Brussels, the 8 March 2017
Note to Madam Irène SOUKA, Director-General of DG HR
Madam Lowri Evans, Director-General of the parent Directorate-General of EASME Agency
Subject: Unsustainable situation within EASME
Disregard for social dialogue and for the role of trade unions: refusal by the EASME Deputy Director to allow a CA colleague, subject to a dismissal proposal at the end of the probationary period, to be assisted by a representative of our trade union at the dialogue with her Appeal Assessor.
Request for acceleration of the procedure for the appointment of the new Director
A situation which has now become unsustainable
With our note of 8th February 2017 ( link ), to the attention of Mr Malacarne, EASME Deputy Head, we had already stressed the major dysfunctions in human resources management within EASME and the lack of attention paid to the welfare of our colleagues.
The absolutely extraordinary number of supportive responses received from EASME staff underscores the accuracy of our critical analyses. Just for you to be able to fully measure the detestable climate within this Agency, it is enough to note that, for fear of reprisals, these reactions were addressed to us anonymously or with our promise to keep them absolutely confidential. Moreover, several colleagues have expressed their concerns about the actions that the Agency might decide to take, in response to the criticisms voiced by R&D, and which they recognized as being well grounded. They actually fear that the staff might be “invited” to express their “spontaneous” support for the Agency’s management.
These elements seem to us more than sufficient to demonstrate the total inadequacy of the answer of M. Malacarne ( link ) and the uselessness of a dialogue at his level, insofar as he persists in trivializing and relativizing everything so that nothing changes within this Agency.
The act of the Prince, the sole source of right within EASME
It should be noted that since the retirement of the former Director of EASME the fate reserved of the staff – which was already unsatisfactory – is worsening, every day a little more.
Unfortunately, it is clear to us that the only human resources management practice known and set up within this agency, seems to be based solely on the principle of authority, and that the act of the Prince is there the sole source of right.
Everything seems to have been made to endorse a climate of widespread fear. Indeed, they shamelessly abuse the precarious status of our colleagues, take advantage of the expectation of renewal of contracts and the impossibility of mobility, and systematically demolish any possibility of a genuine social dialogue.
Unum castigabis, centum emendabis
Any even very timid critical approach, any request to improve, even marginally, the situation, any call to take into account the best practices set up by other executive agencies, to respect the Commission’s general policies on talent management, teleworking, conciliation of work and private life or to ensure the minimum well-being at work are systematically rejected.
And colleagues who would have dared to show their legitimate dissatisfaction are systematically convicted of the crime of lèse-majesté with the obvious aim of dissuading anyone who would have even just thought about following their example.
In this regard, to understand the climate that runs rampant through this agency, it is enough to mention that many EASME colleagues had already told us about their fear that the opinions expressed in response to the Staff Survey 2016 could be traced back, so that they preferred to give up any critical appraisal for fear of retaliation. Some of them expressed their outrage at the “invitations” they received to make positive assessments, so that the EASME management can strut with the highest score among all the executive agencies.
But despite this very heavy and toxic atmosphere, it is clear that a very considerable decrease in satisfaction between 2014 and 2016 has emerged, both at Middle Management and Senior Management levels.
Safari hunting for teleworkers or tele-vacationers organized at EASME which seems to believe that teleworking means (not) working … in front of the TV!
Moreover, beyond its phobia of collective and trade union action, the EASME management seems to have developed another acute phobic obsession towards teleworking, even though it is recognized by the Commission and by the medical and social services as being useful to fight the evil of the 21st century – stress at work – and as being favourable to reconcile work and private life.
Within EASME, a real teleworkers-hunt has been launched: any colleague who dares to ask his / her hierarchy to be entitled to this working formula is treated like a tele-vacationer who just wants to have fun. Everything is done to discourage staff from using this possibility, in total violation of the policy guidelines adopted by the Commission in this area. And if ever an overly indulgent head of unit yields to the temptation to accept the requests of his / her staff, should the medical service dare to propose such solution… then the implacable department of human resources rectifies “the abuses”.
Well-being in EASME-Style: colleagues crammed into sardine-can-offices whereas the number of windows of the senior management offices is carefully respected
Yet an intelligent use of teleworking would be all the more justified and useful to EASME as colleagues are literally piled up in offices far too small and perfectly inadequate. What is happening to our colleagues does not seem to happen to managers who seem to be able to benefit from the scrupulous respect of the number of windows of their offices. A sardine can to “store” the “simple people” at work, a ballroom dance floor with bay windows like the Palace of Versailles for the “aristocracy”.
Considering that everything is just fine, the basic principle of social dialogue is … “Do not call “the unions!”
