Compass: The voice of EU Delegations
Dear colleagues in Delegations,
Let me share with you all, what the Local Staff Committee Outside of the Union (CLPHU) had the opportunity to discuss during its plenary in November 2016. It was an occasion for us to engage with the EEAS, DG DEVCO, DG NEAR, and DG HR on a number of critical issues relevant to EU Delegations.
The last Staff Survey has confirmed that there is still a widespread feeling in Delegations that HQ does not care too much about us or does not understand the peculiar environment and conditions under which we work. This is why I sincerely believe that there is now more than ever an urgent need to sit together with our management and discuss in a collegial spirit about the future of Delegations as healthy working environment and about our legitimate expectations.
Since the beginning of our mandate, I announced that the CLPHU would be accountable for its work, including the quality of actions undertaken, and achievements. We are working relentlessly on a number of issues we consider top priorities for Delegations. I am confident that improvements on our work-life balance, careers, and security can be achieved in partnership with our management and before the mandate of the CLPHU ends in 2018. In that spirit, I remain always open to receive your concerns, proposals, and criticism. Adelante !
Stefano Varriale (CLPHU President)
STAFF SURVEY 2016
The results of DEVCO’s Staff Survey presented during the CLPHU Plenary showed similar levels of satisfaction in Delegations and in HQ. Yet, participation in Delegation continues to be inadequate despite the CLPHU and Management’s efforts to encourage all staff categories to become more involved and to provide their views and comments. In Delegations, Contract Agents FGIV expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction while Local Agents are in general more satisfied than other staff categories. In particular, the fact that Delegation staff is and feels detached from HQ, where most decisions concerning human and financial resources are taken, leads inevitably to some alienation and needs to be addressed.
DEVCO levels of satisfaction on a number of indicators are low and concise red “problematic”, as the average score for most many areas are below that of HQ and other DGs. Management now recognizes the need for a targeted and tailor-made approach for Delegations, which operate in very particular and often difficult environment.
With regards to the DG NEAR Staff Survey, significant differences between the results for HQ and were highlighted. DG NEAR will work on the implementation of targeted follow-up actions for staff in Delegations, to be coordinated closely with the EEAS as each Delegation is a whole entity regardless of the source of funding of the staff.
Overall, issues related to career progression and work-life balance were quite negative for certain staff categories and the CLP HU has requested to become involved in any working groups in order
to ensure that the voice of staff in Delegation is fully considered and that a roadmap with implementable activities can be developed for Delegations. The ever repeated complaints about the disproportional cut in leave days in Delegations down to HQ level is seen as a decision taken by HQ without understanding of the reality of work in Delegation. It has created an unnecessary sense of injustice or even bitterness that may have an impact, in the medium-long run, on the achievements of Delegations objectives. A reasonable and professionally defendable compromise should be reached as soon as possible and the CLPHU conveyed this message strongly to the EEAS DEVCO/NEAR and the DG HR.
OPTIMUS AND REGIONALIZATION
The process of regionalization has been completed successfully in some geographical zones such as in Latin America and the Caribbean. The CLPHU will follow attentively the evolution of the process in other areas that might be concerned such as in Africa – Middle East. There are however changing priorities, including new ones such as migration, climate change and many other usual Commission objectives on the agenda which will prompt management to consider regularly the allocation of resources. There is also the looming perspective of the implications of BREXIT and the potential financial impact on the EU general budget. It is still too early to understand the prospect of Regionalization and Optimus, but probably no further cuts are to happen in the course of 2017.
During the first wave of Regionalization involving neighborhood countries posts were transferred from Delegations to Brussels for the establishment of regional centres and EEAS Administration
has done their utmost to minimize dismissal. Indeed out of 56 job cuts, only 12 colleagues were dismissed. For the other 44 cases, solutions were found within the respective Delegations. This is a
much better scenario than the WLAD where around 65% of the posts ended up in dismissal, as opposed to 21% under the regionalization exercise.
