Under the constellation of precariousness


Under the constellation of precariousness

Agora #87

Job insecurity can be characterised by a limited or uncertain duration of the contract or by the low level of remuneration or by a combination of both

The case of the Court of Justice

Job insecurity can be characterised by a limited or uncertain duration of the contract or by the low level of remuneration or by a combination of both. Two types of contracts provided for in the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants (“CEOS”) are of interest to the Court of Justice: temporary staff (“TS“) and contract staff (“CS“). The landscape of precariousness was overhauled by the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations, one of the major innovations of which was the creation of CS. A few more changes were introduced in 2014.

Remuneration: While TS are classified under the same grid as officials, CS are classified under a separate, much less advantageous grid. They are less well off financially, although at least some of them perform the same functions as officials. Each of these two types of contracts is in turn broken down into further subgroups with essential differences.

Temporary Staff

Three of the six cases listed in Article 2 of the CEOS are applicable to the Court of Justice.
  • (a): Since it is about filling a post described in the establishment plan as a ‘temporary post’, contracts can be granted for an indefinite period (in FR ‘CDI‘). This allows a limited number of posts to be discreetly granted to specific profiles, difficult to find via EPSO open competitions.
  • (b): It is about occupying a ‘permanent post’ Since such budgetary posts are intended for the recruitment of officials, TS cannot be placed there with a permanent contract. The total period of engagement cannot last more than 6 years.
  • (c): This involves filling temporary posts in the chambers of Members of the Court of Justice or the General Court (judges, advocates general, registrars). Article 8 of the CEOS provides that the appointment “shall be engaged for an indefinite period”. But …

Staff in Member’ Chambers

All posts in the Members’ chambers (legal secretaries, judgment readers, assistants) are temporary, in terms of budget. These may be filled by officials seconded to the Court Member in the interests of the service. Otherwise, they are filled by (c) temporary staff, with a contract “concluded for an indefinite period, but limited to the duration of the term of office” of the Member. [1]

Although it is often the case that the staff member can continue his or her career with the same or another judge, there is no guarantee of this.

Judges and Advocates General of the Court of Justice and the General Court “freely choose the staff of their chambers on the basis of a relationship of mutual trust established between the member and the successful candidate”. [2]

Unlike the careers of officials in the various departments of the institution, the progression of chamber’s staff is automatic and predetermined by instruments that have not been published. One would think that there would be no room for competition between colleagues. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and incompatibility of temperament may result in the ejection of someone who has lost the confidence of his or her judge, without further ado.

[1] There is also a greater geographical imbalance in the Members’ chambers, due to the fact that the working language is French.

[2] Read d’Lëtzebuerger Land of 08.10.2021, Dominique Seytre, Adopte un référendaire.

Contract Staff

CS, created with the 2004 major reform in order to make savings to the budget, are of two types, each designed for a different purpose:
  • Some (Article 3a of the CEOS) are normally entrusted with tasks of a permanent nature, which are no longer reserved for officials (non-core tasks). At the Court of Justice, these belong exclusively to function group (FG(‘manual or administrative support service tasks’).
  • The others (Article 3b of the CEOS), known as ‘contract staff for auxiliary tasks‘ (in FR ‘ACA’), replace officials who are ‘unable for the time being to perform their duties‘, for a maximum period of 6 years. Having succeeded the auxiliary staff of the pre-2004 Staff Regulations, they serve to ensure the continuity of the service. They belong to all FGs except FG I.

3a CS

The ‘3 bis‘ can count on a certain job stability (access to a permanent contract) and on a modest career development over 3 grades. In Luxembourg, their remuneration is often below the Luxembourg Social Minimum Wage (in FR ‘SSM’). It should be noted that EPSU-CJ has negotiated a method of paying a pay supplement to the SSM in force in the host country.

Chauffeurs working for the Members of the Court of Justice and the General Court face the same disadvantage as all the staff of the chambers: their ‘indefinite period’ contract is in fact limited to the duration of the Member’s term of office. This also applies to drivers at the General Court, despite the fact that they are not personally linked to a Member, but are grouped together in a pool attached to the President (see letter from EPSU-CJ).

3b CS

ACAs are employed, often alternating with TS contracts, to cover permanent service needs. The rationale for this form of employment has been undermined by the 5% reduction in staffing levels, followed by a period of stagnation in staffing levels, combined with an explosion in workload. Precarious employment is on the increase, while permanent needs require permanent jobs. Staff sometimes have to wait until the end of their contract to find out whether it will be extended or not.

A particularly precarious case of employment is that of the reception guides, hired at FG II for 60% of working time, for a period not exceeding 6 years, to cover permanent needs of the institution.

There is an explanation for the impossibility of granting a permanent contract to 3b CS: if permanent contracts were allowed to be concluded for all functions, officials’ jobs would give way to the much cheaper 3b CS contracts. There is no such risk for FG I, which does not have a counterpart in the Staff Regulations (the former category D was dropped with the 2004 reform).

The importance that workers attach to job stability is such that they are prepared to take a FG I contract even if they are under-classified for the tasks they perform, which correspond to FG II, whose contracts are limited to a period of 6 years. The only remedy to this anomaly would be to create permanent posts for permanent needs. However, this comes up against the stagnation of jobs inspired by a policy of budgetary austerity.

Finally, the 2014 reform opened a narrow window for the admission of ACAs to internal competitions.

A parallel world

Finally, it should be recalled that, from the very beginning of the negotiations on the reform which took effect in 2004, the D category of officials was already declared dead. The real dilemma that remained to be solved was to choose between a public law, Community-law contract and the outsourcing of whole sections of activities coveted by private interests (e.g., mail and transport). We sided with the former. Others, hiding their elitist spirit under a radical “anti-reform” garb, would have preferred privatisation, which would not require any reform of the Staff Regulations. We are still suffering from this mentality.

The fact remains that a large number of external, Luxembourg-law employees, whom we come across every day, are necessary for the running of the institution (security, catering, cleaning, maintenance, IT helpdesk and others). A social reality, sometimes more vulnerable, sometimes more stable, but with no say in the workplace we share.


Sharing experience, building solidarity

The defence of precarious workers also depends on the solidarity of those who have statutory or guaranteed employment. And, as our union’s motto suggests, solidarity, if it is not to go up in smoke, requires union structures, which we invite you to join.

Vassilis Sklias


Secretary-General of EPSU-CJ

Jimmy Stryhn-Meyer


EPSU-CJ President