Perhaps the refusal, once again, of the Board to correct your last year’s basic salary for losses in purchasing power that occurred over 2018, is a time for all of us to fundamentally reflect on the poor Social Dialogue and social cohesion at the Bank.
You may have understood, in this context, that the College of Staff Representatives has been plainly ignored. In practice, this means that the College is simply not in a position, nor equipped, to ensure that increases in last year's cost of living do not erode your purchasing power. Such decision should obviously be disconnected from any discussion on merit increases, which are to be reflected in your salary after the annual evaluation process is completed.
Furthermore, the EIB in its relations with Staff, has become increasingly legalistic, and is currently on a hunt to seek reforms, reductions, and recuperations of allocations, which further endanger your remuneration to which you signed up. With a hard Brexit becoming increasingly probably by the day, and with mandates the Bank accepts without even ensuring cost-coverage, employment rights – and not only those of UK Staff – are at stake.
All in all, and without wanting to come across as an alarmist, this means that the probability that you will have to rely on legal practitioners in dealing with your professional relationship with the Bank has increased substantially. Unfortunately, good legal assistance is rather expensive. A legal action before the ECJ can easilly cost between ten and twenty thousand euro. Unfortunately, insurances available on the market often exclude international courts or international employers. And this has to be seen against a background where the Bank has no financial limitations in contracting the best lawyer’s available to defend itself against claims from Staff.
I have tried to find solutions for this since many years, and have come to the conclusion that the level of legal and collective support you may need is offered, to various degrees, by Trade Unions operating in the EU Institutions.
Furthermore, a Trade Union entertains three powers that cannot be conferred on the College of Staff Representatives.
- First, as a body with separate legal personality, the Trade Union enjoys a limited legal standing before the EU and national courts. In other words, the Trade Union can defend its members before a Court, without these members having to carry the financial burden.
- Second, a Trade Union has as vocation to conclude collective agreements with the Bank on behalf of its members. The scope of such agreements will be set out in the recognition agreement. Examples include, for instance, the “convention collective de travail des salaries de Banques” in Luxembourg. Collective agreements ensure that an employee cannot be exposed to the mere discretion of the employer. With the SR II contract soon to exceed 50% of Staff, the generalised CDD policy rolled out at the Bank, and an increased desire by the Bank to have the fullest discretion in Staff matters, protection by a Trade Union would thus be effective and - to my mind - desirable.
- Third, the Trade Union can declare a collective conflict between its members and the Bank, and enjoys a right to strike. “Strike” may not be the most important word here, but rather the process following the declaration of a breach of the collective interest. Indeed, the execution of the right to strike requires that the Bank and the Trade Union agree in the “recognition agreement” on certain rights, obligations, and dispute resolution mechanisms. It includes a minimum pre-notification period for a strike, which, once triggered, results in a valuable process: namely, the unfolding of an open, transparent and sound social dialogue, including a dispute resolution mechanism, with a view to find a solution to overcome the underlying problem. Obviously, Trade Unions have access to a network of printed and social media, and often a political network, which is all valuable in its own right in leveraging the negotiations. All in all this would give a precious advantage to defending interest of the members of the Trade Union beyond what is currently possible in the way the Bank has set up Staff Representation.
I appreciate there is a choice of Trade Unions. Personally I have adhered to the USL (Union Syndicale de Luxembourg www.uslux.eu) who has proposed me for co-optation in their Executive Board, with the purpose of advising on particular EIB matters. Whilst the extent of my engagement in that respect will depend on the upcoming EIB Staff Representative election results in February, I believe that one may reasonably and safely conclude that USL has taken important preparatory steps to ensure that it carefully looks after social issues at the EIB. Rest assured that I have already requested the USL not to seek interference with the prerogatives of the College of Staff Representatives, but rather to join forces where possible, which was fully accepted in principle at its highest level of its governance.
