Information to the personnel - Collecting of Staff Association's membership fees
On 28 January you received an email from the Director of Finance and Human Resources regarding the issue of the deduction of Staff Association membership fees from your January salary.
As announced during the Association's public meeting on 31 January, here are our responses to the main points raised in the email.
Compliance with OC11 - "Processing of personal data at CERN”
The Association has always attached great importance to the protection of personal data and therefore it willingly improved its membership form to further clarify the transfer of personal data within the Organisation between the Association and the FAP department in charge of the collection of membership fees. The personnel has been informed twice about these clarifications and the compliance of our processes with OC11 (see ECHO No 372 of 8 November 2021).
These clarifications and compliance were made even though:
- No questions/inquiries about the confidentiality of membership or fee collection had ever been raised by personnel.
- At the time of joining the Association, each member must indeed have already given their explicit and informed consent to the Organisation deducting their membership fee from their salary; if this had not been the case, the Organisation would never have deducted a fee and/or the member would have objected to the deduction from their salary.
- And that the Organisation's constant practice of collecting the Association's membership fees each year in January has never posed any problem related to the protection of personal data: the Association's Secretariat and the FAP department in charge of collecting the fees have always treated the corresponding information in strict confidence.
In summary, the Association considers that the confidentiality of membership and the transfer of information necessary for the collection of the membership fee has always been adequately protected.
The legal status of the SA
The Association has commissioned an external legal analysis, which concludes that the Association as a body under the SRR is not an entity under (Swiss) national law; nor are its counterparts, with some exceptions, in other intergovernmental organisations.
The Statutes of the CERN Staff Association do not refer to Swiss or French law on associative law, and its preamble cites only CERN texts as the basis for the Association's legal framework.
The data transfers necessary for the collection of membership fees are therefore not data transfers to or from outside the Organisation; they are internal transfers. As with all other internal data transfers, no special authorisation from the members is therefore required and none of the specific requirements apply. Your data remains fully protected within the Organisation, as in the case of data transfers necessary for the collection of your CHIS or Pension Fund contributions (1).
The example of the loss of salary insurance subscribed with the SA: double standards
In contrast to the Staff Association membership fees, the SA loss of salary insurance member had his/her insurance contribution deducted by the Organisation from his/her January salary.
This example confirms, senseless that the membership fee process put in place by the Association complies with the OC11.
The Director General's letter of 17 January 2022
This letter was sent on 17 January; only three days later, on 20 January, the sudden cessation of the deduction of contributions without prior information to personnel was materialised on our salary slips. The Association's response in preparation was to be reviewed. It is unfortunate that Management acted without waiting more than two days for our response. This is a surprising illustration of management's stated willingness to support the Association!
Damage to the reputation of the Organisation
The damage to CERN's reputation caused by the non-collection of Association’s membership fees is currently very limited, as the Association did not wish to make public mention of it outside the Organisation.
It is clear, however, that this act is unprecedented in the world of international public service and breaks with a consistent practice as old as CERN and the Association. This unfortunate development could also necessitate the initiation of legal proceedings that could damage the image of the Organisation. This state of affairs must therefore be resolved very quickly. The Association will spare no effort to achieve this.
The antagonistic approach of the Staff Association
The only "antagonistic" decision is the one taken by the Management: the non-collection of membership fees in January! A decision taken but not communicated to personnel. A decision taken less than three days after a letter from the Director General, without even waiting for the Association's reply!
A constructive collaboration with the Staff Association
The Director General having specified in her letter (2) "As soon as individual consents are obtained, FAP will be able to proceed with the salary deduction..." Although the Staff Association’s Executive Committee considers that it is not legally necessary to seek the agreement of the Association’s members again, in the interest of the Organisation, in the interest of its personnel, it will propose to the Staff Council to accept the Management's request.
Thus, the current members of the Association will again have "the opportunity to give their explicit and informed consent to the transfer of their data and the deduction of their membership fee from their salary".
The modalities for collecting individual consents will be communicated to the Association's members shortly.
Furthermore, as the Management has rightly recalled the important role played by the Staff Association in the interest of the Organisation and its personnel (link to the last public meeting), we will also launch a membership campaign for those who are not (yet) members of the Association.
Please reserve your time on Monday 28 February at 14:00 to attend our next public meeting.
(1) We have therefore corrected the membership form, removing the reference to the Swiss Federal Law, which had recently appeared incorrectly. As we could not agree on a mutually acceptable version, the Management decided not to proceed with the collection of membership fees as described to you during our last Public meeting.
(2) Letter from the Director General dated 17 January 2022, attached to the email from the Director of Finance and Human Resources dated 28 January. This letter is in response to a letter of 16 December from the President of the Association to the Director General, which for the sake of transparency we are making public.