The CLP HU highlighted the specific situation for colleagues in countries where there is a sustained humanitarian crisis and where in particular our fellow LAs are subject to extraordinarily adverse living conditions and a highly volatile situation. The CLP HU has requested the EEAS not to terminate these LAs contracts and to support our colleagues who have been loyal members of the Delegation.
The CLP HU also conveyed the growing concern of Local Agents with regard to what they consider to be a very inflexible approach from the 18.6 Committee. The EEAS in contrast indicated that
there is flexibility, in the sense that the legal requirements are being topped up by these additional measures which include the education allowance, extra month salaries for dependent children.
To date there is no clear information on the effectiveness of the first Regional Centre and time will be needed to assess whether improvements and efficiencies have been achieved. In 2017 an evaluation will take place and it is not excluded that certain duties may be repatriated to Delegations.
RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
The CLPHU reiterated to the EEAS Rights and Obligations Division its concern over the deep social impact that minor budget savings can bring about in Delegations. In particular, the threat to quality education for staff’s children has not disappeared and once again, this will hit some staff more than others and particularly those on low incomes, single-income families and those with several children of school age. The CLP HU continued to advocate for a realistic and fair approach towards Education costs (both Type A and B) for staff in Delegations and strongly encourages both EEAS and COMM to find other ways of achieving savings and to avoid impacting negatively on the quality of education for our children. Individual cases should be carefully assessed and should take into account the reality of the education market in a given country with ad hoc derogations always possible.
The annual Living Conditions Allowance (LCA) was closed for the first time in time before the end of 2016. The CLPHU welcomes some improvements in terms of exchange of information between
the EEAS and the LCA Working Group ; yet, we regret that none of the WG recommendations made on the EEAS proposals were retained. Some concerns on how the LCA parameters are assessed (in particular Security and Health) remain and the CLPHU via the WG advocated for a review of the methodology that could take into account more reliable sources of information.
The EEAS Security Division reported that significant efforts are being made to improve security and mitigate the risks to staff in Delegations. The Budgetary Authorities have approved a budgetary reinforcement to have an additional 24 contractual agents posts in order to boost the number of Regional Security Officers from 34 to 58. 15 newly recruited RSO have already started their assignments in December, while the rest will take up duty in the first quarter of 2017. Once the recruitments have been completed the majority of EU Delegations with either a high or critical threat level status will have an RSO in situ.
Some lessons have been learned from recent past experiences (Turkey, Nepal) as to the importance of preparedness and local training. In addition to an annual budget of €55 million for security guarding additional credits have also been made available for security training and the purchase of security equipment, including armored vehicles and personnel protective equipment.
The main EEAS HQ warehouse has being replenished with medical kits and other equipment for dispatch to the Delegations as needed. A new Framework Contract for radios has been established and several Delegations’ radio networks are being upgraded.
The e-learning platform for security trainings is fully functional since July 2016 and in order to increase the individual security awareness, all staff members are expected to follow the BASE and, in higher risk locations, also the SAFE e-learning course. The participation of staff in Delegations in elearning is constantly improving with 2480 BASE certificates and 1186 SAFE certificates issued thus far1. Family members are also recommended to follow this course.
An IT project development request for a new Security Portal has been accepted to allow for the upgrading of ESDAP and other security IT modules will be established.
1 Staff may access the e-learning tools at the following link : https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/eeas/security-elearnings
The EEAS shared information on how some major crisis where handled by Delegations recently : in some cases (South Sudan, Burundi) assistance was provided to facilitate relocation and protection of Local Agents to the bordering country. The CLPHU welcomed these progresses and advocated to extend similar protection/assistance for Local Agents elsewhere in case of crisis.
In order to improve Delegations’ capacity to manage crisis situations, the EEAS is also conducting
negotiations with the EUROPEAN GENDARME FORCE to see if an arrangement can be found for additional specialized training. EEAS HQ and DG ECHO are also working on framework contract for flight operations to evacuate EU Delegation staff in emergencies where commercial and other operators are not available.
