2004 2013 2017

2004 Kinnock Deform, 2013 Šefčovič Deform, 2017 …?
The Deform or our Staff Regulation is part of the austerity process that Europe has been put through since 2008. Whole books such as Chang’s(external link) witty “23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism” and Stiglitz’(external link) “The Price of Inequality” are available against austerity in several languages. A thumbnail summary is that the top 1% or 2% who control our economies do much more harm than good. Or, we might just quote Francis Bacon(external link); “Wealth is like manure. It is not good but if it be spread." The sacrifices that are being extorted from the 98% leave the 2% wealthier still, but make Europe less competitive. The +- that are being squeezed out of our budget will go to boost productivity in the BRICS, leaving Europe behind, via tax cuts for the globalizing plutocrats.

Our strikes exert so little real economic pressure that they are protests, but not acts of resistance. Every day of strike was a step in the best direction, but the EU Institutions are not automobile factories with tight delivery schedules to meet. Protests were strongest at Council (kudos to those colleagues) and weakest among EP staff who categorically refused to strike. The level of mobilization of staff at the Commission and other Institutions lies between those two, getting better towards the end.

The Reform of 2004 was relatively harmless for the established officials with some years of seniority, but it was just the thin edge of the wedge. The precarious Contract Agents and the disadvantaged Generation 2004 really do have different interests from the older officials, and some cause for resentment. From the bosses’ point of view, that was an excellent beginning. The most dangerous development in 2003-2004 was the passive acceptance of the first round of cuts by those already in the service. It was an open invitation to more cuts.

In 2011 the Commission pretended that it could rush the new Staff Regulation through before the MFF with its deep cuts would come into effect. To that end, concessions had to be written into the draft from the beginning. As was foreseeable, Council simply blocked the process until after the austere financial framework was in place. But all the deep concessions that the Commission had written into its hasty draft remained on the table and were eagerly expanded by Council. It does no good to speculate on the proportion of honest incompetence and of deliberate sabotage that went into this lose lose strategy. In any case, we see that did not help staff.

Our protests have produced some useful results. Recall that the Commission’s first draft proposed making all new secretaries precarious Contract Agents. There very little protest among the incumbent secretaries. SID still launched some vehement verbal attacks, directed especially against Commissioner Reding and her elitist feminism. Other unions joined in and the plan was changed to allow job security for future secretaries. Their salaries remain chauvinistically low and there is that career ceiling at AST3 for the girls and AST9 for the boys. Of course, they can leave and get a job with a corporation, especially in the financial sector. That the best multilingual secretaries are being driven out of the public service and into the profiteering sector is at least a welcome side effect of the AST/SC reform, perhaps it is intended by some deformers. Remember who is in charge.

This example shows how serious protests can mitigate austerity, even when they are initiated by relatively small groups. There is reason to hope that more protests will bring more justice for the AST/SC, especially if they themselves push for improvement tirelessly over the years.

In 2009, the demands of the Contract Agents looked like a lost cause. They had organized a collective in Brussels and reached out to unions, even those who had approved the Kinnock Reform. By that time it was clear the Staff Regulation was up for reform within the next few years. Opening up the Staff Regulation for reform in a decade of austerity was a risky plan that SID might have backed away from, but because the reform was already beginning, there was no extra risk. In isolation and against a chorus of criticism and derision, SID launched EP Petition 192(2009) demanding an equal right to take internal competitions for Contract Agents on the same basis as Officials and the appointed Temporary Agents. See 192(2009). The leaders of most big unions never took the five minutes to sign it. Paradoxically, some began to energetically petition the Commission, which could not change the Staff Regulation, even if it wanted to help because it is Council and the EP jointly who decide such legislation. Indeed, the Commission’s representative spoke against 192(2009) in the Petition Committee’s hearing. Fortunately for the Contract Agents and SID, he was inept and the petition went on to the EP’s Legislative Committee. At that time, Director Generals and leaders of big unions starting saying that they had been in support all along. Strangely, we just could not find their signatures on the petition, but good intentions are something more than nothing.

Considering that there has been no powerful resistance against austerity, either in the EU, nor in its Institutions, it is only a matter of time until the next austerity package arrives, perhaps within as little as three years. We need to prepare for that by changing our strategy in line with experience.

Self-imposed isolation has been our main weakness. We need to reach out in several directions to develop a network of friends. SID can manage only ad hoc relations with a few MEPs, but even that has helped the Contract Agents. We should become our own lobbyists. Last minute, breathless appeals to “Save Europe” make no impression. The key to success is continuity. MEPs and especially their assistants should hear from us and speak with us at least every trimester.

The last people to trust with our public image are those in the Commission’s Spokesman’s Service because they are controlled by austerity politicians. Every anti public service publication should receive a response like this or this. Because the attacks are stereotyped, it will be enough to develop a library of ten or twenty replies that can then be easily adapted to handle each new attack. Obviously, we need to work in as many languages as possible.

We have missed a good opportunity when we failed to communicate with the public service unions in the 28 Member States. Many EU governments will use the experience gained at the central level to impose cuts at home. A simple email to http://etuc.org/ETUC(external link) is not nearly enough. We should be in direct contact with as many national public service unions as possible. Our knowledge of EU law and politics is a valuable asset that we can offer in exchange for support.__
Obviously, others will never defend our legitimate interests while we snooze. The more among us become active, the better our chances. Which side are you on?
There is a practical matter. The establishment plan of our posts is in the EU Budget, not in the Staff Regulation. The budget is decided annually by Council and Parliament together, so we will have an opportunity to oppose the cutting of posts every year. Without our protests, the cuts will continue. One step is to sign our EP Petition 847(2011).

As an isolated individual, you are helpless against austerity. Please help to set up an Anti-Austerity Committee in your workplace. People from different unions, and from no union at all, should work together against Deform III, and IV.