CERN Accelerating science

Five-yearly review 2015 : the final decisions are to be taken soon

Every five years, the financial and social conditions for staff are reviewed according to the procedure set out in Annex A1 of our Staff Rules and Regulations (SR & R). This exercise is called "Five-yearly review" (5YR). The results of this review will be known at the end of 2015 for implementation on 1st January 2016.

Before starting this exercise, the Staff Association in the autumn of 2013 questioned staff about their concerns (see also our articles in Echo 192 and 194). The participants in this survey were asked to rank 15 themes in order of decreasing priority. The figure below shows that the contract policy came first, followed by career development (classification, level of recruitment, advancement, promotion) and motivation at work.

The quality of life at work (working schedule, working time, work from home, saved leave scheme comes not far behind, and finally family policy (recognition of partners, benefits, school fees, kindergarten, nursery, parental leave ) arrives in ninth position.

Please note, that as part of a five-yearly review, a comparison of the level of our wages (5th priority in our survey) with those of high-tech employers selected from the Organization's recruitment market is mandatory.

Now let us look at some of these issues in more detail.

1. Contract policy

The CERN Council approved a new contract policy in December 2014. It introduced from the beginning of March 2015, a contract of limited duration (LD) of five years with the possibility of an extension of up to eight years under certain conditions. The procedure for the award of an indefinite contract (IC) did not change. With this new contract policy, we avoided having to face fluctuations and threshold effects in the award of IC contracts, due to the limit of 1750 IC contracts, imposed by the Member States. This allows for a conversion rate of about 50% for LD to IC contracts in the coming years, rather than less than a quarter, as it would have been with LD contracts limited to five years. This improved return on investment is a positive point for the Organization, but it means an increase in the duration of the period of uncertainty for LD holders. Indeed, it will take that much longer for them to know whether they will be able to pursue their career in the Organization and thus consolidate their family situation in the region. This is why the Staff Association insisted on extending almost exclusively the contracts of those people, who have a high potential to ultimately stay in the Organization on an IC contract (a more detailed position statement may be read in the Echo n° 210).

2. Topics selected for the 2015 five-yearly review

The CERN Council approved in June 2014 the proposals of the Director General, defining the two optional subjects (see Echo n° 201):

  • The career structure,
  • Social and financial conditions related to diversity.

2.a. Career structure (and motivation at work)

The new career structure should be able to motivate staff throughout the whole career. Its attractiveness and the continued motivation of its staff are essential if CERN wants to remain a center of excellence and be successful in the future. Consequently, for its new career policy, CERN Management must offer economically viable and flexible solutions without compromising attractiveness and motivation. Motivation was in the top three in our survey, accompanied by the comment that the MARS system in its current form requires many resources, while not improving motivation in any significant way, hence the question whether MARS is adapted to the working environment at CERN.

What are the motivating factors at CERN? In most cases, work at CERN means managing a project with responsibilities ending after a few years. After this period is finished, CERN staff has acquired new skills and expertise, which deserve to be used and applied. Doing the same thing, in the same way, is not satisfactory for many of our colleagues. The Organization should not limit itself to distributing financial rewards and promotions as a form of recognition. Indeed, recognition should not always imply financial reward, but also promote the work of the staff member, highlighting his experience and knowledge. Excellence, experience and potential for development should lead to increased productivity, especially through internal mobility, which will let other projects profit from the acquired competences and experiences. It is not uncommon for staff at CERN to remain for more than 20 years in more or less the same functions. Even when the structure of the Organization changes, people continue to hold the same jobs. Not responding to these motivational needs is a big deficiency of our Organization. CERN staff is ready to contribute with all its competences to the success of the Organization, but often they are confronted with a limit on their responsibilities and a lack of recognition of their professional skills. The comments concerning the MARS system in our survey prove it.

The Staff Association is working with the Department of Human Resources to define a new career policy which is expected to be implemented in the second half of 2016 (the next advancement and promotion exercise in spring 2016, evaluating the performance for the reference year 2015, will still take place in the framework of the current MARS system). The Management wants to establish a career structure, which manages to control the annual growth rate of the advancement budget, which it considers too high. The Staff Association emphasizes the principle of equal opportunity for the different staff categories with respect to advancement and personal development. The parameters of the new system are not yet finalized and we will therefore come back to you in the coming weeks with more details. In particular, in early October, we will come and discuss with you in public meetings in the departments.

2.b. Diversity

CERN must take evolutions in society and in the working environment duly into account. This demand was also clearly expressed in our survey.

Firstly, there is the demand for CERN to adopt a new definition of the family. Previously, the Organization has recognized same sex marriage provided that it is officially recognized by a Member State, and allows the partner of a staff member to be covered by the CERN health insurance. Now it is time to put marriage and registered partnerships on an equal footing (see Echo n° 219). In this matter, the Association entirely supports the proposal of Management to fully recognize registered partnerships.

In accordance with the wishes expressed in our survey (see Echos 204, 205 and 226) the Staff Association and the Management propose to modernize areas related to diversity: better support for new parents (prolonged maternity, paternity and parental leaves); help for the integration of spouse/partner in the local employment market, and an improvement of the work / private life balance. These advances will without doubt increase the overall attractiveness of CERN to candidates coming from our Member States, especially for those where CERN had difficulties finding recruits.

3. Conclusion

In December of this year, Management will make proposals to the CERN Council to conclude the 2015 five-yearly review:

  • mandatory part: basic salaries for staff, stipends for fellows, and subsistence allowances for associated members of personnel;
  • optional part: the CERN career structure, and diversity-related financial and social conditions.

The cost evaluation of the various measures envisaged for the optional part is not completely finished. However, in the current difficult economic and financial situation, our Member States want to stabilize their contribution to the Organization’s budget. Therefore, we expect that the Management in their proposals will self-impose the constraint of cost neutrality. As stated earlier, we will have the opportunity to discuss this with you in early October at our public meetings.