Another point stressed by the EEAS Security Division was the key role played by security companies contracted by Delegations : it is crucial that Delegations prepare demanding terms of reference
(including decent working conditions for guards, covering training, uniforms, career progression) when service security contracts are renewed.
To conclude, the role of the “Duty Officer in Delegations” was discussed. Colleagues in Delegations often complain about the responsibility and the additional workload that this role involves. The CLPHU noted that some cases were reported by colleagues on duty obliged to rush to Delegations offices overnight in case of alarm triggered : the EEAS underlined that should an incident occur, the main responsibility of the Duty Officer is not to act as a policemen, or a firefighters, but to convey immediately the information to the HoD/RSO, who are responsible to decide on appropriate actions. HoD should specify further actions to be taken by the Duty Officer in the local instructions for Duty Officers. Given the particularity of each Delegation, it is not feasible for the EEAS to give tailor made rules on the role of the Duty Officer for each Delegation. Therefore, it is important to
have in each Delegation clear local instructions which list the contact persons and give guidance based on the concrete setup. The CLPHU was also informed on the recent appointment of a Security Advisor at DG DEVCO that will work in close coordination with the EEAS and ECHO services.
SICKNESS INSURANCE FOR EXPATRIATE STAFF
For the first time, the CLPHU met with the Unit in charge (PMO Ispra) of the management of the Complementary Sickness Insurance for staff in Delegations. Awareness on important rules applicable to staff in Delegations was raised and in particular over the substantial difference of reimbursable ceiling if medical treatment is undertaken in third countries (up to 5 times the ceiling) or in the EU (up to 150% of the ceiling). Detailed information on the applicable rules can now be found in the EU Delegation Guide of the EEAS Zone2.
PMO informed the CLPHU that in case of important medical costs due to hospitalization, colleagues in Delegations can request an advance (and avoid the often burdensome “prise en charge”) via a simple procedure that can be found in My IntraComm3. A form needs to be completed, joined to a quote received from the Hospital and sent to PMOCONTACT clearly indicating the status of colleague serving in EU Delegations.
The CLPHU enquired about the type of coverage that the complementary sickness scheme could provide to recognized partnerships. In particular, the issue of different treatment for civil unions/recognized partnerships regulated by similar laws in different Member States (i.e. France, Spain, Belgium, Italy) was discussed. The PMO is now carefully assessing the matter with the legal service and will promptly inform the CLPHU once a decision is taken.
Revision of Framework Rules (FWR) The current FWR has been dated back from 1990s. It is therefore in need of a revision. The negotiation with respective OSPs (Trade Unions of EEAS and COMM sides) will begin in 2017. Administration would coordinate with all relevant trade unions in this process and the CLPHU has set up a Task Force that will work on suitable proposals for reform.
Administration has reported an average increase for all Delegation consolidated result of 4.6% in 2015. While some Delegations have no increase (as they are above market average according to the salary method /27 Delegations), others do receive an increase ( 65 had an average increase of 6.5%). The data per group are unavailable – all data that are provided are based on average per Delegation. The backlog for salary survey has largely been resolved. Concerning equivalences, notably with the UN jobs, the CLPHU raised the issue again. The EEAS replied that the same equivalence with the UN existed in the previous Method, but that they will again discuss with the UN Administration to verify that existing equivalences are indeed correct.
The updating of the IT platform is in progress though administration is unable to provide a solid time line ; some complicated modules are taking longer than expected to develop. New modules are being created for pharmaceutical products with the possibility to add items not included through a specific request.
Outcome of CSISLA Committee meeting / 17 November 2016 : Since the last meeting, 9 complaints were received from 8 Delegations. While some of them were closed to the satisfaction of the concerned local agents, others were rejected for non- respect of the rules. Where the staff representatives failed to agree with the decision of the Administration, the case is submitted to the AIPN for final review. Local agents should follow the rules carefully and especially when Prior Authorizations are required. HQ has requested HoAs to provide details on the costs of medical services in respective countries. This will serve as the basis for establishing the ceilings of these services. All Delegations are invited to check with your respective administration whether surveys have been completed and returned to HQ. Following the results of the survey and the main elements/suggestions that resulted from it, the administration plans to do a major reconstruction of CSISLA in consultation with trade unions. The proposal of the Administration is now under preparation while discussions are planned for early 2017.
