After many years in the making we have finally reached the moment when we take our employer, the European Commission, to Court.
We are not taking this extreme step lightly. For over a decade we have tried to convince the EC to do the right thing. That is, to respect the Directives on labour relations that it imposes upon Member States.
1. The case
We plan to ask the court to give its opinion on two issues we denominate "Indefinite Contracts" and "Same pay for same job".
1.1. Indefinite Contracts
Many of us have been working under different contracts for the European Commission. Some of us abroad have worked continuously for the Commission for 10 years or more and continue without an indefinite contract. Back at home, the situation is even more dramatic for our CA colleagues in Brussels , who are dismissed after only 3 years in the job to avoid signing indefinite contracts.
The European Commission has used different methods to avoid the conclusion of indefinite contracts. To us, this is a shameful circumvention of the EC Directive (1) that obligates employers to conclude indefinite contracts for permanent positions. The European Commission thinks that labour rules are to be applied to others, not to itself. Talk about double standards !
Sadly, the Courts have sided with the Commission in confirming that it does not need to apply to itself Directives addressed to Member States. More on this below.
1.2. Same salary for same job
Among the group of Contracts Agents, many of us have performed tasks comparable or equal to those performed by AST and AD Officials and Temporary Agents. To the point that some of us are or have acted as Head of Sections of EU Delegations, or have even been in charge of Representative Offices of the EU to third countries. Despite this, our salaries and job careers remain quite different from Officials and Temporary Agents performing the same or similar tasks. Even worse, the glass ceiling imposed upon us discourages achievement and forces many CAs to leave their jobs.
2. Steps until now
For about 10 years we have been in contact with a renowned lawyer, to evaluate the possibility to bring the Commission to court. His view has always been that we should wait before taking the Commission to court. At first he thought that we should wait for our transition from ALAT Contracts to CA Contracts. After we reached this milestone, he thought that waiting for the renewal of the CA contracts would offer a better legal position. When this moment passed, he considered that the renewal for an indefinite period of some CA contracts (those working at Delegations) would offer a better chance. Now, when we have reached this stage, he seems to have lost interest.
The lawyer Maitre Louis, however, brought to court one similar case, which we always though could be an important precedent for our potential case. The case was that of Contract Agents working at ISPRA (2). Unfortunately, Mr Louis lost both the case and the appeal (3).
3. Conclusion and next steps
Despite these setbacks, we still believe that there is a case to be made.
Granted, most of us are not experts in European Law. But the moral logic of the case seems so obvious to us, and the injustice so patent, that we cannot accept that the European legal system allows that European citizens working at the very heart of the EU be denied the right to indefinite contracts that all other EU citizens enjoy. Despite past setbacks, we believe that a new set of legal eyes will find a different perspective to present to the Court and win our cases.
3.1 A new team of Lawyers – Ready and waiting
During the last few months, we have been in contact with two lawyers: from Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP) and from Lallemand & Legros. They believe that because the ISPRA case and another recent precedent (4) we do have a case to make on both issues and that even if the chances are small, it is worthwhile trying.
They have recently raised the possibility of a new ground for the case: The transformation of CA contracts (both in Brussels and abroad) into Temporary Agent contracts, for indefinite period.
3.2 Money – We need to mobilise
We need to do a fundraiser among CAs to cover all the expenses before we engage the lawyers. This money is kept and managed by a colleague who is our Paymaster.
The amount we need is around 30,000 EUR. Taking into account the number of CAs (1,500 alone in the CA Web Group) and the potential impact in our careers and salaries if we win the case, it is one of the best value-for-money propositions you will ever encounter.
The 30,000 EUR will cover the following:
Should we need to appeal the court ruling, we would need to raise additional
funds. The expected amount should be around 12,000 EUR.
3.3 Court Case Management Team – We need volunteers – We Need YOU !
In order to make this work, we need to get organised. We already have a paymaster and the commitment by some CA colleagues willing to get involved. Until we decide who will be managing the case, contact us if you are willing to help. We need all the help we can get. But we are confident that taking into account that we are over 1,500 skilled professionals we can mobilise the necessary expertise. We will need Project co-ordinators, Paymasters, Lawyers and Volunteers both to work the case and to be the case (see below). If you are game, contact us (see below).
3.4 Actual cases to take to court – We will need volunteers
We will need two different volunteers for each of the three issues.
The normal process is to
"Indefinite Contracts": The lawyers think that this case should be built around Brussels-based CAs. The reason being is that CAs in Delegations can reach an indefinite contract. So, if you are a CA working in BRU and about to be dismissed, this should be of interest to you, as you have little to lose.
"Same pay for same job": In this case, volunteers can be CAs both in Brussels and abroad who can show that they perform the same tasks that Officials do. Ideally, this would take the form of identical job descriptions between CAs and ADs, CAs in management positions, etc.
"Transformation into TA Contracts". This third case, mentioned in a recent ruling, opens the possibility to request the transformation of CA contracts into TA contracts.
Please contact us (see below) if you think you may be a potential candidate for any of these three cases. As noted, it is very important for the cases we present to fit exactly in the parameters set by the lawyers. We will be informing you of what these parameters are in the coming weeks.
4 What you need to do now
Now the ball is rolling and it is up to us to end these injustices. What you need to do is very simple:
1. Inform other CA colleagues and get them involved !
(1) "Council Directive
1999/70/EC of 28 June 1999 concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term
work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP".
19 Feb 2013