Issues we care about

The number of issues we follow as members to the CLP HU, EEAS Staff Committee and local staff committees in Delegations are large and we deal with very diverse requests on a daily basis. We will aim to respond to your requests as quickly as possible and even over the weekend, particularly if it concerns a time-sensitive issue.

Below we provide you with an overview of the main priorities we are working on and our position in relation to certain staff issues - we believe this is important to tackle the most important issues first

Work-Life Balance

 
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Follow up of the annual leave case ( art 6 of Annex X) 

With the reforms in 2014, annual leave for staff in Delegations was reduced from a base right of 42 to 24 days per year. A court case responding to this change was unfortunately unsuccessful on appeal of the Commission in Court. USHU liaised constantly with the lawyers and spear headed the complaints and appeal procedure for hundreds of expatriate staff .We will not give up and we are now demanding additional "home leave" days "special leave" allocations for medical treatments and administrative procedures. 

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Introduction of telework to all EU Delegations

Structured telework has been in place in Headquarters for over a decade and should be rolled out with the same basic provisions in Delegations. There is no reason why we should jeopardize work/life balance with a more restricted version of telework in Delegations. The COVID/19 pandemic has shown clearly that colleagues can compensate for different work patterns modes and that planned results can be achieved and even exceeded.  USHU advocates for a modern workplace with a list of options including telework and office presence.

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Introduction of a policy for work-related burnout

We see this as a priority issue as we have dealt with too many cases of burnout. This is often related to the work-life balance. As postings, Delegations are particularly difficult and settling into the new environment is often not easy. Better induction of colleagues and close follow up by the administration should ensure a smooth integration of colleagues. More support structures for colleagues facing difficult situations should be built up also to retain staff that undergo a difficult period temporarily. 

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Coherent and comprehensive application of the flexitime regime

Flexitime is an established right at Headquarters and rules in Delegations should be aligned as much as possible with HQ. In particular, colleagues in hardship posts should not be punished for having other types of leave. Compensation for overtime is essential for the work-life balance an also to maintain an effective work environment. Responsible superiors also tell colleagues to look for a better balance if they are overstaying their time in the office. We are aware of Delegations where flexitime is still not implemented correctly and find this is really unacceptable.

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Better career perspectives across all staff categories

Career management in the Commission and the EEAS should move much more towards looking for talents within the institution. We need to promote from within and encourage an influx of new talents to ensure the efficiency of the system. If this is not matched with furthering career opportunities for staff  already working in the Commission/ EEAS it will not be a sustainable HR model.

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Ensuring a better system of floaters for different job functions 

We have seen positions in EU DEL remaining empty for extended periods and this has a particularly daunting effect on the team spirit in Delegations. Floaters for key positions would help in this scenario. Head of Section positions should not remain empty over longer periods and the same is true for positions covering larger portfolios.

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Ensure colleagues have a right to disconnect after work

Mobile devices and tablets have become an important part of our life and can be helpful to facilitate our work. However, if the expectation becomes that they are answered on the weekend or after normal work hours then they can become a problem and are no longer in line with an acceptable work-life balance policy.

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Basic services for staff in hardship positions

Staff in hardship posts and managed compounds should have access to affordable and quality food, and other basic services (e.g. hairdressers). We know that some international missions fully provide three meals without charge to their staff, while staff in EU Delegations is spending a good part of their income on paying for overpriced food.

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Balancing security of staff in hardship locations with other needs 

To order to ensure a good work climate also in hardship locations,  Delegations can make an effort to offer common areas, gyms and other recreational facilities to ensure staff can also enjoy their time on location.

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Preventing harassment in EU Delegations

Harassment in the EEAS & EU Delegations is still too frequent & much more needs to be done to solve this issue. Delegations have an increasing number of harassment cases and this should therefore be addressed with relevant measures to ensure this situation changes.

 

Ensuring job satisfaction

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Enhanced guidance for new colleagues to allow settling into Delegations

Starting up in a new Delegation can be eased by ensuring that a proper induction period and concrete measures are in place. 

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Better training opportunities on internal procedures and beyond

Administration departments in EU Delegations have a key role in welcoming new colleagues. Colleagues in these departments should develop a service culture that allows colleagues to settle in quickly and excel in their actual jobs.

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Improved workload distribution and management of staff

Absence of staff or late recruitment to replace staff often leads to an increased workload among colleagues. We demand a more balanced approach based on actual workload assessments and a fair sharing of responsibilities among staff.

