My first aim, says USB President Niels Bracke, is to unite, to bring together all the various institutions and bodies and all various persons behind one common goal : the defense of staff. US being the oldest and strongest trade union, it should be at the forefront of making trade unionism relevant again in all EU institutions and bodies.
I also want to streamline US to make the procedures more efficient and to take decisions more effectively. USB must concentrate on real political issues that matter to staff, for instance the future of UE civil service, implementation of the Staff Regulations.
Concerning our challenges, I see both external and internal aspects. External aspects : I think it is very important that US should be better able to bring its message across. I fear that US has the same problem as the EU, that we have a very good project, very good ideas, but we fail to bring the message across and to convince EU staff members, firstly of the need to have trade unions and secondly of the value and importance of US as one of the most performant trade unions. The Executive Committee of USF has a new communication strategy allowing us to be able to communicate in more coherent and modern way with staff. Linked to that, it is also important to strengthen the role of trade unionism in the UE, which unfortunately is becoming less and less relevant. It became more and more difficult to get the quorum for the elections, more and more difficult to attract new members, and the trade union are highly fragmented – we have over than 20 trade unions for 60 000 staff.
This situation is partly created by the fact that there are so many trade unions who are constantly fighting, every three years there are elections, trade unions compete for votes, have their own logos, campaigns, this does not help people to adhere to trade unions. Many Member States have opted for a system where there are just few strong trade unions, we have an almost unlimited number of trade unions which is confusing for staff. Concerning internal aspects, I see a drive to cut costs not based on smart savings but on savings for the sake of savings, for instance on mission allowances and school allowances the rules are applied extremely rigidly by the PMO…
We need to concentrate on our strengths: we have very competent and committed members, we need to communicate better, to support our members to reach an agreement before having to go to court. We should advertise that we have a very effective legal aid system, we make use of professional lawyers. I want to return to the core values of trade unionism : to defend members in the times of budget cuts. I also recommend that we create a list of specialized law firms to deal with international cases, in order to offer a tailored legal approach to US members. Another idea is to create an internal labour market for contract agents who have worked in the European Institutions, in order to help them to find a contract in the EP, the Council or the Commission. We have a commitment to staff that goes beyond the six years of employment. I am convinced that we have to take care of this category staff.