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Flash info October 2016 : Recognition of periods of service performed under different contracts

 

USHU urges COMM to give CONTRACT AGENTS what they rightly deserve !!

A STRUCTURED MOBILITY SCHEME THAT MAINTAINS HIGHLY MOTIVATED AND QUALIFIED STAFF IN THE INTEREST OF THE SERVICE

11/04/2014

Contract Agents in Delegations are excellent value for money
Can the COMM AFFORD to lose more CAs as a result of a mobility policy ?

USHU participated actively together with other OSPs and on behalf of COMM contract agents based in Delegations in the recent administrative concertation (01/04/2014) and Technical Concertation (03/04/2014) and wishes to inform you of the following:

• USHU confirms there is a flagrant disparity of treatment between Officials ( rotation policy) and Contract Agents ( proposed mobility policy) – USHU is aware that CAs have a different contractual status however the measures proposed such as originally 6 years and currently 5 years in a 30% ICV delegation are wholly unjustified and will only serve to weaken the service rather than ensure a balanced approach to more and less difficult countries. BE FAIR TO CAs!

• USHU notes there has been little attempt to palliate the effect of a CA3a coming to Brussels on an "exceptional" and "temporary assignment" – there appears to be no denial that the current conditions ( lack of Annex X, lower salary grades, short-term higher expenses in Brussels) will make it difficult for many CAs to even consider a 4-year stay in Brussels yet COMM is incapable of finding a workable solution.

• USHU analysed the Statistics provided by DEVCO which clearly demonstrate that contrary to what many may claim, there has been regular mobility and the proof of this is that only 52 CAs out of 850 have been in DEL for 8 years or more.

• USHU believes the COMM proposal is not workable for all Function Groups and certain Profiles. In FG III there are members in operational and F&C sections and insufficient numbers for a flexible and obligatory system. EEAS colleagues have also similarly indicated that very specific political and country context profiles are not easily transferable…

• USHU believes Contract Agents are competent and responsible staff members who welcome a structured mobility scheme and will not deliberately obstruct but aim to find feasible opportunities for mobility whilst taking a whole range of variables into consideration.

USHU requests solutions for these MAJOR UNRESOLVED ISSUES:

1. OBLIGATORY and CONTRACT TERMINATION – USHU believes even 1 CA, forced to leave the COMM / dismissed as a result of the proposed Mobility Procedure – is one too many! There are NO SANCTIONS whatsoever for Officials – on the contrary when HQ has problems with candidates for rotation, they introduce INCENTIVES – yes, 20 or more new Middle Management posts to entice Officials to Delegations!

2. USHU emphasises that the current proposal of 5 years for 30% ICV is unfeasible. CAs in all Cat 3 must have the option of an early mobility . Currently 30% countries include : Myanmar, West Bank & Gaza, Honduras, Uzbekistan etc – it is clear that some CAs could be in difficulty to stay in these 30% countries for periods greater than 4 years – even with the proposed 4 years, CAs would already be staying 33% longer than Officials and the current proposal is we stay 66% longer / 5 years – untenable.

3. Lack of checks and balances/safety valves – USHU underlined the need to clearly stipulate how a CA would have access to an appeal/arbitrage in the case of conflict concerning mobility ( ie inability/refusal to accept posts offered) – COMM even proposes that you could be offered Delegations that are not included in your list of 5 ! – indeed a colleague may be happy to accept a non-preferred post but this should not be imposed on him/her. At ANY POINT IN TIME, an Official can withdraw his application for rotation and once again – NO SANCTION – Delete Art 5 (12) !

4. Exceptional and Temporary Assignment to HQ/Brussels – The total of posts available in Brussels for temporary assignments as foreseen, will not exceed 40 at any given time for DG DEVCO ( for other DGs this will generally be even less) ! If posts are staggered over a 4-year period, we expect approx. 10 posts per annum and maybe less.

A very limited number of posts available at HQ. USHU requests COMM to come forward with the mitigating measures in order to ensure that an exceptional and temporary assignment in Brussels could be viable for ALL CA3a colleagues.

USHU on behalf of CAs in Delegations, has been long demanding a transparent and accessible mobility scheme in the interest of the service & where possible combined with individual professional interests.