It is obvious that in such a context, and in spite of the laudable efforts made by the members of the EASME Staff Committee, it is difficult to believe that it will be possible someday to establish a genuine social dialogue that would actually associate the staff representation.
Everything is made to dissuade colleagues from calling on trade unions and to ensure that any external interventions will not disrupt the “order” established by Agency’s controllers over the staff.
In this parody of the worst possible taste, trade unions are seen as dangerous troublemakers who must at all costs be prevented from intervening in the theatrical play daily staged, i.e. that “at EASME, everything goes perfectly well; still, do not forget that your contract must be renewed and could also be terminated and if that does not suit you, just resign: there are hundreds of candidates waiting for the first opportunity to take your post “.
And in case attempts to dissuade colleagues from appealing to the despicable trade unionists should fail… no worries, we will invent a new rule to deny them access. It is believed that a placard will soon be placed at the entrance of the building: “Trade unionists off limits at EASME”.
Against this backdrop, the last odious form of discrimination made by EASME was the intimidation via the refusal to allow a representative of our trade union to assist a CA colleague faced with a proposal for dismissal at the end of her probationary period.
The legal fantasy of the EASME (so called) human resources unit was used to prepare the text of the “right decision” for the Acting Director.
And, in particular, when the colleague expressed her wish to be accompanied during the dialogue with her Appeal Assessor by one of our representatives, Mr Malacarne based his very strong refusal on the fact that EASME had decided to apply the rules governing these procedures as follows:
- on the occasion of the dialogue, the participation of a third person must be linked to the aims of the meeting (sic!) and thus no representatives of R&D allowed around the table as they would only be union tourists, according to EASME
- EASME therefore does not accept that, on the occasion of this dialogue, the CA colleague could be assisted by a staff representative from outside the Agency, since they seem to consider that latter did not know about the work done by the Agency.
This of course without even bothering to check the competences of the representative to which the colleague had appealed, while he is a member of the Brussels Local Committee and of the Central Staff Committee, has already sat on the Committee on Reports of the Commission and therefore has all the necessary knowledge of the Staff Regulations, of its implementation provisions and of the case law in terms of probation report necessary to assist, inter alia, our EASME’s colleague.
It should be noted that concerning the legal framework governing the organization of the aforementioned dialogue with the Appeals Evaluator, point (g) of Annex IX to the GIP of Article 79(2) of the CEOS of 18 September 2012, applicable to EASME, stipulates that in the case of a negative probation report, the evaluated has the right to be accompanied by another person “provided that he is an official or other agent in respect of the CEOS “.
Therefore, there is no requirement to belong to the Agency.
In addition, EASME HR Unit reminded our CA colleague that there was “no obligation” whatsoever to be accompanied by a third party during the dialogue with her Appeal Assessor.
Assuming that this would have been likely to reassure her, the colleague was also informed that a representative of the Agency’s HR would have attended the dialogue.
And concluding that if, despite all these clarifications and assurances, he really wanted to be accompanied during the dialogue, he could always call only on a member of the Agency’s Staff Committee.
It does not seem necessary to me to point out that such an approach was abusive and in this case deprived the colleague of the possibility of being assisted by a qualified representative of our union with all the experience and expertise in the management of procedures of this kind and also fully independent vis-à-vis EASME managers.
As regards the consequences of these acts, I would like to draw your attention on the fact that this dialogue resulted in the decision of the concerned colleague to submit on-the-spot her resignation ─ or maybe too kindly accept the invitation to resign ─ without even waiting for the result of the procedure!
This is something EASME warmly welcomed since the colleague’s decision may have spared it from obtaining the opinion of the Joint Evaluation Committee before her dismissal (see point g (2) of Annex IX to the GIP of Article 79(2) of the CEOS of 18 September 2012).
However, this Committee is chaired by an external person to EASME, namely Ms Superti, human resources director of DG GROW, appointed by the parent DG. Another member, external to EASME and belonging to DG MOVE, also sits in the Committee. This, in the logic of the management of this Agency, must also be perceived as another act of inherently unacceptable interference.
On the one hand, the absence in this procedure of the opinion from the Joint Assessment Committee, which the resignation from the incriminated colleague allowed EASME not to ask, is all the more regrettable given that, together with the other members of the Committee, Ms Superti, future president of the Committee on Reports of the Commission, could have assessed this case in the light of the case-law of the Committee and the practice of the our Institution’s Appointing Authority’s decisions.
In order for these external members to be able to efficiently fulfil their missions by satisfying EASME’s claim, namely knowing in detail about the work of this Agency, may we kindly invite EASME’s acting Director, to offer the external members of the Evaluation Committee an unpaid internship within its services so that they can finally understand the stakes of the files on which they are called upon to make a decision?
