Editorial Agora #87

Editorial Agora #87

Agora #87

In this new Agora 87 on precariousness, Frances McFadden and Isabelle Gossart tell us how they too have experienced precariousness, each in their own way.

I must have been 20 years old when I first started to work. I remember my mix of fear and excitement at the prospect of going to work in Paris. Coming from a small village on the west coast of Ireland, Paris held the promise of adventure, a chance to practice my French and build a career. I had a job lined up and the promise of accommodation, or so I thought. Once there, the reality turned out to be quite different. I had to find alternative accommodation within the first week and navigating the local administrative hurdles was an education in itself. Où est votre visa Madame? the police agent asked, looking at my EU passport, when I attempted to register as a new arrival. I was far from home, alone and starting my career in a new country.

New colleagues face similar challenges. We can all remember what it feels like to start out and we can empathise with colleagues whose contracts are fixed with no guarantee of renewal. The isolation of the first months can be tough at a time when you most need advice navigating the new work environment and the local administrative paperwork. Feelings of uncertainty, the stress of not knowing if you are going to cope.

Having access to a network of people willing to advise you is essential and it is what Union Syndicale is all about.

My experiences led me to become a member of Union Syndicale. I keep with me my memories of what it was like starting out, the difficulties encountered the deep friendships built along the way but also the richness of the experiences to which I have had the privilege all because I took the road less travelled.


Frances McFadden

About the author

Frances is an AST who has worked in various areas of the Council of European Union since she joined in 2000, including External Relations, Training and IT. She is currently the Chair of the Staff Committee.

Dear colleague,

As you read this text, written by an official who has been working in the European institutions for 19 years, please do not think that it is devoid of empathy towards our colleagues who are contract agents (CA) or temporary agents (TA), quite the contrary!

Looking at precariousness brings to my mind the time when I myself started to work at the European Commission via a temping agency, with a contract that ended every Friday, with no certainty that it would be extended for the following week.

It is hard to plan family life when you are on a weekly schedule and have two small children to look after…

And now you hear that your Directorate General is going to restructure: what will happen to me? Will I be needed somewhere? At this stage, you have to take the plunge, run to the human resources manager and offer your services, accept a position below your qualifications, for one year but which at least allows you to remain in the Directorate-General with an auxiliary agent contract (now know as contract agent).

It is difficult at this stage to plan the purchase of a house with a one-year fixed-term contract, as the banks do not accept your file… Then your one-year contract is renewed for another year, then another year…

During this period of stress and uncertainty, you know that you have to

study and prepare for a competition, the only way to have any stability in the European institutions. You have to work long hours, because you know that if you not excel, there are plenty of people waiting at the door of human resources to replace you…

Dear colleague, if you are among these temporary and contract agents, you should know that, as civil servants, our hearts are with you and that if we have joined a trade union it is to influence the recruitment policy of our institutions, which is focused on profitability and not on the human side…

I am where I am, but I do not forget that I have been where you are!

With kind regards,


Isabelle gossart

A propos de l’auteur

I am a communication assistant at the Staff Committee within the Council of the European Union, since September 2021. I studied translation but I have never worked in this sector. After my Master’s degree, I graduated in political science and international relations. I have been working for 10 years at the Commission as a legislative coordinator and since 2010, mainly in the Council, in public procurement. In September I decided to start a three-year qualification course to become a photographer.