Article written by Sunil Kumar, Sumeet Thakkar and Ranjan Shrestha
Local Agents (LAs) contracts are currently governed by EU Framework Rules, which set minimum standards for all Delegations alike and the Specific Conditions of employment for each delegation. The EEAS reform aims to offer a new modernised package of Working Conditions for Local Agents. However, the rollout and uptake of the new Working Conditions has been disappointing with many Local Agents indicating that they do not clearly understand the extent of the changes being proposed nor the implications on an individual level.
The current Framework Rules date from 1990 therefore in order to introduce the reform, three new Joint Decisions for LAs came into effect om August 2019 with the aim to modernise and improve the employment conditions of more than 3000 LAs working for the EU. This exercise has been carried out in consultation with Trade Unions whereas LAs on the ground and Delegation Staff Representatives (DSRs) inform us that there is still widespread concern as Local Agents try to genuinely understand whether the new Working Conditions being offered will be beneficial for them.
The situation in each EU DEL is distinct as Local Agents are also covered by National Labour law so USHU is helping colleagues understand the rules through virtual ‘regional meetings’ organised exclusively with LAs to help them meet the deadline of 30 June which the EEAS is imposing. USHU is worried at the situation in some countries where the EEAS Administration appears reluctant to have consultations and meetings with Local Agents on this critical matter.
Why this reform? Administration considers the old framework rules are 30 years old to be out-dated. The proposed reforms are therefore required to set out and implement the minimum standards required by EU laws/practices as far as possible. The administration has maintained that these reforms are intended neither to save costs for the Administration nor to reduce the existing rights of LAs.
The potential advantages / disadvantages? The more favourable option between the EU LA minimum standards and the local law will apply. Additional benefits which would include: double-step promotion, minimum 20 days annual leave, extended maternity leave, more special paid leaves including parental leave, additional 5% contribution (subject to conditions) to the Provident Fund, better compensation in case of invalidity or accident, new legal basis on psychological or sexual harassment, legal basis for flexi-working arrangements etc. Also some improvements to the current CSISLA coverage/reimbursements, including for Dental treatments and more flexibility on medical treatment abroad (not limited to neighbouring countries). The new rules also provide for adoption of guidance policies to assist Delegations in exercising their duty of care towards the local staff in security and emergencies, within the limits of national and international law.
The implications of this reform will vary from Delegation to Delegation, from one group to the other or even from individual to individual in the same Delegation. For e.g. someone who is at 35th step of his/her salary grid will not benefit from double step-promotion. Same way, if the national law provides better maternity leave entitlements or parental leave or annual paid leaves, the provisions under the national law will be applicable. Hence, it is in the interest of each local agent to see what is in the new reform for him/her in comparison to existing rights.
There are three parts to this contract:
1) Main Decisions complemented with accompanying decisions: These decisions set out the minimum standards applicable to local agents in the delegations 2) National Law Reference (NLR) - applicability of local law: The above decisions are complemented with the provisions of the local law and can be changed as the local law evolves. 3) Delegation Specific Decisions: These decisions are based on local practices and are specific to a delegation. It works on preserving some of the existing rights e.g. Annual leave, 13th month salary. Should I be careful signing it? Yes, indeed! This is your individual service contract. We strongly advise you to analyse the new offer carefully and check if you are actually losing any of your existing rights by comparing the offer with your current Framework Rules and Special Conditions of Employment. Conditions differ for each Delegation, therefore LAs are advised to request a meeting with your DSRs/HoA to clarify your doubts before signing the new addendum, the deadline of which is 30 June 2021. LA colleagues have complained that they have not received the NLR or Delegations Specific Decisions. USHU urges LAs who have doubts to request a meeting with their HOA/HoD, and if required a consultation with the EEAS LA unit in Brussels.
USHU has been organising a series of regional meetings with LAs - the Local agents are invited to join these meetings and clarify their doubts.
Given that a number of colleagues in several Delegations have not seen the whole reform package yet, and transparency and clarity should guide the process,
USHU calls upon administration to extend the deadline for acceptance of the new LA conditions by another 6 months and allow colleagues an opportunity to review/consult their own lawyer to understand how the new rules will affect them.
USHU requests DEL Administration to organise meetings with the concerned staff to clarify their doubts. It also urges to share the National Law Reference (NLR) document which the Delegation appointed Legal adviser may have prepared, with the local agents. This reflects Local Labour Law and should be accessible to all.
USHU requests the EEAS to establish a dedicated functional mailbox, where Local Agents can send their individual enquiries for clarification – this is win-win as it will help Local Agents to take a decision.
USHU encourages the Administration to join its online meetings and to address LAs and clarify their doubts upon an invitation.