Situation of Contract Staff of the European Union working in Luxembourg / Crèches - Day-Nurseries / Cost of Living

Dear Mr. President of the European Commission,

The effects of the content of the note that Mrs. Georgieva sent to Luxembourg's Members of the European Parliament on 28/09/2016, have not yet faded away: the dismay among the staff ...  the demotivation which continues to grow ... especially as this concerns contract staff (CS) working for the institutions of the European Union in Luxembourg who have found themselves for many years in a situation of social dumping!!!

We are compelled to observe that the treatment given to this issue, on which we have been working since the strikes in late 2014, is more akin to a campaign of hide-and-seek on the part of the Administration than genuine progress, despite the hope engendered by the Agreement with the Vice-President of the Commission in March 2015 among all the CS in post in Luxembourg.

Of the 4 measures contained in the agreement, the most important have been ignored, i.e. the regrading of CS and the possibility of moving from one Function Group to another (Measures 3 and 4). The number of CS in a situation of "social dumping" - according to our estimates - has continued to rise, in parallel with the increasing use of contracts for the European Civil Service, from around 260 CS in FG I and II earning below € 2,398.30 (salary for a skilled manual worker in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg as of 1 January 2017), and that is just at the Commission in Luxembourg. When the conflict began in 2014, that figure was 200.

Measure 1 (Method comparing the net salary of the CS and the skilled manual worker) enabled ten CS to receive social welfare support (approximately €150), but which has been eroded in the meantime by rising salaries.
Moreover, the failure to count within the comparison the 13th month of salary paid in the Grand-Duchy, while including the expatriation allowance (pursuing different objectives), significantly distorts the result of the said method, about which the trade unions and staff associations had expressed reservations from the outset.

Measure 2, which introduced a discount on the dish of the day and pasta received a very hostile reception from the CS for many reasons (psychological and nutritional, treating them like the clientele of the "Salvation Army").
Concerning transport, the CS also regret the absence of more effective measures for the vast majority of them who are cross-border commuters (being unable to afford decent housing in the Grand-Duchy).

Despite our repeated requests to DG.HR and to the Cabinet of the Vice-President to present a review of the above-mentioned Agreement, no objective data has been provided and the clause about a rendezvous at the end of 2015 was not honoured.

May we ask you, Mr. President, to ensure compliance with that agreement?

To summarise:

1. The continuing "social dumping" with regard to a growing sector of contract staff.

The efforts announced by the Commission in 2015 have been totally underwhelming, and this has led to situations that are hard to imagine for EU staff.
It would seem that at least one other Institution located in the Grand-Duchy is really taking the situation of the local labour market into account, as well as the legally-required practices of a guaranteed salary, and refers to a grade on the CS pay scale which is at least equal to that of a skilled manual worker in Luxembourg when deciding pay on recruitment (2,398.30 € as of 1/1/2017).
Would it not be possible to come up with a convergent approach by all the EU institutions in Luxembourg, based on the principles of unicity of the Staff Regulations of the European Civil Service and equal treatment?
Furthermore, it remains very difficult to understand why the Commission considers that local laws constitute a minimum level of protection for the thousands of local staff working in delegations outside the EU cfr. Framework Regulations, and that the same principle is quite simply flouted within the EU!!!

2. The situation in the day nurseries is also a cause for serious concern!

They use 4 different types of contract for the same job as an educator: these are SDL (salaries under Luxembourg law governed by the SAS collective labour agreement), contract staff (Function Groups III and II at the Commission), and "long-term temps" (several contract staff have exceeded 3 years' seniority as temps, and some of them have even been there for 10 years!!!) and service providers.
In other words, it is a real "social jungle" for a profession which is tightly regulated at national level, and renders the EU institutions liable to sanctions of every kind, although it is a sector of employment which is extremely sensitive.

NB: New implementing orders for contract staff should come into force soon. But there too, yet again, the objective is purely budgetary. So, those contract staff who, through their hard work (selection procedure) could change from one function group to another, will ultimately find themselves in a worse situation because the Commission will impose a new contract on them (although there is nothing in the Staff Regulations that allows this approach apart from a change from one institution to another) which would entail the application of new post-2014 pension criteria (reduced pension entitlement and retirement age deferred by 3 or 4 years).

So, under an illusion of upward social mobility, they will actually see a worsening of their employment conditions!!!

3. Cost of living

The disparity in purchasing power between Luxembourg and Brussels has not gone away. It amounted to 8.1% in 2016.
"Unofficial" estimates by ESTAT confirm that situation, and EFTA has adopted a correction coefficient of that magnitude for its personnel employed in the Grand-Duchy since 1 January 2016.

We consider that the mid-term review of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 may be an appropriate time to attempt to find a solution (the cost of a correction coefficient for Luxembourg is totally marginal in comparison with the amounts of the budget items in Chap. V).

NB: The implementation of the Georgieva-Asselborn Agreement on the long-term future of the Commission Services in Luxembourg and which provides for the transfer of several hundred staff from Brussels to the Digital, Financial and Legal Services in the Grand-Duchy, will obviously be conditional on the existence of the political will to iron out these obstacles that are seriously distorting the attractiveness of the Grand-Duchy.

We remain convinced that without political arbitration at the highest level, the situation will not be rectified, resulting in further deterioration in the attractiveness of the Grand Duchy (the initial information that we are receiving from the DGs affected by the above-mentioned political agreement only confirm this gloomy prospect: no member of EU staff assigned to Brussels wants to be transferred to Luxembourg.  That even risks affecting the final decision on the European Public Prosecutor's Office in Luxembourg).

Yours faithfully,

Luxembourg, 23 March 2017.

FFPE / U4U / G2004 / Save Europe / Solidarité Européenne / USFL / USL