THE SEFCOVIC REFORM. A SMALL OR A BIG CHANGE ?

 


[“Come on, don’t be afraid, it will not hurt, it’s just a minor reform ! “)

 

If you listen to or read the message from Vice President Šefčovič, (press release of 27 June and video interview), the reform is a good compromise or a modernisation of the Staff Regulations. Mr. Šefčovič also refers to the difficulty posed by a three way negotiation, as foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty, with the European Parliament (EP) and the Council, but let's take a closer look at things.

 

  • Back in 2011, The Vice President himself proposed a reform of the Staff Regulations, without any demands from either the Council or the EP, when all that was required was a proposal for a new method to replace the old, expired one.  Moreover, the so-called negotiations with the Unions were merely a sham. This initiative was the first strategic mistake.
  •  The new solidarity levy of 6% will be applied from 1 January 2014 (7% for grades AD 15/2 and higher) whilst salaries and pensions will be frozen till 31 December 2014. The levy is linked to the application of the method, so it should not have to be paid during the period of the pay and pensions freeze.
  • The retirement age will be increased to 65 (with transition arrangements).  Some staff will therefore be faced with an increase in their retirement age for the second time in only 10 years. The retirement age for new staff will be 66 with an inferior pension accrual rate (1.8%). New staff will therefore need to work for 39 years in order to obtain a full pension, which means beginning a career as a European Civil Servant at the age of 27. Currently, the average age for entry into the service is 35. Furthermore, DG HR recognises that this measure is unnecessary as our system is in equilibrium.
  • Whereas promotion rates for grades AD 5, 6 and 7 will improve slightly (from 33% to 36%), the same cannot be said for AST staff, as if this category had not been penalised enough by the 2004 reform !  In addition, staff in this category will be blocked at grade AST 9 since, in order to become AST 10, it will be necessary, not only to hold a position of responsibility, but also to wait for more than 12 years. AD 12 and 13 grades will also find their career paths blocked, but two additional steps will be created, albeit only from 2016. Such unequal treatment is unjustified.
  • The creation of a new category SEC/AST. Secretaries on the cheap, with salaries as low as those of Contract Agents.  Another source of division amongst staff.
  • The automatic step increase (every 2 years) will depend upon the staff reports (the precise methodology behind this measure remains at this stage unclear). There is the risk that the step will become a mini promotion exercise.
  • The minimum working week increased to 40 hours, travelling time for the annual trip to the country of origin reduced to a maximum of 2.5 days, leave for staff in delegations reduced to the same as that for staff in HQ (at the request of Ms. Ashton).
  • Reduction in the kilometric allowance for the annual trip home.
  • Modest opening for Contract Agents (contracts increased to a maximum 6 years and the "exceptional" possibility to take part in internal competitions, albeit with heavy limitations, with a 1 in 20 chance of success ! However, CAs in group 1 will be excluded, and so will be contract staff from Executive Agencies

 

THE CHANGES ARE NOT SO SMALL! THEY WILL GENERATE ECONOMIES WELL IN EXCESS OF THE 2.5 BILLION EUROS DECIDED UPON AT THE EUROEPAN SUMMIT ON 8 FEBRUARY 2013. BLOCKAGES OF CAREERS AND THE UNJUSTIFIED INCREASE IN THE RETIREMENT AGE IN PARTICULAR, WILL DRASTICALLY REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENDITURE AFTER 2020.

 

MR. ŠEFČOVIČ HAS LOST HIS BET BECAUSE THE COUNCIL HAS DISTORTED HIS PROPOSAL WHICH PROVIDED FOR ECONOMIES OF 1 BILLION EUROS OVER 7 YEARS. ALL HIS EFFORTS TO SUGGEST OTHERWISE CANNOT HIDE THE TRUTH.