Union Syndicale Fédérale Luxembourg

Union Syndicale Fédérale Luxembourg

Agora #91
31 - 34

USF is not only a Union Federation, it’s a ‘communauté d’esprit’ and I would even dare to say a ‘communauté de destin’

By and thanks to Union Syndicale Fédérale

A conversation with Nicolas Mavraganis and Arty Kyramarios

USF is not only a Union Federation, it’s a ‘communauté d’esprit’ and I would even dare to say a ‘communauté de destin’

What is the history of your member organisation?

Nicolas: It’s a bit negative but with a positive outcome. We are based at the Commission in Luxembourg. Most active members of our Union left a previous member organisation of USF (Union Syndicale Luxembourg) when USL decided to leave USF and join another Federation called Alliance. Some of us were in fact excluded from voicing their concerns about the governance and strategy of USL. Most of those previous USL members though wished to continue within USF which corresponded to their values and so decided in 2015 to create USF Luxembourg and of course to immediately join USF

Arty: I came later into play even if I had already supporting the new Union without being an affiliate by exchanging with or writing material for USFL. It was obvious we also shared the same work approach: everything should be discussed openly and transparently with as many people as possible meaning beyond the formal ‘Executive Committee’ of the Union, even beyond affiliates.

The results of the discussions/ conclusions then feeding the decisions of the Union. If a decision does not follow that lead it should then be explained in return to the participants of the previous discussions. Besides that bottom up approach with feedback down, actions should be carried in a simple and straightforward way. No typical hurdles like a complex and sclerosed governance structure and avoid by all means depending on others. In other words: Consult widely, Take decision transparently, Keep implementation short and simple and, Do it yourself (as far as possible).

That’s the idea but how did it effectively happened?

Nicolas: through discussions as Arty indicated and up to the moment the approach was ripe meaning fully internalized by all. But that was not enough. We had then social elections in sight and needed more than just goodwill and a common approach. Hopefully, USF helped us. For example, US Petten very kindly helped financially (a campaign has as a cost). And of course, many other member organisation (MO) offered their advice, material and moral support. It all seemed natural and confirmed we shared the same understanding of solidarity. Our organisation name was chosen to reflect that ‘communauté d’esprit’ with the other Federation MO. We managed to get a very decent score as a new Union and from there on increased our score with each election. Consequently, we steered directly the Local Staff Committee of the Commission in Luxembourg representing some 4000 Staff during the 2019-2022 term.

Arty: The founding members were super knowledgeable, super motivated and inspirational. They for example produced from scratch and quite early on written knowledge guides or provided their knowledge to others in dedicated meetings. Jean-Pierre Tytgat and Isabelle Wolff whom we lost in 2020 and 2023 were just amazing. The most inspirational skills they embodied beyond sharing knowledge were active listening and systematically putting their opinion into question. It’s what one expects from any Staff Representative but after so many years of practice, that vivid selflessness was just remarkable.

What activities do you do as a Union?

Nicolas: We take care of our affiliates’ concerns but also of any Staff that comes to us, whether affiliates or not whether statutory Staff or not. It’s our policy and spirit, we never condition our help. Except maybe for training cost coverage or mock interviewing which are limited to affiliates. It turned out to be a sustainable approach on the long term. Besides, the ‘do it yourself’ approach is one of the reasons, another one is the tailor-made service: we always try to clarify and solve the concern/ issue/problem ourselves/inhouse/with our USF network. As a consequence, we solve at short notice our colleagues’ problems, and they pay us back by voting for us and/or becoming new affiliates.

Arty: the approach explained by Nicolas is indeed financially sustainable and we deal with any person coming, be it highly graded Directors or low-paid Contract Agents. We don’t ‘pick and choose’ in that respect. However, it goes without saying that we take particular attention to our affiliate’s typical concerns. The biggest proportion of our affiliates are AST (assistants) and overall, we have significantly more women than men. We had the chance to explain in AGORA how this AST category is ‘left behind’/’not taken care off’ in our Institution (Précarité et ses conséquences sur le personnel – Union Syndicale).

How do you contribute to USF?

Nicolas: Well, thanks to synergy! We contribute by applying the same approach as in our organisation, by sharing transparently on any file all our knowledge, analysis and available time and skills, by keeping things simple and by aiming at concrete actions. We work a lot. As examples, in the last year we took a significant share of the social dialogue load at the Commission and co-wrote or contributed to leaflets with USB. We also regularly contribute to writing in AGORA.

