Commission unions call off staff strike

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Series Details Vol 7, No.11, 15.3.01, p3
Publication Date 15/03/2001
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Date: 15/03/01


EUROPEAN Commission staff unions have withdrawn their threat to strike next Monday after Neil Kinnock agreed to set up a special high-level group to discuss personnel reform plans.

Members of the six staff unions decided to drop their planned action after the Commission said it would set up a 25-member body made up of equal numbers of representatives appointed by the labour groups and administration. It will be headed by an independent chairman.

Alan Hick, leader of Union Syndicale staff association, welcomed the agreement. "Our demands have been met and that is the result of the pressure we brought to bear with the support of the staff," he said. "Now we have to get down to major policy negotiations and not just its application."

In a statement issued to European Voice yesterday (14 March), the Commission said the agreement had been possible because the institution had been sincere all along about its willingness to be open to negotiations.

"For months past we have repeatedly emphasised - and showed - that negotiations on the basis of clear proposals adopted by the Commission would be thorough and genuine," the statement read. "We are naturally pleased that this consistent approach by the Commission is now clearly understood. We therefore look forward to proceeding with negotiations within the established timetable to July."

The body examining the reform proposals will initially have four weeks to report. Both sides have promised to work to keep to the Commission's deadline of the end of July to complete formal consultations over the reforms.

The Commission's side of the negotiating group will include Philip Lowe, Kinnock's chief of staff; Horst Reichenbach, administration director-general; and Erik Halskov, the main negotiator with the unions.

The chairman is likely to be a person with wide experience in the EU institutions, such as David Williamson, the former secretary-general of the Commission who headed an earlier forum on personnel policy reform.

The unions planned their first strike action under the Prodi Commission for 19 March. The work stoppage would have disrupted next week's General Affairs Council in protest at what staff groups saw as the Commission's unwillingness to negotiate the fundamental principles.

Two weeks ago Kinnock unveiled the most controversial part of the reform package, which includes measures to modernise pay and personnel policy in the administration by strengthening the link between individual performance and promotion. It also scraps outdated allowances and takes steps to put the pensions scheme on a sound footing.

In a 1-7 March article on staff reforms, we incorrectly reported the proposed starting date for a pension fund for officials as 2001-2. The date should have been 2005.

European Commission staff unions have withdrawn their threat to strike after Neil Kinnock agreed to set up a special high-level group to discuss personnel reform plans.

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