The following summary shows how much we have achieved and how much we were able to defend and keep. However, in a world where globalisation induces salary cuts and unemployment it is impossible to completely isolate ourselves and stay immune from change.There are times when we have to make some concessions because we are temporarily too weak or because lacking unity among staff unnecessarily weakensus.
However, under the guidance of Union Syndicale, EU staff has over time achieved considerable improvements and has been able to defend almost all essential items.
Among the three big families of international organisations (EU Institutions and agencies, Coordinated Organisations and United Nations) the European Union staff still enjoys the best conditions of work and the highest salaries.
Knowing that EU Member States wanted to scrap the pay adjustment method some 45 years ago and that we not only managed to keep it but that it is in the Staff Regulations until agreement on a new one is reached is an almost unbelievable success story. The same is true of the 16% expatriation allowance which Member States wanted to abolish some 40 years ago and which we were able to keep.
But what we achieved did not fall from heaven
It is the result of long and tough strikes and all kinds of industrial action, of successful negotiations conducted by talented and knowledgeable trade unionists. And we stand to lose much of our achievements if we do not resist the pressure from Member States and if we do not resort to industrial action when needed and if trade unions fight each other instead of fighting those Member States who attack our salaries and working conditions.
New colleagues often seem to take everything for granted or think that everything is due to the employer’s generosity. Even in the past when strikes took place almost exclusively at the Council, colleagues of other Institutions believed that everything fell from heaven and that they did not need to participate in any actions.
Like any real trade union with its members’ interests at heart, Union Syndicale concerns itself first and foremost with their working and living conditions, both material and non-material.
The first salary conflicts and industrial action took place at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s and lead to the adoption of the first pay adjustment methods in 1972 and 1976. Those methods were similar to the present-day method but technically less elaborate. For the purpose of pay adjustment, the European Statistical Office EUROSTAT calculates the inflation rate for European staff based at Brussels (and Luxembourg) and the average rate of increase or decrease of purchasing power in the civil services of Member States and applies those two factors to existing salaries.
Member States found the results to be too favourable and swore each time that no new method would be “granted”.
In the 1960s strikes and other kinds of industrial action were concentrated at the Commission. Since 1981 all industrial action has focussed on the Council which seemed logical to some extent because it was Member States that either terminated an existing method or refused to negotiate or agree on a new one.
In 1981the Council solemnly declared that the old method would be terminated once and for all and that there would never be a new method again. It took 6 months of industrial action forUnion Syndicale to achieve a 10 year method. In return for the long duration staff had to accept a relatively modest crisis levy (net effect: -3,5%). But weekly working hours were reduced from 40 to 37,5 without any reduction in pay.This amounted to an indirect pay increase of 6.25%.In 1991it took 4,5 months of industrial action to achieve an equivalent solution. In 2001 the method was extended for 2 years and within the framework of the 2004 reform it was extended for another 8 years.
The 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations
Most trade unions practiced an empty chair policy which caused UnionSyndicale to negotiate the reform almost alone. The result was a compromise in which starting salaries and pension entitlements were reduced and the door was more widely opened to precarious jobs. But the positive results far outweigh the negative ones.