Arty: We indeed contribute more closely with the naturally closer member organisations. First, we contribute with all MO based at the Commission on every file that pertains/refer to the Staff Regulations (Communautaire) file thanks to weekly meetings with them that allow for a perfect coordination. Secondly, we regularly share and work on dedicated local files with the MO based in Luxembourg (EPCU CJ at the Court of Justice and USPE at the Parliament). Thirdly we share all our produced material (analysis, leaflets and newsletters) timely with all these MO.

What does USF bring you

Nicolas: In fact, USFL benefits of course from the enormous knowledge and expertise of all MO whether they are ‘communcautaire’ or ‘non-communautaire’. But let’s be clear, whatever we do, we need time. By solidarity we benefit from Commission secondments (1.5 actually 1.0 FTE) which is relatively more proportionally to what we bring in terms of representativity at the Commission level. That helped us to create our organisation and is another marvellous show of solidarity from the Federation.

That secondment solidarity comes to our perception with a price we do need to pay and we do effectively pay which is to actively participate to any ‘local ‘(Luxembourg) or ‘non-local’ files we can, either as Chef de file or as major and surely very active contributors. Without this solidarity and this continuous exchange, we would not exist and we would not overlive either. This is the lot of every small-size organisation and it needs to be reminded.

Arty: There is always an added value to working together on file as we mostly do with the USB Commission section regarding the elaboration of new rules and/or their implementation (social dialogue sensu strictu).

The time we effectively spend thanks to the previously mentioned secondment goes far beyond the normal working hours. Even when adding the free time of our active affiliates provide, it does not suffice to fulfil the Union work.

Our active affiliates are doing a great job but one should note the limitation of their involvement, especially with the new way of working, meaning extensive teleworking, limiting even more the time happy volunteers can provide to the Union. So we try and compensate by involving more and more potential volunteers as each will dedicate relatively less time than he/she could have provided before.

The advantage of interacting with more people is that the Union is collecting even more opinions and approaches, it’s an enriching process. On the downside, it implies more moderation and coordination which needs more time and resources. It’s a catch 22 but we love what we do and indeed we try to overlive. But then, which Union does not?

Any anecdote to share with us?

Arty: most anecdotes are linked to exchange with Staff which are confidential by nature. Personal situations are logically managed in silo’s (one to one) and shared only on the need-to-know basis. It sometimes indeed brings its share of fun. Recently, two colleagues, in fact a couple in real life but undetectably so, complained professionally about each other. Despite being in different services they worked on the same work project. When the couple link was discovered, we advised them separately to their satisfaction. It reminds us of both that often, beyond felt professional issues there are other non-work-related aspects and also why active listening is so important. It saves a lot of time down the line.

Nicolas: my best ever anecdote is about Arty. Back in 2019 he did not want to be on the elections roll. We did not only manage to have him there and elected, we provided him with the presidency of the Staff Committee. I had personally made a (professional of course) bet with a third party and I won. What I personally take pride in is that you can empower almost any – of course honest and goodwilled – colleague with a structured mind to do Union work meaning to serve the general interest. That’ is what USFL tries to do with its affiliates and its somehow also part of its approach.

Any last thoughts?

Nicolas: Happy anniversary to USF. It is not dependant of specific people but it depends on people involvement. Union Syndicale Fédérale Luxembourg exist thanks to USF and its active people and lives for USF. I am especially thinking of Sylvie Jacobs, Vera Lipton, JP Escanilla Perez as well as many others. USF is not only a Union Federation, it’s a ‘communauté d’esprit’ and I would even dare to say a ‘communauté de destin’
Thank you for that!

Arty: Thank you very much USF. Happy anniversary to USF! Thanks for your daily emulation helping us to better help our affiliates and the employees of our Institutions and EU bodies. Please promise us one thing: ‘Don’t stop believin! Hold on to that feeling!’ (as sung by the band Journey in the early eighties).

Arty Kyramarios

About The Author

President of USF-Luxembourg 2024 onwards

Nicolas Mavraganis

About The Author

President of USF-Luxembourg 2015-2023. President USF 2019 – now