List 3-USHU: Unity and Solidarity Outside the EU
Dear Contract Agents in Delegations all around the world!
USHU has lobbied hard for over a decade to obtain improvements to the working conditions of Contract Agents (CA) – we know the CA situation in EU DEL like the back of our hand and we have fought tirelessly to establish a career progression for highly qualified and experienced CAs.
Issues Contract Agents face:
• Contract Extensions - USHU has advocated for a fair approach to contract extensions across DGs given the considerable confusion over durations of successive contracts. Over the years, HQ has now adopted a harmonised approach allowing more predictability for CA colleagues.
• Proposed Non-renewals – USHU has jumped in to protect and defends CAs where the justification for non-renewal is clearly not based on performance but on interpersonal issues and even cases of harassment. We have successfully brokered solutions to ensure that the livelihood of well-performing CAs is protected.
• Career Stagnation - Contract agents face stagnation and few career perspectives. USHU has supported various ways to provide entry points for contract agents to a career as an official: internal competitions, specialist competitions, access to temporary agent positions, and the introduction of a senior expert programme. The latest announcement by the Commission of the launch of an internal competition exclusively for Temporary Agents (TA) with only 12 months in the service shows that where there is political will, there is a way to provide more opportunities for internal recruitment. This competition has been perceived very badly by CAs in EU DEL who have been in service for over a decade with limited/no chances of true career progression. We need to nurture young talent and motivate more experienced CAs too. One does not exclude the other but clearly Commission Managers do not prioritise their CAs in EU Delegations!
• The glass ceiling – many CAs are fast approaching the highest grade in their function Group with nowhere further to go. This structural HR problem needs to be urgently addressed and USHU firmly supports the idea of establishing a senior expert profile that would allow the Commission to save budget by replacing external consultants with proven and qualified CAs as Temporary Agents in the short term.
• Reforms in EPSO tests: It seems as though EPSO is finally waking up and taking heed of what USHU has been saying for years. There is a need to find a combination of cognitive tests and experience demonstrated in TALENT SCREENERS. Qualified and performant staff are totally demotivated by CBT tests who main purpose is to eliminate masses of competent staff who have proven time and time again that they merit career progression but cannot dedicate months to the preparation of EPSO CBT tests and are clearly disadvantaged. There must be a way to ensure that their professional profiles and skills are taken into consideration in the assessment process as CBT alone simply does not deliver quality results.
• Mobility of contract agents - USHU was at the negotiating table when the first ever decision on CA mobility was adopted back in 2014 with the aim to provide more professional opportunities for CAs and to permit mobility for a range of hardship posts. We were successful in requesting a review of the Decision to allow for ad hoc mobility after 3 years in service and we managed to obtain a reduction in duration for contract agents in hardship posts.
• Improved Attractiveness of EU DEL - USHU is pushing for more and better conditions for high hardship and non-family postings. Other International Organisations offer far more rest leaves and colleagues in the UN are obliged to take a month of leave after having served for two years in a non-family posting. Additionally, allowances should also be looked at in detail to ensure that financial incentives are also established fairly for contract agents.
• Coordination with other Trade Unions – We have successfully coordinated and lobbied with other Trade Unions for improvements on a range of HR issues affecting all staff categories in Delegations. USHU is present in all critical negotiations and aims to engage more with the Parliament, the Council to help them understand better the structural imbalances in the current Staff Regulations that are harmful to CAs.
USHU Targets for 2022 onwards
• An authentic career development path for CAs with access to Temporary Agent posts
• More internal competitions with use of the Talent Screener also for CAs
• Greater access to training and learning opportunities
• Accelerated reclassification process
• Introduction of a Senior Expert Programme for experienced CAs
• More incentives for hardship postings
• Inter-institutional CA mobility for greater job opportunities