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360° evaluation of team leaders and managers

Colleagues are rightly eager to introduce an appraisal system that is beneficial to both sides of the coin. Managers can benefit greatly from 360° evaluations. It is time to move to a more collegial approach between managers and subordinates.

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Ensuring proper office space

While the EEAS is looking into the issue of greening offices, we still see some office buildings that were not given enough attention and are simply a demotivating factor to the colleagues working in them. This concerns the basic setup of the buildings and also the often outdated furniture colleagues have to put up with.

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Improving follow up of evacuations of Delegations & ensuring all rights linked to evacuations are secured

Evacuations unfortunately are becoming more frequent and need to be followed up closely. USHU demands more ad hoc support by the Administration and the installation of a taskforce at EEAS HQ.

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Improving & simplifying the special leave scheme for medical reasons

Special leave for medical or administrative reasons is currently only possible for colleagues based in Delegation with an ICV of 30%  or higher. Given the large reduction in annual leave under the reform in 2014, it is important to also provide this opportunity to other colleagues, while maintaining more days for colleagues in hardship posts.

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Avoiding multiplex and collaborative office spaces unless this is implemented in an acceptable manner

We are not per se against multiplex offices that allow for collaborative spaces. However, we see the implementation of the few multiplex offices in the Commission/EEAS as inadequate for the type of work we perform on a daily basis. Policy work requires a quiet environment that is conducive also to confidentiality issues, the amount of reading we need to do and other tasks that simply require the sanctuary of a confined office space.

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Salary method for various staff categories

The institutions should consider introducing a mixed salary increase system where a lump sum is combined with a percentage increase to avoid the ‘scissor effect’ in salary increases whereby the gap between higher salaries and lower salaries becomes even greater

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Ensuring adequate support by the Administration for protocol issues

Administration departments in EU Delegations have a key role in welcoming new colleagues. Colleagues in these departments should develop a service culture that allows colleagues to settle in quickly and excel in their actual jobs.

 

Local Agents

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Securing a better & functional salary method, & ensuring its implementation in all EU Delegations

The current salary method for local colleagues has been a zero sum game for both the colleagues involved and the Delegations they work in. While the previous salary method aimed at being competitive among the best employers, the new method aims at being competitive amongst comparable local employers. We need a new salary method that better reflects local labour markets and ensures colleagues remain motivated in their jobs.

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Improving the health insurance for local agents towards better coverage

There are two different health systems in place for expatriate staff and for local agents in Delegations. Local Agents are expected to use their primary national cover where it exists.   USHU demands a fundamental reform of the system taking into account the fact that local colleagues need to ensure adequate health coverage.

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Reclassification of posts where colleagues work in the incorrect category

We still see a number of local agents working under lower groupings, although they are performing the tasks of a higher group. Reclassification was suspended by the EEAS whereas USHU believes colleagues have a right to the salary that corresponds to their job profile.

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Ensuring local agents benefit from the flexi-time regime

Local colleagues in some Delegations report that they are put under pressure not to apply the flexitime scheme. We want to ensure that flexitime is accessible to all staff categories including Local Agents.

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Expending coverage under the health insurance to retirement

While the health insurance scheme for local colleagues provides basic coverage and is appreciated by staff, it does not extend into pension, which proves problematic in many locations.

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Reinstatement of the reclassification scheme for local agents

The reclassification scheme for local agents was suspended years ago by the EEAS. USHU demands the reinstatement of this scheme to ensure local colleagues stay motivated and are remunerated correctly for the level of the tasks they undertake.

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Providing access to internal vacancies

Vacancies in Delegations should be first published internally. It is important also to allow Local Agents to progress in their careers through internal vacancies and to ensure that way that we remain a ‘learning organisation’. If colleagues ‘get stuck’ in a particular position this may be particularly demotivating.

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Close follow up of harassment cases

Harassment cases that concern Local Agents are taken seriously. Colleagues should be made aware of the possibilities at hand and should be enabled to seek out help any time. 

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Access to further education

While the health insurance scheme for local colleagues provides basic coverage and is appreciated by staff, it does not extend into pension, which proves problematic in many locations.

Contract Agents

 
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Improved access to internal competitions and a better selection methodology

Contract agents should be given access to internal competitions more regularly and the selection methodology should be improved. USHU lobbies to use  the ‘talent screener’ as a starting point and not the CBT tests.  COMM/EEAS could  look into ‘automated talent screener systems’. We see current psychometric testing methodology as inherently discriminatory. We also consider the error rates of these testing methodologies produce as too high.

