The Kinnock Reform

Lately, there is some agitation in the Unions regarding a new round of reforms coming from Admin.

"TAO-AFI has already drawn your attention to the radical report on the future of the European public service, prepared by a number of Directors-General headed up by [...] This report has the rather neutral title: "Modernisation of the Commission's human resources". Actually, it involves a new administrative reform on which Mr Kallas is planning to make a communication before the end of the current Commission's term of office."

But we, officials, can sleep in peace, the Unions are protecting us...

The last battle was a terrible one at the Institutions, namely the Kinnock Reform in 2004.
Kinnock, a previous Bristish MP who could not get his party to win elections, got named Commissioners for Administration. His objectives were to shake a bit the sleeping mammoth and he did shake the mammoth quite well.

For outsiders, the situation before 2004 had not moved much from when the Rome Treaty was signed. Here are, in a nutshell, the main results of the reform:
  • scores of functions were outsourced (security guards, cooks, cleaners, etc.) Before that, all of them were un-removable civil servants who could keep their jobs as long as they show up for work every day.
  • a status was official created for temporary position: Contract Agent. Before, there was not a single way to recruit temporary staff and work conditions change substantially from on DG to an other.
  • the use of Contract Agents was to be maximized in order to reduce costs (I will blog more on that latter)
  • the salary of Fonctionnaires was decreased with performance bonus to be introduced. Actually only those recruited after 2004. Those under the "old status" kept most of their benefits.

The point is that Kinnock (with the support of the College of Commissioners) was mandated to reduce costs and give more flexibility and transparency to the European Administration. How can you do that with people you can't fire? You screw the incomers and create a new profile that you pay 50% left with little job security.

What do Fonctionnaires complaint about? Well there are more grades and over the life cycle a Fonctionnaire will get less. And they actually have to perform to move up the ladder.
But, hold on, was it (and is it still) fair to apply the "can't-get-fired" policy and ridiculously high salaries (and all the benefits of International Civil Servants) to jobs such as cooks, security guards, cleaners, etc.? Can it be justified to the European taxpayers? Should secretaries and low-level officials get so much job security? Yes of course you have to attract the best... but 80% of the staff isn't that great! They just passed a silly test, remotely related to your competences.

I do not agree with much of the Kinnock Reform, but I found somehow puzzling that some of my colleagues are so entrenched in their personal interests. Joining the European Civil Services isn't only about living a large life. So out of respect for other public servants, I believe some of my colleagues should calm down a bit.

The truth is that with Kinnock there was not a real negotiation, and the Admin just imposed its position. And I would not be surprised at all that the next commission comes with a new round of unpopular reform. And if we want to keep some of our privileges, we should get ready for real talks.

I heard that joke once:
"What is the difference with Terrorists and European Fonctionnaires?, Well with Terrorists at least you can negotiate."

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