Motivation matters ! Is it really so difficult to achieve this ?

CAs : draft guidelines on mobility for CAs in DEL under scrutiny!

On the eve of Christmas holidays, 16/12/2013, Staff Representatives & Trade Unions received the draft guidelines for comments in relation to the proposed EEAS scheme for Contract Agent mobility.

Near You mobilized itself quickly in order to thoroughly study the EEAS proposal and to compare it with what the Commission has in the pipeline: NEAR YOU advocates for a harmonized approach where possible to the same staff category in both institutions and therefore strongly encourages the EEAS and COMM to aim for a scheme whose fundamental principles are common even if implementing provisions may need to differ slightly according the needs of each service.

On 21/01/2014 and at our request, NEAR YOU held a one hour meeting with EEAS management in order to convey specific comments on the proposed text among which the following points were considered a priority:

• NEAR YOU supports the proposed pilot exercise however it would be important to specify which period is covered and to aim for a fully-fledged mobility as soon as possible.

• NEAR YOU questions the fundamentally different approach whereby the EEAS confirms the scheme will be "voluntary" whereas to date COMM indicates it will be "compulsory".

• NEAR YOU welcomes the fact that the EEAS advocates an open, transparent process with the publication of posts and subsequent selection procedure – we believe there is a role at HQ to ensure a strict monitoring of the process and to avoid any conflicts of interest.

• The proposed duration of 5 years is different to that of officials which is normally 4- NEAR YOU underlined the fact that this could cause problems for couples/families composed of Officials and CAs and that a flexible approach should be adopted to promote family reconciliation as needed.

• Whilst there may be advantages to opening vacancies to CAs at HQ, it must be clear that the target of this mobility scheme is CAs currently in Delegations who under Annex X of the Staff Regulations, are subject to institutional mobility which includes a temporary period at HQ – this is clearly not the case for CA3b in EU institutions.

• NEAR YOU expressed strong concern over the conditions under which CAs in DEL would be expected to work at HQ. They would no longer be covered by Annex X provisions such as reimbursement of accommodation/living conditions allowance etc and would remain on CA3a salaries which are considerably lower than those of CA3b counterparts working at HQ – the EEAS is a aware of these difficulties but has no solution to date.

NEAR YOU congratulates the EEAS on having finally produced this proposal never-the-less it is imperative that this scheme be implemented in the best possible manner and be responsive to the needs of Contract Agents in Delegation who have been waiting for an institution mobility since 2005, when the first CAs were recruited in Delegations.

It is clear that with the changes to the Staff Regulations and the continued discontent of Contract Agents in Delegations, there is a certain political and legal expediency to introduce this scheme.

Contract Agents must be confident that any mobility will truly form part of a career development path and not simply be another isolated block in already highly fragmented Human Resources policy for Contract Agents!

Feb 2014

See also : Contract Agents in Delegations : EU Staff with indefinite duration contracts yet no Career Perspective
A working paper about CA3a colleagues in EU delegations

Support Career Development of Contract Agents in EU Delegations

On behalf of the CA Task Force in Delegations for the improvement of working conditions for Contract Agents ( eg career development perspective, access to internal competitions) we ask you to sign the petition  addressed to the following decision-makers:

• President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso
• President of the European Parliament, Mr Martin Schulz
• President of the European Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy

We request colleagues of all staff categories to support Contract Agents and to sign the petition.

The petition has now gathered 750 signatures, but we are aiming for more than 1,000 and to submit the petition formally to the European Parliament.

Thank you in advance for your support,

CA TASK FORCE IN DELEGATIONS

Pour une vraie carrière pour les Agents contractuels en délégation

Au nom de la Task Force CA en Délégation pour l'amélioration des conditions de travail des Agents Contractuels (par exemple, le développement de carrière, l'accès aux concours internes), nous vous demandons de signer la pétition adressée aux décisionnaires suivants:

• Président de la Commission Européenne, M. José Manuel Barroso
• Président du Parlement Européen, M. Martin Schulz
• Président du Conseil Européen, M. Herman Van Rompuy

Nous demandons à nos collègues de toutes les catégories de personnel de soutenir les Agents Contractuels et de signer la pétition.

