CERN Accelerating science

CSAIO: exchanging experience to better defend the interests of the staff

Two representatives of the CERN Staff Association took part in the 15th Annual Conference of Staff Associations of International Organizations (CSAIO), which took place on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th of October in one of the centres of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Frascati (Italy). The CSAIO brings together staff representatives from international organizations based in Europe, as well as institutions of the European Union, in order to promote and defend the interests of their personnel. This allows the CERN Staff Association to follow the evolution of working and social conditions in other organizations. This year, 51 delegates from about 30 organizations travelled to Frascati to attend the conference.

Themes addressed at the conference were:

  • Salary adjustment method
    • presentations: European Commission, CERN, European Council, and FICSA (Federation of International Civil Servants’ Association).
  • Performance evaluation
    • presentations: OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), ECB (European Central Bank), WHO (World Health Organization), ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).
  • Renewal and training of new representatives
    • presentations: EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), CERN, EUMETSAT (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites).
The delegates at work Joël presents

The meeting started with a follow-up of the 14th conference which was held in October 2013 in Vienna, and the evolution of the themes which were discussed there: pensions, mediation in cases of harassment, and flexitime.

The first formal session of this year’s conference was on salary adjustment methods. The presentations showed that each organization treats these adjustments differently. For example, in the European Commission, there is a solidarity levy of 6 %, which is applied to all salaries in order to participate in the crisis measures of the European countries. This clearly hides an intention to economise on the part of the member states. In most organizations, an index related to the cost of living is applied to the salaries. However, there are differences in how a negative index is treated. In some cases it is applied even if negative, in other cases a negative index is kept in memory and then used later to compensate an index when it becomes positive again. The debate which followed showed that there is a clear tendency for the member states to question the use of this index, under the pretext of modernisation. More generally, another common problem which was mentioned, was the difficulty in recruiting certain categories of personnel, and certain nationalities (for example, from the Nordic countries). This situation generates imbalances in the organizations.

The next morning was dedicated to performance evaluation. Overall, the main principles for evaluating performance are similar to those applied at CERN.  However, we have learnt that the European Council has recently put into place a 360 degree evaluation (where the supervisor is also evaluated by his/her supervisees). Many organizations have trouble evaluating performance, and many collaborators end up frustrated in their workplace.

The last session discussed staff representation. All organizations have a Staff Association to represent their members of personnel, but many have difficulties in being recognised by the Management as a true social partner. Unlike at CERN, the delegates’ activities in the framework of their mandates as staff representatives are often not recognised as being in the interest of the organization and thus cannot take place during official working hours. For example in the EBRD, the 14 voluntary delegates take care of Staff Association matters outside working hours. Joël Lahaye explained that at CERN, the 45 staff delegates dedicate at least 10 % of their working time to their role as delegate. However, the most important point is that the CERN Staff Association is recognised as a genuine social partner in the consultation process with their Management and the Member States, where the three parties meet in a tripartite forum (TREF) to debate questions related to the working conditions. This is not the case in other organizations, where the staff representatives have but a consulting role.

All Staff Associations have difficulties with recruiting new delegates, training and motivating them, so that they can guarantee the continuity and sustainability of the Associations. Indeed, one of the main tasks of a delegate is to defend the interests of the personnel in the legal and social areas before Management. This calls for commitment, integrity, determination and courage, independence of mind, and a strong sense of solidarity.

This very interesting conference has allowed us to exchange information with our fellow staff representatives from other organizations, to discuss common problems and find solutions together.