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Contract Agent career path + lack of CA game plan in the proposed new Commission HR strategy

Article written by Helen Conefrey, President of USHU

As we wrote to you back in May, DG HR has been tasked with developing a new HR strategy which will modernise the workplace and ensure that human talent is at the heart of its vision for the future which will enable us to better serve the EU. We are now in the final stages of consultation on this proposed new HR strategy and staff in EU Delegations must become involved and ensure their voice is heard.

Make no mistake - the stakes are high as any new HR strategy will lead to policies that will be in force for many years to come and will shape the way staff are recruited in the future, how talent is managed and how our Institutions will rise to the challenges in a post-pandemic era. USHU has fully engaged with the Social Dialogue process and made specific proposals in relation to Contract Agents (at HQ and in EU DEL) and the need to provide a career paths that meets legitimate expectations.

There are high expectations for this new strategy that aims to modernise and green the workplace, ensure the Commission remains an attractive option and incentive existing staff to do even better in exchange for a challenging and rewarding career.

We know that EU Delegations add to the attractiveness of the Commission and offer enviable posts to staff who are willing to bring the EU to the globe yet the aspirations of the majority of their staff (Local Agents and Contract Agents ) are simply absent from the current proposal. This sends the message that certain staff categories are not a priority even if it is evident that they are critical to the success of the EU institutions on the ground, in third countries.

Among others, the critical and specific issue of career opportunities and pathways for Commission Contract Agents (CA3a) in EU Delegations and at Headquarters (CA3b) has been raised time and time again but this issue is ignored in the proposal.

CAs entered the system as of 2004 but after more than 15 years in the service, it is painfully obvious that the Commission does not have a game plan for Contract Agents. This persistent lack of vision, weakens the overall HR strategy and dilutes its potential.

Career development cannot be a zero sum game. More must be offered to Contract Agents and Local staff who have demonstrated their ability to take on greater responsibilities and need access to more career opportunities within the institution.

USHU is lobbying for a more ambitious and inclusive HR Strategy.A strategy that indeed attracts talent from the outside and is also mindful of the talent that already exists within its services.

Now is the time for our managers and political leaders to take the leap and offer more career pathways for Contract Agents – this is a win-win!


  1. New Special Senior Expert Program (SSEP): the eligibility criteria and the nuts and bolts of how to implement this need to be fully discussed but USHU’s proposal is to organise an annual internal selection procedure providing access to TA/AD posts. This could complement or even replace expensive external specialist programmes and fully harness the substantial internal CA talent that exists within the institution. Highly qualified CAs with proven skills and enviable expertise together with sound institutional knowledge must be provided with a pathway to permanent posts.

  2. Better organised Internal Competitions accessible to CAs. USHU is insisting that the Talent Screener be assessed at an earlier stage to avoid highly qualified CAs with strong professional records being eliminated unnecessarily by verbal (V), numerical (N) and abstract reasoning (A) computer based tests (CBT). A change in the preselection procedure is necessary to ensure equal treatment and to accounting fully for qualifications and expertise.

  3. Certification procedure for CAs: USHU believes DG HR must find a way to allow and encourage CAs with strong and proven performance to access a certification process to be reclassified as AST/AD. This is a win-win scenario and both rewards performance and motivates staff.

USHU requests the COMMISSION to urgently introduce specific measures aimed at CAs who have performed well in the service for several years.

We must prevent CAs from reaching a dead end with no chance to serve the EU better due to exclusionary HR policies which clearly have no place in the modern, inclusive and diverse workplace to which we all aspire.

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