La pétition a déjà recueilli 750 signatures, mais nous visons plus de 1000 et de la présenter officiellement au sein du Parlement Européen.

Merci d'avance pour votre soutien,

CA TASK FORCE IN DELEGATIONS

PAPER FOR DISCUSSION - NOT FINAL

Contract Agents
The only EU Staff without Career Perspective

One simple but fundamental question concerning Contract Agents of the European Union on the eve of the
Staff Regulation reform:
How can European Institutions increasingly rely on staff
that has no career development prospects?

Contract Agents perform all too similar if not the same tasks as AD and AST Officials, but are denied possibility to progress professionally. This glass-ceiling is inequitable, economically wasteful and against the EU interest.

Contract Agents demand costless changes to the Staff Regulations to make a better, more coherent and fairer use of their critical role in keeping the institutions operating within the current budgetary constraints.

Past, present and future of the Contract Agent staff category

When the statute of Contract Agents (CAs) was established back in 2005, the goal of the European Commission (EC) was to save money by employing cheaper staff performing non-core tasks for a limited period of time. CAs, in the EC alone, amounted to 15% of the staff at the end of 2010 and to 18.1% at the end of 2012 (about 6.000 colleagues)1 . CAs now represent 52% of all statutory expatriate staff working outside the EU.

As of today, CAs take on increasing responsibilities, often performing managerial and core tasks, with a growing population of CAs under unlimited duration contracts. In fact, CAs have become the lower-paid substitutes of AD and AST Officials.

The importance of CAs has grown further with the establishment of the EEAS. With the implementation of the new 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, the percentage of CAs with respect to total EU staff is set to increase even more over time.

However, CAs lack a proper system of career development, leaving them as the only staff category without any possibility for professional growth. CAs are expected to remain at the same career level from day one until retirement, irrespective of their merits and achievements.

CAs are aware of their importance, but perceive themselves as a sub-category of EU personnel. Despite a successful CA EPSO competition, numerous positive appraisal reports, extensive internal and external training courses, impressive CVs and exponential increase of unlimited duration contracts, CAs are excluded from professional development prospects, deprived of a career promotion system, denied access to internal competitions and cannot aspire to be more than a Third Secretary in EU Delegations, despite often acting as verifying officers, interim Heads of Section and even as acting Chargés d’Affaires.

Mindful of this reality, even the "Bureau of EU Heads of Delegation" concluded back in 2007 that there was a need to provide the conditions to offer CAs the possibility to build their career towards a post of Head of Delegation. This is not surprising, as everyone working in an EU Delegation knows that without CAs, EU Delegations would cease to function normally.

Worse still, an important population of CAs (type 3b, see below) working in Brussels are dismissed after 3 years of service whatever their performance. This irrational system which expels one third of its CA staff every year, leads to a constant loss of institutional know-how and to a waste of resources in a permanent cycle of "hiring, training and firing".

The high costs of keeping Contract Agents under current precarious conditions

Providing career development prospects to CA staff of EU Institutions would represent sound optimisation of in-house investments and better value for money for tax payers than sustaining current restrictions and forced turnover. As noted, the goal of establishing the CA staff category was to save money by employing 'cheaper' staff easier to "hire and fire". From an economic perspective, the outcome of this experiment is at the very least dubious. Indeed, the EU saves money in lower salaries of a CA vis-à-vis that of Officials undertaking the same tasks, as their basic salaries are between half to one third of their Official counterparts. However, focusing exclusively on salaries ignores important costs such as perpetual recruitment expenses, wasted training courses, increased financial pressure on the social security scheme, end of service indemnities and a range of other costs.

Let us examine the two types of Contract Agents: CAs type 3a, eligible for indefinite duration contracts, and CAs type 3b whose contracts are limited to 3 years.

