Dear Colleagues,

As the deadlines approach, the meetings of the Standing Concertation Committee between the Management and the staff representatives follow one after the other at a sustained rhythm. At our recent public meetings, we promised to come back to you with further information after the TREF meeting on 5th October. And a promise is a promise, so despite the little time we have in this frenzy of never-ending discussions, you will find below the latest information about the current negotiations.

To get straight to the crux of the matter, we will not give you here the details of the proposals being discussed. Just a reminder: the five-yearly review (5YR) formally includes only salaries and health insurance. As far as pensions are concerned, in view of the financial bottomless pit and pressure by the active and retired staff in the spring, CERN Council has finally decided to take action as from 2011.

Today, each separate subject is progressing at its own speed, but they are not evolving in the same way. What follows is a summary of the situation, as we see it, of course.

*Fantastic !  **I've just seen our pay rise !

Five-yearly review (5YR)

The proposals for the health insurance scheme have progressed the furthest. Those by the Management, and supported by the Staff Association, have been well received by the Member States delegations. To consolidate the CHIS on a long-term basis from 2011, the contribution rate will need to increase by 8%, meaning that an additional 0.25% will be deducted from our salaries. An annual increase of 4% per year will follow until 2015. As far as benefits are concerned, the DG will have more room for manoeuvre, thus facilitating the control over an increase in costs by becoming more reactive to care providers. The Staff Association approves unreservedly these sensible measures.

The salary issue poses no problems for the Staff Association either. Of course the proposed increases are meagre, but such is life, the economic crisis has hit everywhere. And the proposals put forward by the Management for salary increases that vary according to the career path, is the outcome of a concertation process carried out in accordance with the review method jointly adopted.

The comparisons have shown that the salaries offered at CERN for career paths D to G show significant unfavourable differences between CERN and the outside world. CERN’s attractiveness is therefore at stake. We support the Management’s proposals as this time something must be done to attract the best, even though we think more should be done. At this stage of the discussions, the Staff Association has agreed, for lack of a better proposal, to an increase distribution of 0 - 2 - 4% (according to the career path) proposed by the Management. This is better than deciding to ask for nothing, as the last Management did.

Pension Fund

When we talk about the problems in the Pension Fund things start to go wrong. When, in August, the Staff Association learnt of the measures foreseen to bail out the Pension Fund, it had to face facts: CERN Council was not honouring the commitments it had made only four years previously. How can we now trust its intention to make an effort over the long term? We had laid down a prerequisite to all discussions on measures foreseen for the staff, proof of the goodwill of CERN Council, i.e. the payment of one thousand million Swiss francs to the Pension Fund, instead of paying 60 million CHF for 30 years.

We have just heard that this request has been refused. A resolution with the set of measures has been proposed, which will be adopted by Council in December. This text should recall its responsibility to the Pension Fund and underline its long-term commitment. With no other choice to conserve the annual 60 million Swiss francs promised, we will make sure that this text will protect us as much as possible, should there be a breach of agreement in the future.

What remains are the other proposals by the Management, those that concern all of us. Following the prerequisite mentioned above, we are only just starting the concertation process which, unsurprisingly, will be difficult. But one thing is already clear, we will all have to contribute more to the Pension Fund, around 1.6% of the basic salary, also from next January.

So, how to reconcile these three subjects in one package of measures which is socially acceptable for everyone? This is what is keeping us busy at the moment. And this is where the Management and the Staff Association have very divergent opinions. At the SSC meeting on 30th September, we explained the social necessity for a financial compensation of 2% to cancel out the increase in contributions, as has been the case in the past in similar circumstances. This compensation would be added to the 0 – 2 – 4% increase in salaries. Met with a clear refusal by the Management, we asked for arbitration by the DG.

It was a waste of time. He explained that the 5YR did not include the subject of pensions and that its impact on the final proposals was not to be taken into account at this stage. He added that he intended to “respect the method”, obviously a fashionable term at the moment. This is his right, but it is socially questionable. The LHC is working very well, team spirit is a mainstay of CERN, and this reward is not very motivating. In any case it is not our vision of things and we repeated this at TREF on 5th October. (see next page)

But that is enough legalism for the Staff Association, let us get back to reality. Because, if nothing is done, 55% of our colleagues will go home at the end of January with lower pay than in December. This is totally unacceptable for the Staff Association when we know that this will affect those who already earn the least. No one must lose out. This hiding behind the “respecting the method” to avoid doing anything must stop.

We should rather be looking at how to share out the cake, without breaching the method, respecting certain progressiveness. This is a question of will, but action needs to be taken quickly for this request to be taken into account in the budgets adopted by CERN Council in September.

As far as we are concerned, the method is being totally respected and has nothing to do with the addition of a social element at the end. Armed with the support received over the past few days, which reinforces the justness of our request, we will firmly defend this point of view until the end, you can take our word for it.

And just for good measure, the Staff Association will add to this our requests in the area of pensions, which will not be long in coming, since the measures proposed are also mostly unacceptable. We will, of course, keep you informed about these discussions as they proceed.

Moreover, we note with interest that communication in the Organization is now working well. For a long time, news about employment conditions came only from the Staff Association. Today, with the DG and HR playing along, a real public debate has begun in the Organization. And so much the better, this is a healthy sign. Furthermore, to be able to make a decision with full knowledge of the facts, all arguments need to be heard.

And a decision will be made in a month’s time when the staff are asked to vote on the package of measures which will then be proposed. So, should we accept or refuse…. The debate continues and we promise to let you know the outcome. See you soon !

by Staff Association