Four unions reject Kinnock deal on staff grading changes

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Series Details Vol.7, No.41, 8.11.01, p3
Publication Date 08/11/2001
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Date: 08/11/01

By David Cronin

A FIERCE row has erupted between unions supporting and opposing the European Commission's plans to overhaul the career structure for EU officials.

Four unions resisting the proposal to replace the existing A-D grades for fonctionnaires with just two main categories are calling a protest against it to coincide with the next meeting of commissioners in Brussels on 21 November. Olga Profili, a spokeswoman for Renouveau et Démocratie (R & D) - the biggest of the four rebel unions - is refuting suggestions by internal reform chief Neil Kinnock that the majority of EU staff back the proposal.

She dismissed the protocol published last week and its assurances that no official would face a pay cut due to the reforms. "The guarantees are very vague," she said.

While it had been expected that two unions, who together claim to stand for about 60 of Commission staff, would sign the protocol, just one - Union Syndicale - has done so to date. The other, Confédération Syndicale Européenne, has cited difficulty in understanding how conditions of employment could be improved if the Commission was to fulfil its promise to keep within a tight budget. "We have refused to give unconditional support to the Commission," it declared. "We do not want to follow blindly the union signing the protocol of agreement."

Profili also claimed that members of Union Syndicale are divided over the proposal, a point partly accepted by the head of its Brussels branch, Alan Hick."There might be some dissenting voices in Union Syndicale in Luxembourg," he said. "But it is clear that Union Syndicale had a mandate to sign up to the protocol if it responded to all the guarantees that we wanted." Hick criticised the four unions organising the protest for boycotting the negotiations that led to the protocol being drafted. The Commission has undertaken to provide clarifications for Confédération Syndicale Européenne on some aspects of the proposal, particularly relating to the system of promotions.

The four unions are "exaggerating" in stating that the Commission's lacks the support of most officials, said Kinnock's spokesman Eric Mamer. Their forthcoming protest "in no way creates concern for us", he added. "Industrial action is obviously the right of all members of staff. But we would certainly recommend that they have a second look [at the proposals]."

Among the objections listed in a leaflet from the four unions are that staff would have to have twice as many promotions for the same salary which they can currently expect towards the end of their careers.

A fierce row has erupted between unions supporting and opposing the European Commission's plans to overhaul the career structure for EU officials.

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