EU officials plan strike ahead of budget summit next week

  

Three European civil servants unions in Brussels plan a strike two days before the EU summit of 7-8 February to protest rumoured additional budget cuts. EurActiv France reports.

In a note addressed to the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, Uwe Corsepius, the unions (FFPE, Union Syndicale, R&D Conseil) motivated their action by saying that “some member states have publicly announced their ambition to [cut] up to €15 billion” in the budget for administrative expenditures of the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020.

That particular budget heading is roughly €63 billion for the six-year period, representing 6% of the total budget for 2014-2020. It was €55.5 billion during the 2007-2013 MFF.

EU officials went on strike on 21 November for the same reason. The unions estimated that 3,000-4, 000 EU staff members took part in the labour action.

At the time, Pierre-Philippe Bacri, chairman of the Federation of European Civil Servants, warned unions would continue their actions during budget negotiations.

“This may not be the last time we have to face the Council to oppose these types of decisions, so there could be opportunities in the future to block other summits if we believe it is the appropriate action. This is the beginning of a process,” the union chairman added.

For Günther Lorenz, president of the Union Syndicale, the cuts that may be announced at the coming EU Council meeting will be too hard to bear. EU civil servants are already under pressure because of cost-cutting measures that are planned to save €10 billion, which include include longer work hours, higher taxes and retirement age and cuts in staffing levels, Lorenz said in a TV interview with Euronews.

“We lost 9% of our purchasing power” because of these reforms, Lorenz said.

Basic Commission salaries range from around €2,300 per month for a newly recruited official to around €16,000 per month for a top-level official with more than four years of seniority.

Each grade is broken up into five seniority steps with corresponding salary increases. Basic salaries are adjusted annually in line with inflation and purchasing power in the EU countries. The complete salary table is available in the staff regulations.

A failed attempt to modify EU staff rules, reduce headcount and raise the retirement age, meant European civil servants earned higher salaries in January, the European Commission told EurActiv on 23 January. Ironically, this is due to Britain's rejection of the Commission's proposed reform.

The unions said they feared more cuts would not be compatible with “the normal functioning of the union institutions and the maintenance of a competent, independent and permanent European civil service”.

Among the member states wanting to shrink the EU’s expenses, Britain stands top of the list. Lorenz says behind him stand other countries, such as Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden that are in favour of cuts but still want further discussion.

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