My choice for USL was based on the following:
- USL has been operating across the EU institutions in Luxembourg since 45 year, and has shown evidence of being able to influence on decisions by the institutions ;
- It is the largest Union operating in the Institutions and has over a thousand of members in Luxembourg ;
- It has a social character: lower revenues pay less monthly contributions;
- It has as a vocation to defend the EU project and the general interest of all Luxembourg based entities, public or private, that contribute to the EU project, which is corroborated in its Statutes ;
- Given the various mandates Member States have entrusted the EIB with, leading to a rapid increase in its Staff, the USL has shown a keen interest in the social dimension at the EIB Group. Needless to say that this includes consequences of Brexit. A topic the USL currently is studying, for instance, is if there are legal grounds to contest the Bank’s refusal to continue paying ex-pat allowances following the adaptation of Luxembourg nationality. It turns out that this is not a generalized practice across EU institutions ;
- One of its vocations is to provide – without restrictions and on all subjects – financial assistance for the preparation and submission of complaints and/or appeals to the ECJ for its members where the member would wish so. Also, as a legally established Trade Union, the USL may take the Bank to court in its own capacity ;
- Members have furthermore free access to Luxembourg patients' rights association, backed by the Health Ministry, the Patiente Vertriedung (link here), which has approximately 260 000 members, and which has as vocation to mediate to try to reach an out-of-court settlement on contestations of medical bills. This may prove useful against the background of the denunciation of the Convention with the Doctors I have been fighting for (I continue the battle for the convention with the hospitals – and the USL is fully supporting this initiative).
I can only advise you to join a Trade Union, not least if you are under an SR II contract, and can warmheartedly recommend you to opt for USL: http://www.uslux.eu/en/content/be-member
Whilst the right to establish a Trade Union cannot be refused, the Union has released a courtesy request to the Bank to be formally recognized. You may also appreciate that the USL issued a request for concertation with President Hoyer on behalf of its members, on the refusal of the Bank, notably as the only employer in Luxembourg, to comply with the indexation of salaries (link here).
Information meeting at the EIB - Tuesday 23 September
Last Tuesday, Union Syndicale Luxembourg (USL) held an information meeting for staff of the European Investment Bank (EIB), at the Bank's premises.
Various aspects of our staff union were highlighted :
- the role it plays in the various European Institutions in Luxembourg and beyond;
- its action program for the defence of all staff of all institutions and bodies in the EU orbit;
- its activities at individual level (legal assistance, training, advice on problems in both professional and private life).
In the ensuing discussion, various questions and concerns of EIB staff were addressed, in particular:
- the added value of having a staff union at the EIB : negotiations, possibility of collective agreements;
- the scope of possible agreements with the employer: applicable to all staff, without prejudice to individual appeals;
- the "concertation procedure", as it now functions at the EU Institutions: technical and political level;
- the possibility of work stoppages;
- the complementarity of the activities of staff unions and those of the Staff Committee.
In view of the specific nature of the activities of the EIB the example of the ECB, where the staff union IPSO is now active and officially recognized, was discussed as well.
The USL wishes to thank the Administration of the EIB for the technical assistance, and remains at the disposition of all staff for additional information and for assistance in setting up an USL delegation at the EIB.
Luxembourg, 9 September 2014
Open letter to the staff of the EIB
USL is without a shadow of a doubt the trade union or staff association that is most representative of the European civil service in Luxembourg.
Some facts and figures: USL which has some 1,000 members, is represented in all the institutions in Luxembourg and plays a leading role in the running of the staff committees at the Commission and the Court of Auditors.
USL also has a presence in union activities at international level as a member of the European Trade Union Confederation.
US is also proud of the success of its action at the European Central Bank, experience which could benefit us at the EIB.
In response to requests from members of staff at the EIB, USL would like to set up a union delegation as a permanent structure within the EIB and as an interlocutor for the EIB, cf. ILO Conventions.
This process involves strengthening the rank and file among the staff of the EIB, which is the reason why USL is launching this awareness-raising campaign at the EIB.
An information meeting is scheduled for 23 September at 14.30, in the EIB, WKI room CA. The following topics will be discussed:
- Legal opinion on recent EIB Court cases
Secondly, it will be necessary to arrange the election of USL representatives from among the local membership, and in parallel, set up the USL delegation within the EIB.
So that you can get better acquainted with our union organisation, please visit our website www.uslux.eu. There, you will find out about our structure, our rules, the services that we offer members (training, legal assistance) as well as important issues on which Union Syndicale is working at present, i.e. defending the interests of contract staff, the introduction of a weighting to reflect living costs in Luxembourg, and upholding a high-quality, permanent European civil service.
We are also sending you various documents issued by USL (EN and FR versions), including our action plan aimed at highlighting the benefits and guarantees of assistance involved in USL membership, as well as some testimonials from colleagues.
Of course, we remain entirely at your disposal and hope to see you soon as USL members, and therefore directly involved in tackling the many challenges that the building of Europe currently faces.
With kind regards,