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Addressing the lack of equality in allowance payments

Contract agents do not only receive

much lower salaries while often performing similar duties as Administrators, but also much lower allowances. We are encouraging greater equity and asking COMM/EEAS to look at a combination of lump sum and percentages payments instead of applying percentages only.

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Enhancing the current mobility scheme and ensure sufficient flexibility during its implementation

The mobility scheme as currently implemented suffers in particular by the lack of attractiveness of hardship posts to colleagues. In numerous rounds, we have seen now that hardship posts are avoided by the large majority of staff. Improvements to managed compounds and better compensation for colleagues should be found, in particular where colleagues relocate their families to their home base. A number of other issues should also improve.

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Ensuring extensions of contracts are in line with the procedures

We know of many cases where extensions are processed to late or where they are used as leverage to pressurise colleagues.  There is a need to look back at this closely and address issues with cases of concern and provide an agreed minimum notice period in case of non-renewals.

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Close follow up of the annual appraisal and reclassification exercises

USHU has an elected member on the JARC Joint Committee and follows closely issues related to complaints and appeals – we have great experience in advising CAs on how best to prepare any appeal.

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Acceleration of reclassification of contract agents

We can clearly see that contract agents reclassification happens on a slower path than the promotion of officials. This unacceptably slow progression is highly demotivating for staff who have been in the service for a considerable time and have performed well.

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Ensure contract agents gain access to career development

There should be manifold opportunities for contract agents to change into a better career path, in particular when they are close to the upper level of their salary grid. Access to different types of competitions, while taking duly into account the special qualification obtained in the service, should be the norm not the exception.

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Close follow up of the annual appraisal exercise

As members of the CLP HU, we participate in the Committee that discusses appraisals and reviews appeals. We are therefore involved closely in the follow up of the yearly appraisal exercise.

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Review of the current installation allowance in favour of a scheme based on equality between staff categories

Installation allowances are currently paid out on basis of base salaries and this leads to large differences between staff categories. We are encouraging greater equity and asking COMM/EEAS to review the situation and agree on a fairer approach.

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Establishing a joint mobility scheme between EEAS, Commission and EU Agencies

A joint mobility scheme among staff would ensure that colleagues have more flexibility to develop their career and to respond to personal circumstances. USHU has advocated for more opportunities and for legal obstacles to be overcome.

 

Officials

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Ensuring adequate training for management jobs

Team leader positions in Delegations are challenging for various reasons. USHU advocates to prepare better quasi-management staff for these challenges.

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Improving the current rotation scheme among officials

More transparency and improvements to the current mobility scheme are needed. Staff often complain of limited feedback and favouritism.

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Ensuring sufficient Head of Section positions are available in Delegations

The reduction of Head of Sections/Team Leader positions in Delegations has put many colleagues under strain and has a negative effect on all staff categories.

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Clear division of responsibilities between management staff

Improved job descriptions and clear demarcation lines between management staff should be established to ensure their best performance.

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Improved certification scheme for Assistants

The certification process for assistants is an important element in career progression of colleagues and needs to be fine-tuned regularly.

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Improved access to upper management positions

EEAS and Commission services should work on a framework agreement to ensure upper management positions are accessible to colleagues of both organisations. 

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Introduction of a sufficient pool of floaters for management positions in all sections

The lack of floaters for operational management staff is a key issue to be addressed also in light of the effects it might have on other staff categories.

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Providing coaching opportunities

Management positions are subject to particular challenges. Coaching can be a good element in this scenario to ensure that management skills are developed and adapted to particular circumstances like EU Delegations.

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Access to language courses

Management staff that would like to learn the local language in their country of posting should be guaranteed language training.

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Improved access to upper management positions

A truly joint rotation scheme between EEAS and Commission officials would be beneficial for the staff of both institutions and would improve linkages between political and development work over time.

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Ensuring suitable placements during the obligatory return to HQ

Staff that are obliged to return to Headquarters should be offered suitable positions so that they use their time well in Brussels and do not feel sidelined or neglected.

Platforms to discuss these issues

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USHU Facebook Group

The group is partially managed by USHU and addresses LA issues.

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EU's backbone in Delegations (LA ONLY)

The group is partially managed by USHU and addresses LA issues.

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Discourse Group for contract agents (former Yahoo group)

The group is partially managed by USHU and addresses CA issues.

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Contract Agents in EU Delegations

This Facebook group is managed by contract agents not affiliated to USHU. We participate on occasion and contribute to discussions there.

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Local Agents in EU Delegations

The group is managed by a local agent and a contract agent. It focuses on local agents issues.