CAs type 3a: Although the financial damage due to CA3a turnover is less evident than that for CA3b, the impact is even more significant, since accrued in-house knowledge and investment in their human capital are larger and over longer periods of time. For every CA3a who leaves the EU to join organisations where prospects for career development are considerably more attractive (including to the UN, WB, IMF, ADB in case of CA Functional Group IV and III as the most qualified personnel), the EU loses many years of investment in trainings and specialised experience. This effect is particularly dramatic in EU Delegations, as these specialists with experience in various countries are particularly harder and costlier to replace. This brain drain of highly specialised colleagues is symptomatic of woefully inadequate HR policy.

CAs type 3b: As non-renewable 3-year CA3b contracts, every single year the EU dismisses 33% of its CA3b employees. Not because of their bad performance or because they are not needed anymore, but because of a failed and irrational HR policy. Every year, colleagues lose their jobs through no fault of their own and despite the fact that they are still needed in the EU services. Some even say that "CAs in Brussels dedicate their first year to learn, the second to give their best, and the last year to undertake medical check-ups and look for their next job". It should be obvious to any objective observer that in a specialised knowledge-based structure such as the EU, the immense cost of hiring and training a mass of people, only to fire them three years later, is a permanent drain of know-how, which is profoundly damaging to the Institutions. We openly challenge this HR policy as an affront to logic and a sheer waste of the EU tax-payers' money. The proposed extension of the contract duration to 5 years represents a meek attempt to improve the objective inefficiencies of current HR policy.

Conclusion

The current legislative framework stagnates CAs at the same level of responsibilities for their entire professional life. The fact that an organisation relies so heavily on staff who have no possibility whatsoever to advance also implies a form of inter-hierarchical mistreatment in so far as the competency and actual daily assignments are more and more often the same. This eliminates any incentive to perform better.

How can EU Institutions rely on a staff category that has no career development prospects? How can the EU HR policy be in contradiction with the ones of its Member States' which do provide career perspectives, including access to internal competitions for their contract staff working in public services?

The current HR policy towards CAs is irrational and discriminatory, inefficient and unfair, costly to the taxpayer and highly de-motivating, largely explaining the high turnover of CA staff. The EU, in its own interest, needs to address this structural problem and provide career development perspectives to CAs.

Instead of using the scientifically-questioned EPSO pre-selection psychometric tests that claim to predict performance of staff through overcrowded Open Competitions involving tens of thousands of candidates at the cost of EURO 60.000 per recruit2, the EU should save the taxpayer's money by tapping first into the reservoir of in-house specialists with a proven track-record. Appreciating experience and expertise is better substantiated than the speculative selection of staff. In the same way, ACs should be allowed to opt for managerial positions on equal terms as other staff members. This will eliminate the current cast system and establish a healthier work environment with fairness and merit governing hierarchical relations.

ACs are mindful that some Member States worry about the over-representation of certain countries among CAs. However, this refers to corrective measures to be introduced in the implementation process of a new HR policy towards CAs and shall not jeopardise the application of sound principles of human resources management and simple common sense.

Concrete proposals

In order to improve the effectiveness of the HR policy and provide Contract Agents with concrete possibilities of professional growth, tangible career perspectives and restored motivation, the following steps should be undertaken and where appropriate, the EU Staff Regulation (SR) amended, while taking into account the climate of austerity and the necessity to achieve smart savings on administrative headings.

Allow CAs to sit in EU internal competitions on the same lines as the existing access granted to Temporary Agents (TAs). CAs are not allowed to access internal competitions for jobs they are already performing and/or are qualified to perform. There is no reason to allow TAs access to internal competitions, yet prevent CAs from doing so. It is therefore proposed to amend Art 29 of SR as follows: "[…] a competition internal to the institution, which shall be open only to officials, temporary agents and contracts agents as defined […]". Related articles of SR and of the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants (CEOS) shall be consequently adapted;

Implement a mobility system for CAs. The relevant provision in the SR (Art 2 of Annex X) has already been modified back in 2009. However, as for now, a structured mobility system for CAs has not been put in place yet. It is imperative to elaborate and implement relevant provisions without further delay. If the problem relates to having CA3b and CA3a in the same place of employment, then due consideration should be given to the possibility of eliminating distinction between the two types of contract. In fact, the description of Functional Groups and Tasks is identical for CA3b and CA3a, yet there exists an artificial difference in salary grids, entry levels and contract duration;

