Reorganisation of the Legal Service : A good example to welcome !

Reorganisation of the Legal Service :
A good example to welcome !

Clear rules need to be established for the reorganisation of Directorates-General and Services

R&D has never failed to denounce the disastrousreorganisations decided overnight by the “fait du prince”, princess or any Head of Cabinet, without consultation or transparency, with assignments and mobility imposed without the slightest dialogue or explanation…

Sadly, too often staff are the victims of totally unacceptable practices in which all aspects of a reorganisation are left to the goodwill, sensitivity and more or less oversized ego of the Director General. 

As always, R&D did not confine itself to assisting colleagues and denouncing poorly managed reorganisations, but we studied the results of the staff surveys in depth, then we organised several meetings with specialists to present proposals that would finally allow our institution to reorganise its services on the basis of clear procedures, with a participatory approach closely involving staff and its representatives.

As all specialists point out, in the event of a reorganisation it is essential to respect the ‘PDCA phasing-in’ with its four stages:

· Preparation phase P

· Deployment phase D

· Phase C of Comprehension

· Phase A of action, to record, abandon or adjust the project.

In the context of any reorganisation, attention should also be paid to the essential role played by listening and communication, which are not to be confused with practices aimed at trying to sell ex-post the decisions already taken in secret.

Genuine communication requires a real listening to colleagues well before taking decisions by closely involving them in the process.

Once the reorganisation is implemented, it is also important to continue the dialogue by organising feedback on experiences in order to correct any errors.

R&D again and again in defence of the Legal Service’s independence

R&D has always recalled that the independence and excellence of our Legal Service are essential to ensure the proper functioning of our institution but also a fundamental guarantee not only for the staff but also for European citizens who are entitled to be reassured that all decisions adopted are fully in line with the legal framework in force.

In this respect, we have always opposed in the strongest terms any measure that would undermine the independence of the Legal Service or prevent it from providing frank, objective and comprehensive legal advice.

Thus, in the recent past, we have openly contested the attempt to transfer the Legal Service under the authority of the Secretary-General, and/or to change its structure, functioning and tasks, to prevent the Legal Service from continuing to submit written observations in any preliminary questions referred to the Court of Justice… ( Note to Mr Günther Oettinger  – Your reply of 9 March to  « Renouveau et Democratie (renouveau-democratie.eu))

This is without forgetting the even more ill-advised attempts that we have denounced at the EESC, aimed purely and simply at abolishing its Legal Service in order to get rid of any obstacle that could oppose an administration that is increasingly self-referential and allergic to any criticism. Attempts that have elicited a very strong reaction from the European Parliament asking the EESC to provide its legal service with a formal working strategy to ensure that it is formally and systematically involved in the Committee’s most important issues without the decision to consult it or not being left to the individual services” ( EESC harassment case: EP decision on 2019 discharge – Judgment T 843/19« Renouveau et Democratie (renouveau-democratie.eu )

The participatory approach adopted for the reorganization of the Legal Service is a very good application of the principles advocated by R&D

We are pleased to note that the approach adopted to the reorganisation of the Legal Service recently announced by Mr Calleja is undoubtedly a good practice.

Indeed, the approach adopted conforms to best practices in use for quite some time in the most advanced administration and that R&D has always asked DG HR to take into account systematically in any reorganisation of our services.

In the context of the approach adopted for the reorganisation of the Legal Service, we appreciated in particular the break with the bad practices observed in such exercises and the:

– participatory approach adopted in the process of developing this reorganisation, right from the design phase, by setting up four working groups and also by organising dialogue with staff within each unit;

– transparency regarding the composition of these working groups through the publication of a call for expressions of interest;

– clarity in the objectives pursued and the scope of the issues to be addressed in the working groups.

It is worth mentioning here in more detail the aspects dealt with also in order to allow other Directors General to draw inspiration from them, as several of these aspects in the past have been considered as falling under the “sovereign prerogatives” deriving from their “sovereignty” and, as such, excluded from any possibility of dialogue with the staff and its representatives.

Indeed, the discussions in these working groups will include in particular the following issues:

– The basic structure and size, responsibilities and distribution of competences within the teams, the structure of the organisation chart, possible synergies and potential efficiency gains within and between the teams;
– Analysis of the roles of each manager, the distribution of ADs and ASTs within the teams, the role of ASTs/SCs, the centralisation of tasks and groups/networks of lawyers, the role of the assistants of the Director-General;

– Mobility, rotations of leaders, of staff between teams and outside the Legal Service, including to other institutions or international bodies, as well as the procedures and arrangements to ensure the transparency of the decisions adopted in this regard;
– Colleagues’ well-being, prevention and follow-up actions, return to the “new normal”: new workspace arrangements; new teleworking and office attendance measures;
– Talent management, recruitment, profiles, selection methods, panel composition and advertising will be discussed;
– The setting up of a specific mentoring system to assist and support staff who change team within the Legal Service;
– The principle of equal opportunities to be respected throughout the career;
– Training, both internal and external, for new colleagues and on-going training for staff;
– Career development and in particular how to attract young talent, internal or external competitions, selection of legal advisers, senior experts, senior assistants, transparency of appraisal and promotion exercises.

Despite the wide scope of the topics covered, it is appreciated to clarify that the list of subjects to be dealt with by each group is not exhaustive, is proposed for guidance only and they may be adjusted.

While this is undoubtedly a good start, once the draft for the new structure has been drawn up, it will also be important to allow each colleague to express his/her priorities in terms of assignment, so that everyone can, as far as possible, find the place they want within the new structure.

This should be disclosed in advance, both as regards to the precise tasks of each team and the identity of the manager concerned, as these elements also play an important role.

R&D remains at the disposal of the Legal Service staff to assist it throughout this process.

Cristiano Sebastiani,
President

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