Solidarity is Our DNA

Solidarity is Our DNA

Agora #91
38 - 49

Four days of intense discussions that led to the adoption of several resolutions, but also a pleasant occasion to talk informally to new – and not so new – colleagues from other sections from around Europe.

16th Congress Diary

Time flies and four years have already gone by since we met in Bratislava, Slovakia in 2019.

Therefore, here it is a great occasion worth to be noted. From May 6 through May 9, 2023, around 70 delegates from all the member organisations of USF met in the Spanish city of Alicante for the 16th Congress of our federation.

Four days of intense discussions that led to the adoption of several resolutions, but also a pleasant occasion to talk informally to new – and not so new – colleagues from other sections from around Europe during the breaks and to catch up with friends, whom you have not seen for a long time. It took place in the NH hotel, where also some of the delegates were staying, the remaining staying in the nearby AC hotel.


The first day was dedicated to the more formal aspects. Nicolas Mavraganis, president of USF, opened the congress and welcomed the delegates. After the approval of the Mandates board’s report, the congress went on to elect the congress bureau: Dirk Dobbelaere (SUEPO Hague), Laura Bechi (IUE) and Jimmy Stryhn Meyer (EPSU-CJ), and to adopt the agenda. It was decided that the two points, Trade Unions at the EP and Democracy at work, raised respectively by Urszula Mojkowska, president of USPE, and Carlos Bowles, chair of the ECB Staff Committee, would be dealt with in the working group on the future of our trade union.

The congress was also addressed by several persons from local and European level: Antonio Peral Villar (fourth deputy mayor and counsellor to the presidency of the City Council of Alicante), Nadja Salson (European Public Service Union (EPSU) Representative – Policy Staff for National and European Administration, Prisons services, Tax, Defence), Brando Benifei (a member of the European Parliament and Vice-President of the European Movement International (EMI) – the intervention was introduced by a presentation on EMI by Roberto Righetti), Mayte Montaner Soria (Secretary General of the Public Service Federation of the Unión General de Trabajadores del País Valenciano (UGT PV), Ismael Sáez Vaquero (General Secretary of UGT PV) and Domenèc Ruiz Devesa (MEP).

Nicolas Mavraganis and Niels Bracke, vice-president of USF, quickly commented on the activity report 2019-2023 which deals with the strengthening of the federal identity, the modernisation of the trade union’s communication, the fight against harassment and the strengthening of our presence and influence in the EPSU, the Public Service International (PSI) and the EU agencies. Without surprise, the way of working had to be adapted to the circumstances created by the pandemic. The report was approved and so were the report of the auditors and the discharge to the Federal Committee.

The first day finished with the affiliations and radiations. The USF family was increased by two new member organisations, namely SUEPO Vienna and the newly founded US EASA (Cologne, Germany). At the same time, we lost two other organisations: The Staff Association of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States had ceased to exist after the dismissal of all executive members and the radiation was approved unanimously. The radiation of European School Bergen was also approved. Finally, the congress did not approve the proposal to radiate the US Karlsruhe, which therefore remains a member organisation, although not active.


The second day only had a morning session consisting of various working groups, thus giving the delegates an opportunity to get out of the hotel and explore the city of Alicante and the surrounding areas in the afternoon.

The session started with an introduction to the themes of the working groups between which the delegates could choose.

Isidoros Tsouros (USB) introduced the first working group on Agencies. The decentralisation of Agencies is causing various problems across Agencies depending on the local administration. A resolution will be prepared: people should be given the means to do their work.

Monica Ermolli (US-Ispra) introduced the second working group on the health insurance scheme. Through an exchange of information on the different situations in health insurance, we should move towards a common understanding. .

The third working group on digitalisation was introduced by Peter Kempen (SUEPO Berlin) and Nadja Salson. The European Agreement between EPSU and central (national) administration of October 2022 will be discussed with respect to the draft resolution to apply this agreement also to the European and international organisations.

And finally, Juan Pedro Perez-Escanilla (USB) introduced the fourth working group, on the future of our trade union. How should the trade union adapt its structure, ways of working and objectives considering the huge transformation of the working conditions, working from home, teleworking, etc.? And what about democracy at work?

After a 2-hour break out, the working groups reported to the congress. Already at this stage, there was a request to give the digitalisation working group a permanent character at the federal level, as waiting for the next Congress would be too late. The evolution of digitalisation will continue at a high speed and have a huge impact on the way of working in our organisations. It was also suggested to have a working group on the future of our trade union as well as a suggestion to dedicate an Agora issue to democracy at work.


The day started with the discussion on the financial rules of USF, a subject which is not normally treated at a congress, but the outgoing federal committee had decided that the modifications were to be adopted during the Congress. Bernd Loescher (USB) presented the proposals.

