CERN Accelerating science

CSAIO - a tool on the move for the staff associations of international organisations and European agencies

Every year, in autumn, the CSAIO (Conference of Staff Associations of International Organizations) conference takes place over two days; this conference is only for the Staff Associations of International Organizations, mainly based in Europe, as well as for European Agencies.

Creation, goals and developments

CSAIO, created by the CERN and OECD Staff Associations in 2000, allows some 30 staff associations to share their experiences and ideas in a common goal to better understand the expectations and aspirations of staff working in international and European organisations.

Over time, the conference process has evolved to accommodate the demands of staff representatives from different backgrounds. For the past three years, the informal follow-up, during the first half-day of the conference, of the themes discussed the previous year, has been institutionalized. This monitoring makes possible to share the implementation and impacts of certain proposals in the speakers' respective organizations or agencies. This debriefing will be an integral part of the conference from next year onwards.

The other three half-days are reserved for a particular theme, treated in the form of three or four presentations of 15 to 20 minutes each followed by questions allowing everyone to take ownership of the issues and practices presented by the speakers in their organizations or agencies. Then some discussions take place to share the experiences and ideas of all participants on the topics discussed. Staff Associations are often a source of proposals and progress.

All presentations and legal analyses can be found on the CSAIO website, which includes all the presentations since the first conference held at the OECD in 2000.

CSAIO 19 on 11 and 12 October 2018 at the European Parliament in Brussels

The 3 topical themes addressed this year were:

  • Job classification and salary structure (changes in jobs and salary structures, impact on careers).
  • Performance evaluation and its consequences on career development.
  • Role of employee representatives.

Following the various presentations, discussions closely related to the different themes, and sometimes from a little further away, revealed concerns that are common to the different organizations.

In several organisations, after a period during which social dialogue was either reduced in terms of subjects covered or degraded in quality, administrations and staff representatives have resumed a useful dialogue, including at informal and high-level level. This is not a fundamental trend, but these positive developments have to be noted. It should also be stressed that the administrations concerned also see this development as positive.

Many organizations have difficulty preventing or dealing with different forms of harassment. Worse, in some cases, the mechanisms put in place are not effective. The idea that: witnesses should express their disapproval (especially in cases of harassment by a supervisor) and that it is necessary to visibly affirm the rejection of such behaviour, for example by posting it on his office door and/or billboards, in short to create a climate hostile to harassment, has attracted attention (the uniunie and its "Don't turn a blind eye" have met with great interest).

A similar situation exists with regard to stress and the deterioration of working conditions, which is often the cause. In this regard, it was the idea of taking the number of days of long-term sick leave (excluding accidents) as a measure of the level and prevalence of stress that attracted attention, including at the level of organic units of sufficient size rather than at the overall level of the organization itself. Indeed, ad hoc surveys conducted irregularly at the sole level of an organisation and based on different questionnaires1 do not allow a real measurement of the phenomenon or its evolution, nor the identification of "stress nests", nor any comparison between organisations.

One discussion that generated significant interest from participants was the follow-up to a topic from the previous year, the evolution of pension systems.

With regard to the services offered by the associations, it is the direct legal support to members through either a legal advisor employed by the association or coming from outside for regular duty that has raised interest. Similarly, the need for the associations themselves to obtain legal advice directly and quickly was stressed. The use of trainees with training in the field was one of the possibilities mentioned.

During the session on performance evaluation, several participants questioned the real effectiveness of the different performance evaluation and/or merit recognition systems, in particular when their undesirable effects (arbitrary, failure to take teamwork into account, etc.) and/or the time they require are taken into account. The usefulness of non-pecuniary rewards was mentioned (e.g. granting days off to particularly high-performing but end-of-grade individuals). It should be noted that none of the participants indicated that they had abandoned the steps within the grades in their organization; it therefore seems that CERN is acting alone in this matter. It is therefore questionable whether it is appropriate to have adopted such a system at CERN, given that at the same time other organizations have abandoned the merit recognition system and reverted to an automatic promotion system. This leaves room for reflection on the long-term vision of personnel management.


1From one organization to another or from one survey to another in the same organization.