Breaking news: The Commission adopts a package of measures…

The Commission adopts a package of measures concerning equal treatment between women and men for management posts including

  • The multiplication of hierarchical layers by introducing in EACH DIRECTION the new role of “assistant to the Director”, and by making compulsory for EACH UNIT that of “deputy head of unit”
  • The “centralization” of the appointment procedure for senior management posts

The missing social dialogue: wanted!

It should be noted from the outset that such important measures were adopted without neither any discussion with the staff representation nor its information.

This is the new face of Social Dialogue, which DG HR seems to want more and more to engage in, suggesting that discussions with OSPs would be a painful chore, which should be avoided as much as possible.

It is also significant that this package of measures bound to have an indisputable impact on the staff policy of our institution, and on the working conditions and career prospects of ourcolleagues, was adopted without, in any way awaiting the results of all-out ongoing consultations on “modernizing HR management”.

This can only reinforce the fears expressed by R&D in regard tp  taking stock of the opinions of colleagues and the real purposes of this exercise (link)

Indeed, the cumbersome management procedures within the services which will inevitably result from some of these measures being enacted without any prior consultation, is in clear contradiction with the desire for simplification displayed by DG HR and is not in line:

  • neither with the results of all the staff Survey showing the demotivation of the staff in  face of the multiplication of hierarchical layers,
  • nor with the new “culture of trust” announced by Commissioner Hahn,
  • nor even with the progression towards a more “agile” administration, breaking the silos promoting the co-creation that DG HR is also advocating in the context of the frantic ongoing consultations on the “modernization of HR management”

R&D supports with conviction the policy on equality between women and men! However, this is not solely limited to the distribution of management posts

In this regard, we welcomed the President’s commitment to achieve the target set by the end of her term of office regarding the distribution of management posts equitably between women and men. Even if it bears repeating for the umpteenth time,: taking into account the rights and expectations of our sisters is certainly not limited to these aspects alone.

However, while it is noted that the Commission has ceased to limit itself to empty slogans, are the measures adopted in this case the most appropriate to pursue these goals? Allow us doubt it.

Package of measures adopted by the Commission: theanalysis of R&D

The multiplication of hierarchical levels: towards a “Mexican army” or rather in the manner of  “Tintin”?

1) Within EACH Directorate of our institution will henceforth be appointed an “Assistant to the Director”

The Commission has therefore instructed all Directors-General to draw up before October 31, in agreement with their supervisory commissioner, a list designating for EACH director post a head of unit who will act as his deputy. This list should include, in principle, at least 55% women.

Heads of unit hereby appointed in the absence of any clearly established criteria and any formal appointment procedure will appear in the organization chart as “Deputy Director”.

In this regard, we share the reservations expressed as to the confusion set between, on the one hand, the objective rules governing the deputising exercise and, on the other hand, an appointment procedure allowing access to a management post in the organization chart.

Moreover, as if that were not enough, a new layer is added to the hierarchical structure. While the procedure for appointing deputy heads of unit is not always transparent, the procedure for appointing ” Deputy Directors” will simply be non-existant!

Under these conditions, the enthronement of these “super heads of unit” decided by the simple “act of the prince” risks creating tensions within the Directorates to the detriment of the proper operation of the service. The first pieces of information and outraged messages that we have been receiving confirm the validity of these fears.

Directors-General will need to ensure that these roles are carried out on a gender parity basis by the end of 2022.

Regarding the posts of deputy heads of unit, these are not even included in the organization charts, causing growing confusion and absolutely divergent practices across Directorates-General both in terms of the tasks delegated to them and in the arrangements for appointing them. Moreover, some heads of unit want to be “assisted”, while others refuse any interference within their “small kingdom”.

A bit like in Tintin’s albums where the soldiers are decked out with medals:  titles are multiplied and this excess runs the risk of being a token of ineffectiveness.

This artificial and systematic multiplication of roles in the hierarchical structure does not take into account the real operational needs of each service and is not accompanied by a real harmonization of their size. Thus, within “nano units” or “nano directions”, the “decision-makers” will almost be more numerous than “the executants”.

Are we moving towards an organization constituted of a multitude of hierarchical layers, a panoply of “decision makers” and a cruel lack of fighters “?

We share the fears already expressed that, within services, colleagues, rather than carrying out their tasks, will have to spend even more time juggling between a multitude of hierarchical levels, often in conflict or contradiction between them, with extended Ares files containing a panoply of agreements and visas to collect each time, imposing on colleagues exhausting and disheartening  efforts of explanation.

The multiplication of hierarchical layers is also recognized by experts as a source of stress at work and psychosocial risks.

Faced with the number of decision-makers and the multitude of instructions, there is a risk that the services are thus disorganized and entangled in contradictory directives.

“Centralization” of appointment procedures

“In order to streamline certain aspects of the selection procedure for members of senior management and to ensure the fluidity and speed of the procedures” the Commission has decided that four of the permanent members of the Consultative Committee on Appointments (CCA) will give opinions, either at a meeting to take place at least once a month, or by written procedure, on:

all requests for the publication of vacant posts

and

on the advisability of carrying out interviews in CCA, and with which candidates, the preselection remains subject to being revised until the opinion is delivered.

This is a major change in the governance of appointment procedures!

It is praiseworthy  that the Commission is finally abandoning its attitude, which has discredited our Institution, claiming to blindly stand by the current procedures when they have already largely demonstrated all their limits.

However, are the measures adopted in this case the best suited?

The real reforms of the appointment procedures requested by R&D

R&D has always called for a profound reform of the appointment procedures to improve transparency and to put an end to the detestable practice of parachuting and, more generally, to the growing politicization of these appointments.

In this context, we have supported the demands for a profound reform of these procedures that the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman have also recently addressed to the Commission and that our Institution has rejected by indulging in blind and laughable defence of the status quo, even claiming to “religiously respect the spirit and the letter of the Staff Regulations”.

We have never ceased to point out that given the important responsibilities entrusted to senior management and the sometimes-dramatic consequences that a bad manager can inflict on colleagues placed under his responsibility. It is essential to implement transparent and credible procedures guaranteeing equal treatment of all applicants, building the choice on clear criteria that meet only the needs of our institution and allow us to respect the commitment to always appoint “the right person to the right job”.

But this is not enough: fair and efficient procedures must also be provided in order to make it possible to rectify, without delay, any decisions that have turned out to be erroneous, by starting to set up a real 360 ° evaluation procedure, far from the current semblance, and which is credible.

Thus, concerning the measures adopted by the Commission, we can only welcome any effort made to ensure better consistency of these appointments and to avoid divergent approaches and “double standards” in the practice of publishing posts.

We also praise the finding of the underpinning idea to this centralization which recognizies as demonstrated in the recent past, that DG HR is not in a position to ensure this harmonization and coordination on its own.

Nonetheless, we also understand the fears expressed about this “centralization” regarding the danger of “total control” at the central level, which would deprive other Directors-General, as well as the other Members of the College of real influence on these appointments. At the risk of making appointments disconnected from reality and thus not meeting the needs of the services for which these colleagues will nevertheless be responsible.

It is also essential to avoid spreading the message that only support “at the central level” could allow access to these posts and guarantee further career development.

Conclusion

R&D reaffirms its strong support for the policy on equal opportunities between women and men.

R&D, nevertheless, shares all the reservations and fears about this package of measures, and will remain very attentive to the first results of their implementation not failing to report any proven slippage.

Cristiano Sebastiani,

President

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1 Secretary-General (President), Director General of DG HR, Head of the President’s cabinet and Head of Cabinet of the Commissioner in charge of Human Resources,

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