The first proposal was to reduce the annual contribution from 33 to 31 euro per member starting in 2024. After some discussion, the proposal was accepted by a large majority. The second proposal related to the introduction of a clause to adapt contribution rates in case of high inflation. The vote was very tight, but the proposal was finally rejected. And last, a proposal that an extraordinary budget could be allocated in case of unforeseen emergency. This budget cannot exceed 10% of the yearly budget of the federation. It was adopted by a large majority.

In the morning session, the delegates also discussed three draft resolutions on sustainability, on working conditions and on salary adaptation. All of them were to be redrafted and presented to the Congress for approval in the afternoon session.

During this session, the resolution on digitalisation, with amendments, was adopted by a large majority. The resolution on internal training with amendments was unanimously adopted. And so was the amended resolution on ecological transition and sustainability. The three resolutions on the agencies, health insurance and working conditions were postponed until the closing session.

The day ended with a vote on the number of seats in the Federal Committee. The acceptance of two new member organisations and the radiation of two organisations as well as the adjustments due to an increase or a decrease in the number of members in certain organisations resulted in a proposal to increase the number of seats from 38 to 41. The proposal was adopted by a large majority with only one abstention.


The last day of the Congress also being Europe Day, the first session was opened with the European Hymn.

The three resolutions, sent back for further redrafting the previous day, are presented and all adopted with further amendments. A proposal for a resolution on the European Parliament was sent to the Federal Committee for further discussion and, possibly, adoption. In fact, the draft had only been submitted during the congress, i.e. after the deadline, and, furthermore, it was impossible to discuss any amendments to the draft, as the authors had already left Alicante.

An information paper on the future of the trade union was presented. The working group will continue to work on it and present it to the federal committee at a later stage.

Finally, the congress elected a new conflicts board consisting of Colin Robertson (USB), Andreas Mantzouratos (USPE), Magali Collignon (USF Lux), Thierry Lacour (USB), Giovanna Riano (IUE) and Mercedes Janssen-Cases. [1]

It also elected a new Audit Board consisting of Agnès Lahaye (USB), Marion Wams (USPE) and Christian Schaeffler (SUEPO Berlin).

And with those elections the congress came to an end and was officially closed by the president, Nicolas Mavraganis.


[1] The subsequent nomination of Mercedes Janssen-Cases and Thierry Lacour to the Federal Committee, and their accepting hereof, implies their tacit resignation from the conflicts board.


The closure of the congress marked the end of a 4-year mandate (2019-2023) and at the same time the beginning of a new 4-year mandate (2023-2027). The resolutions adopted by the congress will constitute the basis for the work program of the new Federal Committee, which met on July 1 in Brussels to elect the president, the secretary general, the treasurer and the bureau.

Whereas five of the six resolutions addresses general issues that do not depend directly on USF, the resolution on an internal trade union education program relies only on the new Bureau and Federal Committee “to provide an ambitious tailor-made education program” for trade union officials and activists. It has become important to put in place such an educational program as we are amidst a generational change and many new officials are emerging.
Although the resolution on ecological transition and sustainability at work may not have concrete goals to achieve, it does address an urgent issue for mankind and urges employers to implement a holistic approach to ecological transition and sustainability through social dialogue. In its own actions, USF should also adopt the same holistic approach as well as provide training for its activists on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The resolution on health care concerns access to healthcare and the cost of such health care. The revision of the ceilings is to be followed by our members in the Sickness Insurance Management Committee. As the situation regarding access to healthcare and the cost vary a lot from one member state to another, it will be up to the local organisations to follow the concrete implementation and eventually bring any difficulties to the attention of the Federal Committee.

Precariousness, privatisation, work-life balance, equal work – equal pay, wage tension, social security and staff participation are issues dealt with in the resolution on working conditions and may have an important impact on the work of the Federal Committee and Bureau in the coming years. It will probably also become rather urgent with the perspective of a new reform of the Staff Regulations and the CEOS of the EU.

The staff in the Agencies are often confronted with problems, which are either unknown to colleagues working in the bigger institutions in Belgium and Luxembourg or are of completely different proportions, for instance regarding social dialogue. The resolution contains a whole catalogue of issues that need to be addressed by the relevant bodies of Union Syndicale, first and foremost framework agreements with the Agencies and in the context of the social dialogue, which should result from the conclusion of these agreements, issues like career perspectives, mobility, precarious contract staff, transparency, teleworking, etc.

Finally, the congress urges the implementation of the “European Framework Agreement of European Social Dialogue Committee for Central Government Administrations (SDC-CGA) on Digitalisation” into the various legal orders where USF affiliates are present and claims that the Agreement be enacted as a European Directive under Articles 151-155 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU. The implementation constraints in the agreement should be read as the congress’s claims related to digitalisation.

All the resolutions can be consulted on the website of USF. They constitute a full-work program for the mandate 2023-2027, so let us get started.


Jimmy Sthryn-Meyer

About The Author

President of EPSU-CJ