In general, you would agree that a colleague faced with a resignation proposal shall be given an opportunity to be assisted by a union representative with all the experience and knowledge of the rules in force, case-law and the practices of the Committee on Reports of the Commission.
In such cases, experience shows that it is determinant to verify that during the probationary period, colleagues have clear information about the tasks to be performed, the criteria followed to assess their attitudes, performance and behaviour in services. Likewise, it is essential to check that, in the event of difficulties, an intermediate report has been correctly drawn up by the superior and that the appropriate accompanying and follow-up measures were put in place so that the colleague can correct any deficiencies found before the end of her probationary period.
Otherwise, as the Committee on Reports has always pointed out in its opinions (unanimously adopted and systematically followed by the Appointing Authority), it is inacceptable that a fully satisfactory interim report, which does not state any blame, drawn up by the evaluator, results, a few days later, in a proposal for the resignation of the colleague, in the absence of any explanation and new facts validly justifying such a decision.
EASME management obviously facing serious difficulties in understanding the basic principles of social dialogue, we have no choice but to appeal to you to remind this European Service of some minimal rules in law, confirmed by DG HR itself:
1) In the first place, it should be recalled the formal position given in 2010 by the Commission’s Social Dialogue Unit: “a trade union representative of the Commission can accompany a colleague of an agency, even more so if the latter is “executive”, in discussions withthe hierarchy, in the cases provided for this purpose. For example, a representative may accompany a colleague during a discussion concerning an assessment, disciplinary procedure, etc.”
2) It is necessary to continue the didactic efforts by recalling that the possibility for representatives of the Commission’s trade unions to assist the colleagues of the agencies was never questioned at all during the dialogue meetings held with DG HR in respect to the implementation of a genuine social dialogue within these services;
3) It will not be useless to mention that regarding the application of these provisions by all other executive agencies, our representatives, like those of other trade unions, have always been able to assist colleagues assigned to them in such proceedings or any other similar occasion;
4) It should also be recalled that the staff of the agencies are members of the Commission’s trade unions, that many of these colleagues were previously assigned to the Directorates-General of our institution and that others are also Commission officials on leave on personal grounds or seconded from the Agency;
5) It is also useful to indicate that, from a statutory point of view, a specific Memorandum of Understanding has also been drawn up between the CSC and the NEASC bringing together the staff committees of the executive agencies.
It is urgent to appoint a new Director for EASME
The many dysfunctions observed, as well as the tensions among members of the management of this Agency ─ that EASME will certainly deny, as it has then also to explain the wish of rapid reintegration expressed by one of its heads of unit ─ require that the procedure for appointing its new Director is carried out without delay.
In the light of the above, and on the basis of the invitation by Mrs Souka to the Commission’s staff representatives to report to her any dysfunction in social dialogue perceived within the agencies, and in view of your responsibility as Director-General of the parent DG, I would like to take this opportunity to seize you so that EASME can immediately put an end to its despicable practices that are filibustering the defence and a dignified and legitimate representation of the colleagues.
In particular, the people responsible for these services should be (unfortunately) reminded that the delirium of unbridled power of an executive agency’s management is no longer welcomed, at least ever since the change of governance, strongly supported by us, established a very strong link between each executive agency and its parent DG and a clear responsibility of the latter, to which a claim is justly being made in this case.
Similarly, since the reform of Article 110 of the Staff Regulations, that we also strongly supported, in order to guaranty a coherent and harmonized application of the Staff Regulations, the rules implementing the Staff Regulations in the executive agencies are, with duly justified exception, identical to those applicable to the Commission. Any derogation to this rule shall be submitted to the Commission’s authorization.
It is therefore no longer possible for an agency to “stand alone”, to invent rules or ad hoc enforcement measures to impose its archaic vision of management coupled with its contempt for social dialogue and trade union representation.
Thanking you in advance for the follow-up you might kindly give to this letter, I remain at your disposal for any additional information.
M. G. Oettinger, Vice-President – Budget & Human Resources
Mrs E. Bieńkowska, Commissioner—Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
MM. C. Levasseur, C. Roques, DG HR
MM. R-J. Smits, DG RTD; D. Calleja Crespo, DG ENV; J. Delbeke, DG CLIMA; D. Ristori, DG ENER;
R. Viola, DG CONNECT; J. Aguiar Machado, DG MARE; H. Hololei, DG MOVE
MM. I. Iacono, Central Staff Committee President, L. Wardyn, Local Staff Committee President
Staff of the Agencies and Commission