Wednesday, 2 March 2005

The new certification procedure

(certified as stark, raving mad…)

[The European Commission seems to do everything wrong in its attempts to motivate its employees, or even acknowledge their work. And this at the tax-payers' expense.

In this article, I have added a few explanations in square brackets, as I think it is important also for people who are not familiar with the EU institutions to know what is going on.]

If you can remember that far back, one of the main promises of the [Staff] Reform was to have one linear career system for all staff. Another broken promise (let’s face it, what’s one more…) as we find that there are in reality two career systems – there is still "them" (A grades or [managers, or so-called 'administrators']) and "us" (B, C, D grades or ['assistants']). It followed that it would be much easier to access higher grades and this is what we expected from the new procedures. However, the certification procedure is an example of how the twisted minds of the D[irectorate-]G[eneral for Personnel and] Admin[istration] work. Whereas before, with a certain number of years experience in a certain category, we were all free to try our luck in an internal competition, the new certification procedure will effectively block 90% of all B officials from ever even being considered.

So what are the conditions and how does the procedure work? Well, first of all, if you have a university diploma, you must have at least 3 years seniority in the B*5 [salary category] or above, and otherwise 5 years seniority. You then have to indicate in your C[areer]D[evelopment]R[eview] that you wish to be considered for certification and your head of unit must support your request, state that you have the potential to take on the functions of an administrator and indicate any tasks you already do that could be considered those of a grade A official.

All applications go to DG Admin who then selects the most "worthy" candidates. These lucky few (120 candidates at most per year, i.e. +/- 3 per DG) will then follow 400 hours of training (and this although DG Admin has not yet fixed the syllabus), at the end of which they then have to sit an exam. From these 120 candidates, only 80 can pass and they then have to apply (and be accepted) for an "AD[ministrator]" post.

So what advantages does this new certification procedure offer in comparison with the old internal competition procedure? As far as we can see, none whatsoever!

First of all, you need to have the support of your head of unit. If s/he doesn’t want to lose one or several members of his staff for 400 hours a year, or simply doesn’t like you, there is very little likelihood that he/she will support your request. This condition of admission is completely subjective and goes against every democratic principle! This clearly is not an improvement on the old system of internal competitions which were open to all staff if they had the necessary grade and seniority.

As to the selection criteria of DG Admin, it would seem that officially professional experience acquired in the institutions, level of professional training and merit marks for the last three CDR are the most important. However, unofficially it would seem that level of education previous to entry in the Institutions would also be taken into account, i.e. don’t even bother to apply if you haven’t the minimum of a university degree (doctorate would of course be appreciated!).

Following 400 hours of training in a year is not an option for most women with children. Also, 400 hours of training implies twice or three times that much study at home. For most women with children, this is not an option! The old system of internal competition implied a certain amount of preparation a month or two before the exam, but not a whole year of stress! There is no advantage for staff and even a serious disadvantage for working mothers! This new certification procedure clearly proves that the "4th Action Programme for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men at the European Commission 2004-2008" is just a lot of hot air and that the Commission has every intention to continue as a male-dominated bastion.

As for transparency, you can forget it! The new certification procedure is the ideal opportunity for each head of unit, director or director general to promote his or her particular favourite – "long live nepotism at the Commission" is the message that DG Admin is signalling with this new procedure!

One can only wonder how much this certified madness will cost. The cost for the number of person-days lost if 120 officials follow 400 hours of training amounts to +/- 1.320.000 €. Then dreaming up the content of the course (a lot of imagination is necessary here!), giving the courses and preparing course material for 400 hours (in which languages?), if provided by an external firm, amounts to a conservative estimate of 500.000 €. After this, of course, the tests (written and oral) still have to be developed and the competition for the 120 candidates has to be organised, marked etc. All in all, for 2005 this certification procedure could cost a total of almost 2.000.000 €. As if this wasn’t expensive enough, the Institutions in all their wisdom have seen fit to invent a European Administration School (EAS) to manage this programme. It is amazing (if not scandalous) that in a year when most officials have been financially hit by the Reform, DG Admin does not seem to be suffering from a lack of budget (perhaps they are paying this from the funds originally foreseen for the European School, financing school trips, education allowance…).

However, there is still time to react. This procedure will now be discussed with unions and with your support there is, hopefully, still time to change this certified discriminatory procedure. So let us know your thoughts….

Last minute: It gets better and better! We have just heard from one of our colleagues that during his CDR, his head of unit informed him that in order to be considered for the certification procedure, he will have to assume new and complex tasks which will be added to his objectives. If he carries out these new tasks successfully, he MAY then be CONSIDERED for the certification procedure – however he then still has no guarantee of participating in the training!!! Is this new procedure just a ploy on the part of the Commission in order to increase our productivity with no corresponding increase in pay???

P.S. Did you know that whilst the Reform cut the salaries of most staff, the hierarchy was laughing all the way to the bank? Indeed, see Annexe XIII, Article 7 of the new Staff Regulations below:

"4. An official in grades A*10 to A*16 and AD 10 to 16 respectively who is on 30 April 2004 head of unit, director or director-general, or is subsequently appointed head of unit, director or director general and has performed his new duties satisfactorily during the first nine months, shall be entitled to an increase in the basic monthly salary corresponding to the percentage between the first and the second step in each grade as set out in the tables in Article 2(1) and Article 8(1) of this Annex."

Source: Note distributed to staff on 25 February 2005
by Action & Défense - Luxembourg

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