Masterplan to ‘free energies and skills for years to come’

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Series Details Vol.7, No.9, 1.3.01, p4
Publication Date 01/03/2001
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Date: 01/03/01

By Simon Taylor

EUROPEAN Commission Vice-President Neil Kinnock has won the first battle in his lengthy crusade to overhaul the institution's staff policy, securing backing for his plans from the entire EU executive and key MEPs.

But staff unions criticised Kinnock's mega-package of reforms to the Commission pay and promotions system, even as they claimed he had caved into their demands to renegotiate the thrust of his policies.

Speaking after the raft of proposals had been unanimously adopted by the Commission on Wednesday (28 February), President Romano Prodi said the aim of the changes was to "free the energies and skills of staff to meet the challenges of serving Europe in the years to come".

The reform plans were welcomed by MEPs who drafted the Parliament's reactions to Kinnock's initiative, but several expressed concerns about the speed of implementation and staff morale.

"I warned the Commission in my report that reforms should be implemented as quickly as possible so that staff do not get demotivated," said UK centre-right MEP Malcolm Harbour.

Kinnock admitted that some of the more difficult aspects of the package - on staff pay, pensions and career structure -would take 18 months to agree with Commission unions, member states and the European Parliament. "We could have fully implemented several reforms by the beginning of 2003," he said. "It's an optimistic scenario but we will make every effort to achieve that."

Dutch centre-right MEP Johanna Maij-Weggen challenged Kinnock's argument that some Commission staff needed to be paid more to allow the institution to attract and retain top-quality civil servants. "Some officials earn more than ministers," she said. "I can't see room for much salary improvements."

But the Commissioner argued that the pay and benefits package was necessary to maintain the administration's competitiveness as an employer in the labour market and stay within budget limits.

Staff unions, who met all 20 Commissioners on Wednesday morning to voice their views on reform, were initially harshly critical of the Kinnock package, saying it failed to address the understaffing and cronyism which lay at the heart of the executive's problems. "The Kinnock reforms will create a new layer of bureaucracy instead of addressing the problem of manpower shortages in policy-making," said Alan Hick, president of the biggest staff organisation Union Syndicale.

But unions claimed later in the day that the Commission had agreed to their demands to negotiate the thrust of reform. "This is a victory for good sense," said Hick. "Our message to a general meeting of staff on Friday will be positive."

But Kinnock said the Commission had not agreed to change the format of negotiations. "We will move to the consultation phase on the basis of the draft proposals adopted by the Commission as was always the plan," said his spokesman.

Kinnock stressed that he was prepared to revise his blueprint if staff organisations came up with sensible improvements. "Constructive suggestions for improvement will be welcomed and we are prepared to consider them," he told MEPs.

Officials pointed out that the unions were welcome to meet the reform group of six Commissioners who would be carrying out a regular stocktaking of reform progress but rejected suggestions that these would be formal negotiations.


Replace four categories of work (A - policy makers , B - administrative support, C - secretarial, D - ancillary support) with 20 promotion steps

Reduce number of pay rises based on length of service without changing grade from eight to three l Introduce position-based premium system which would set aside 1-2% of Commission's total wages bill (around €40 million) to make top-up payments to staff with special policy or financial responsibilities or heavy workloads.


Annual appraisals will form basis of decisions on personal development, training, mobility and promotion

Appraisals will apply to all officials up to grade A3 (head of unit)

Appraisals will cover competences including conduct and performance

Staff duties will be defined through systematic job descriptions, job requirements and task assignments

Promotion will be based on merit points which are granted annually based on appraisals until a promotion threshold is reached

TRAINING AND development

Require training for all new staff or for staff with particular responsibilities, e.g. financial management.

Introduce personal training maps, indicating needs to be met, and a training passport keeping track of individual's training history.

Increase training budget by €39 million.


Introduce structured mobility to encourage staff to change jobs regularly

Introduce benchmark optimal period for holding a particular post

Identify sensitive posts which cannot be held for more than set length of time

Increase secondment outside the Commission and more scope for leave on personal grounds


Continue existing method of calculating pay - based on structure for civil servants in member states' national administrations - beyond 2003

Allowances: Maintain expatriation allowance at 16% of total salary; change household allowance to flat-rate payment of €245; increase child allowance to €295; limit education allowance to payment of school fees and transport costs; create new flat-rate allowance for pre-school children of €72; end secretarial allowance

Expenses: Pay home visit expenses at h0.30 per kilometre with maximum of 3,000 km; base mission expenses on most economic form of travel, phase out rent and transport allowances

Pensions: Move towards creation of pension fund for officials starting after 1 January, 2001-02; maintain balance of contributions between officials and EU budget; keep entitlements at 70% of final salary after 35 years of service or 2% of annual salary


Hold more competitions for specialists based on better identification of Commission's needs

Use computer-based pre-selection to reduce numbers applying for general competitions

Boost use of selection boards in recruitment of external candidates

Increase cooperation among institutions on recruitment


Introduce new appointment procedures for middle and senior managers

Demote managers for poor performance

Introduce probationary period for managers

Set new training and recruitment experience preconditions for managers

Create new appraisal system for senior managers


Use the appraisal system to detect cases of under-performance; increase follow-up, ranging from short-term performance improvement plan, extra training or involvement of medical service

Institute formal procedure for dealing with professional incompetence based on two appraisal reports

Create new procedure for dealing with professional incompetence separate from the disciplinary board


Set new rules on use of national experts seconded from member states and on auxiliary agents

Introduce a new type of non-permanent staff - the contract agent to replace auxiliary agent


€45 million after five years or 1.5% of total administrative expenditure (€30 million for career structure and pay and €15 million for personnel policies, mainly training)

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