Eurocrats win pay rise, thanks to the UK

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A failed attempt to modify EU staff rules, reduce headcount and raise the retirement age, means European civil servants in Brussels earned higher salaries this month, the European Commission told EURACTIV today (23 January). Ironically, this is due to Britain's rejection of the Commission's proposed reform.

EU officials, who receive their salaries on their bank accounts in the middle of each month, have already received a higher pay in January, said Anthony Gravili, spokesperson for Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi?, in charge of administration.

As EURACTIV reported in December, failed attempts to modify the EU's Staff regulation will result in an automatic pay increase for European civil servants.

>> Read: Salaries of EU officials to increase in new year

The main changes in the Commission proposal included a 5% reduction of staff in all EU institutions, between 2013 and 2017, which will be offset by a longer working day, from 37.5 to 40 hours without salary compensation. The Commission also proposed raising the retirement age from 63 to 65 and cut – by 18% and 45% – the starting and end-of-career salaries for certain jobs.

Britain has pushed for additional cuts to those proposed by the European Commission, which has the sole right to initiate legislation at EU level.

In the absence of an agreement, it was clear from the outset that the income of EU civil servants would rise. This is because a special 5.5% "solidarity levy", which EU civil servants pay on top of income tax of up to 45%, would no longer apply. This tax was introduced during the 1970s oil crisis and was maintained over time. The Commission proposed that the levy be increased to 6%.

However, it would be wrong to say that all salaries for January have been raised by 5.5%, Gravili said. He explained that for the lowest categories of salaries, there would be no difference, while for the highest salaries the increase would indeed be close to 5.5%.

Member countries had decided that the special levy should kick in above the salary of an AST 1 (€2,654), to benefit the lowest paid (see background). Everyone else had the full 5.5% levy applied to that part of their base salary above AST1.

As a result, at one end of the scale, anyone on an AST1 salary or below (eg contract agents) paid no special levy at all. At the other end of the scale, someone on a high salary who receives no additional allowances would pay virtually the full 5.5% in net terms, Gravili explains.

At first sight, Commission officials who would get more pay starting from January could “thank” UK Prime Minister Cameron for the rise. However, this doesn’t seem to be the end of the story, as the EU budget for 2014-2020 has not yet been adopted, and Cameron insists for additional cuts, including in heading 5 “Administration”.

>> Read: The EU’s new budget blueprint in figures

In his long-awaited speech in which he spelled out his expectations from a deep reform to the EU, Cameron attacked the EU institutions for “sclerotic, ineffective decision making”, lashed out at a Commission “that gets ever lager” and criticised EU spending for what he saw as insufficient control or lack of determination to shut down ineffective programmes.  

The Commission's career system consists of a single pay scale with 16 grades. Within this pay scale, Assistants (AST) can occupy grades 1 - 11 while Administrators (AD) can occupy grades 5 - 16.

Basic monthly Commission salaries range from around €2,300 per month for a newly recruited AST 1 official to around €16,000 per month for a top level AD 16 official with over 4 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.

  • 7-8 February: EU summit expected to reach agreement on the bloc's next long-term budget (2014-2020).

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