosocial risks.
IPSO explained these governance flaws and their consequences at length in an open letter sent to NCB Governors in March 2015. The European Court of Auditors also argued along the same lines, when challenging the understaffing of the Banking Supervision in their 2016 report , and the follow-up they made in 2023.
There is however another level of governance flaw that also contributed to the understaffing situation. It relates to the extra-territorial nature of the ECB. According to this, the ECB is not bound by the legal framework of the host country as regards labour law. Instead, the ECB has been granted full legislative power. We are therefore in a situation where the employer is also the legislator. Besides, the lawmakers (that is: our NCB governors) have no democratic accountability towards the citizens that will be bound by their decisions (that is: ECB staff). ECB staff cannot outvote their lawmakers, simply because they are not elected! Governors are not even available to talk to ECB staff representatives – and no provisions exist which would foresee that regular meeting could take place between both parties. In a nutshell, the ECB was granted by the Treaty (drafted by NCB Governors) a joker card that no federation of employers would ever dream of having in Europe. This means that, whenever there is a need to balance the contradicting interests of the employer and the employees, the legislator is by default taking the side of the employer because the legislator and the employer are the same body. On that basis, many of the features of the ECB legal framework do not encompass protections that are normally available to workers at the national level.
This governance flaw was particularly visible when it came to overtime management. Indeed, ECB staff were expected to perform overtime on a structural basis, beyond the working hours foreseen in their contract, and without any form of compensation. The argumentation used at the time was that ECB staff salaries were “all-inclusive”  . No system of time measurement was in place. For a staff member willing to challenge this situation, no provision in the Staff Rules was available for them to bring the claim in an internal appeal. The so-called EU Directive on Working Time was in principle binding towards the ECB, but it was not implemented. In any case, the Directive was regulating working time going beyond 48 hours per week on average, but was silent about the obligation to compensate for the overtime performed between the weekly 40 hours foreseen in our contracts and the 48 hours of which the Directive kicked in.
 It is worthwhile flagging that the Maastricht Treaty was prepared by the Governors themselves, first in the so-called Committee of Governors and later in the so-called Delors Committee. When looking at the history of the statutes of the European Central Bank, it is therefore not surprising to see that their proposed approach was tiled towards retaining decision-making powers for themselves. This might have been at the time a necessary evil to secure their buy-in. Twenty-five years later, this approach has showed its limit as it essentially plays as a break towards the good functioning of our European institution.
 This is the wording used by Ms Tumpel-Gugerell, the Executive Board member in charge of Human Resources between 2003 and 2011.