Elaborate certification procedure for CA IV to become AD and for CA III and II to become AST. ASTs with good work appraisal can, after a number of years in the service, apply for a strict certification procedure to become ADs. Most AST competitions do not require University degrees and managerial experience whereas most CA IV positions do. Hence, it is coherent to allow for CA IV – with higher academic credentials than ASTs – to be entitled to access on an equal basis the certification process to be promoted to AD and for CA III and II to be promoted to AST;

Organise Specialists EPSO Competitions on a regular basis at AD7 level and above instead of AD5. When the institutions have access to CAs as a reservoir of candidates with the relevant work experience and a proven track record within the EC, it is irrational to foment the hiring of candidates with no previous work experience (level AD5);

Remove the Glass Ceiling for CAs. Since the introduction of CAs in 2005, experience has shown that in many cases CAs perform core tasks, both in Brussels and abroad, including operational and financial verification roles, representation tasks on behalf of the EU, acting Heads of Sections and Offices and even acting Heads of Delegation. Indeed, the EC Working Group on core / non core tasks of CAs concluded back in 2009 that CAs do perform core tasks. As the EU replaces more and more officials with ACs, this theoretical limitation creates operational and administrative contradictions, from visa circuits, to reporting lines, access to work premises, etc. It is therefore proposed to amend Art 80.2 of CEOS and other related articles replacing the sentence "under the supervision of Officials and Temporary Staff" with "under the supervision of the hierarchic superior";

Harmonise the third EU language requirement between CAs and Officials / TAs. The current language requirements are more demanding for CAs than for Officials and TAs. In fact, CAs must demonstrate their knowledge of a third EU language to be eligible for an indefinite contract, while an Official or TA requires it only to be promoted. It is therefore proposed to amend Art 80.3 of CEOS and other related articles accordingly;

Increase the value of the knowledge of non-EU languages. It goes without saying that the knowledge of a non-EU language is an important asset in the interest of the EU services. However, this is not reflected in any career development or promotion system of staff. Most EU national services do take it into account;

Introduce CAs in the diplomatic list of the host country on the same lines as the existing grid for Officials / TAs. Currently, a CA working in a Delegation cannot be graded diplomatic status above "Third Secretary" for his/her entire professional life. The majority of CAs are accredited as "Attachés" and in some instances only as technical staff without full diplomatic status. This does not reflect the internal functioning of EU Delegations around the world and diminishes the credibility of EU staff when negotiating with external interlocutors;

Introduce a CAs salary grid system on the same lines of the existing salary grid system for Officials / TAs. The salary grid for CAs has 18 grades, and 7 steps in each grade; whereas Officials / TAs have 16 grades and 5 steps in each grade. Consequently, CAs are further disadvantaged with a "slower" salary scale progression than ADs and TAs. It is therefore proposed to amend Art 93 of CEOS and related articles accordingly;

Introduce 15 as an entry grade for CA3a. The absence of grade 15 as an entry point for CA3a results in very broad grading bands (0 to 8 years for grade 13 and 8 to 21 years for grade 14). Similarly, failure to have entry grades 17 and 18 means that there is no mechanism to recognise relevant professional experience above 21 years. It is reminded that CA3b may be recruited to any grade. It is therefore proposed to amend Art 86.1 of CEOS and related provisions accordingly;

Allow CAs with indefinite duration contracts to request leaves on personal grounds (CCP - ‘congé de convenance personnelle’) along the lines existing for Officials. Currently, CCP for CAs may not exceed 12 months over the whole of his/her career, while in the course of an Official’s entire career the CCP may be up to 15 years. Considering the exceptional nature of this provision and taking into account the implicit differences in statute, it is proposed to introduce CCP for CAs for a maximum of 5 years in a career. Similarly, the relevant SR provision on secondment and standing for public office should also apply to CAs with indefinite duration contracts.

Notes
1 European Commission's 2012 Human Resources Report. As an example, in 2008, the EC recruited 1.150 Officials, 800 Temporary Agents and 2.200 CAs.
2 Source: Common Joint Committee (COPARCO)

 

CA Task Force
April 2013


Page last modified on 20/10/2016

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