DG DEVCO acknowledged that ensuring opportunities of professional development to CAs in Delegations (in particular the FGIV) based on qualifications and merit is a concern of human resources. The CLPHU discussed with both DG DEVCO and DG HR the implementation modalities regarding the Team Leader (TL) positions that will be made available to CAs once the new General Implementing Provisions will enter into force. The CLPHU suggested the setting up of a system similar to that of Senior Experts for Officials. This would allow for a reclassification at a higher grade upon taking up a TL position, which would be justified by the increased level of responsibility implied in the job description. The CLPHU underlines the need to ensure transparent publication of such positions and allocation of additional budget available to ensure reclassifications.
AST IN DELEGATIONS
AST career opportunities in Delegations were discussed with the EEAS, DG DEVCO and NEAR. Specific
reference was made to the restructuring process in delegations, which seems to be leading to a substantial cut in AST posts (so far normally appointed to DHoS posts). The consequences over time could lead to a gradual reduction of AST positions and career opportunities in delegations, confining the category to HQ. On the other hand, neither internal competitions, nor career opportunity other than the certification is available for AST (both in HQ and Delegations). DEVCO denied such a policy is in place regarding AST however the figures provided on the number of AST posts cut in DEVCO confirm that this “non-policy” is having a strong impact on the number of AST posts (hence fewer career opportunities) in Delegations.
On the certification procedure, a point was raised on the internal instructions circulated in DG DEVCO as to the HoS scoring the percentage of AD tasks performed by each candidate to the certification exercise. Several colleagues complained about the way instructions have been implemented, including the lack of transparency at the stage of the CDR. DG DEVCO indicated that this is only one among many criteria to assess the potential of the internal candidates to the certification. In a subsequent meeting with DG HR the CLPHU was reassured that there is no deliberate policy to reduce AST in Delegation however they did agree to look more carefully into the current situation of AST officials. No information on internal competitions for AST officials was provided. It seemed that at HQ there is a very limited knowledge of the specificity of the tasks and responsibilities normally attached with the position of Deputy Head of Section, often covered by AST officials in Delegations. In this respect, further action and improved dialogue with DG HR seems to be of importance in order to get an acknowledgement of ASTs performance in view of the promotion and certification exercise.
NEXT CLPHU PLENARY
The next CLPHU plenary is foreseen in Brussels from 27 to 31 March. The Agenda will be disseminated in advance. Please do not hesitate to share your comments with us and contact :
CLP HU President : Stefano Varriale
CLP HU Bureau : Dimitrije Stankovic, Laura Zampetti, Hang Nguyen, Alessandro Campo, Helen Conefrey, Sunil Kumar, Alessandro Liamine, Stephanie Tse Hasancebi
CLP HU Members : Julia Jacoby, Andrea Janoha, Francesco Torcoli, Jose Morgado, Jaime Royo Olid, Eyal Inbar, Oriana Gargiulo, Alphonse Kassongo Kingombe, Carlos Abaitua Zarza, John Barker, Ana Margarida Tome de Freitas, Ranjan Shrestha, Modupe Omopintmemi, Nicholas Taylor, Jean-François Loubere, Natalija Dolya, Karoly Soos, Christian Raitz Von Frentz, Jordi Carrasco Munoz Prats
For mailing : J 70 – 1/243
For visitors : Rue Joseph II 70, B-1049 Bruxelles – Belgique – Bureau JII 70 – Bat. D – 1/243
Telephone : (+32-2) 29.51354 / Fax : 29.64219 Internet : www.cc.cec/fpfis/blogs/clp-hu-lsc/
E-mail : REP PERS CLP H. U. – REP-PERS-CLP-HORS-UNION@ec.europa.eu
President : Stefano VARRIALE – Stefano.Varriale@eeas.europa.eu