Our October 2013 public meetings (first part)

Several hundred of you took part in our public meetings held from the 1st to the 8th of October 2013 and for that we thank you.

The main presentation was preceded by a tribute to Philippe Defert, Vice-President of the Staff Association, who passed away in September. Philippe had been an active member of the Staff Association and a delegate to the Staff Council since 1992.

At the end of those meetings thanks were given to Marcel Aymon, Member of the Staff Council for 25 years and member of the Executive Committee for almost as many years. Marcel has held, almost uninterruptedly, the position of Secretary within the Executive Committee except for the four years during which he held the position of Vice President. Thank you Marcel for your exemplary dedication!

After each meeting around a cup of coffee or tea more personalized discussions between staff members and their delegates took place.

Files with the presentations are available at the URL https://indico.cern.ch/conferenceDisplay.py?confId=275010.

Here, we summarize the main messages of the presentation. In this first part we discuss the contract policy. The second part, published in the next issue of the Echo, will address the merit appraisal and reward scheme, MARS, and will provide some general information.

Contract policy

To ensure excellence in its many activities - basic research, technical development and innovation, as well as the training of hundreds of associates, fellows and students and the management of more than 10,000 users - CERN should implement an efficient staff policy. This policy should allow CERN to recruit highly competent colleagues from all Member States in Europe, and soon from beyond, and, then, allow it to retain and motivate them throughout their careers. Moreover, in order to obtain highly performing training and supervision, which are two of the Organization’s essential functions and that our Member States appreciate, CERN must be able to rely on a stable staff, a staff with experience in accelerators, the kind of experience and procedures that are acquired only over the long term.

In 2009, CERN Council decided to set the Organization’s staff complement at the fixed number of 2250 FTA (full time active). Then, in 2011, the Management was able to convince Member States to grant it, on a temporary basis, the flexibility to freely transfer up to 5 % between the equipment budget and the staff budget, which allowed recruiting some 113 additional FTA. However, at the same time, the Management had to make a commitment that the number of staff members with an indefinite contract (IC) would not exceed 1750. By the end of 2012, the number of staff members holding an IC having reached 1751, thus IC posts could only be opened to replace IC staff that left the Organization. Figure 1 shows that in 2009, 153 candidates (and some 220 in 2010, blue line) were awarded a limited duration contract (LD), and as we can see, some 50 IC staff leave annually (purple colour), which results in a one- third LD to IC conversion rate in 2013–2015. Management has decided to implement a three-year plan (until the end of the current Director-General’s mandate) with the opening of 198 IC posts during this period, 59 of them in 2013. The fixed conversion rate is, on average, 40 % for the three-year period, varying, according to the type of activity, ranging from 30 % in research to 50 % in the accelerator sector.

If we look at the number of IC posts opened by career path (Fig. 2), and by professional category (Fig. 3), we see that A and B paths and 1, 4 and 5c categories have a significantly lower conversion rate than the rest (the average is indicated by the red line). For category 1 (research physicists) the absence or the lack of IC corresponds to a policy of academic rotation, while in paths A and G, there are no or very few candidates. For other professional categories, the management adjusts the conversion rate of LD to IC depending on how difficult or easy it is to replace the staff member. Thus, the more difficult it is to replace the specialists, the higher the conversion rate. The easier it is to replace the staff in a professional category, the lower the conversion rate from LD to IC will be. Therefore, for categories 4 (specialized staff), 5b (administrative work) and 5c (office work), the management justifies this lower conversion rate by the fact that it is easier for CERN to find replacements to the staff in these professional categories. Even if the Staff Association could find it conceivable to somewhat favour differentiation in the conversion ratio according to activity, in order not to lose the experience gained in some high-tech fields, an equal treatment among staff members should, nonetheless, be guaranteed. The Staff Association would rather challenge the imposed quotas to make sure that recruited candidates are all given an equal expectance to carry on their career within the Organization. Indeed, the Staff Association finds it unfair that certain professional categories (4, 5b and 5c) pay a higher price than others because the Management decided to apply the arbitrary quotas imposed by the Council. There should not be two-speed careers for Staff members at CERN! Excellence is not the sole privilege of certain professional categories! There are some irreplaceable specialists in each professional category. Do you know that the new RFQ modules of LINAC4 (https://cds.cern.ch/record/1474081?ln=en) came out of our workshops where they were machined, assembled and soldered by our engineers and specialized staff with unequalled precision in industry? And this is not the only example. Ensuring equal opportunities is essential in future LD to IC conversion ratios.

Fig. 1 : Recruitment (arrivals) and departures (LD and IC) of staff members Fig. 2 : LD to IC conversion rate by career path


For administrative assistants the detailed knowledge of statutory texts, guidelines, procedures and circulars, often quite complex and CERN-specific, as well as their historical evolution, is an essential asset, acquired only over a long period. Thus, under the constraint of the current minimal administrative resources, it is only thanks to the presence of colleagues with their long historical memory, it is possible to confront the workload generated by the continuous flow of thousands of staff, fellows, students and users who pass by the secretariats of the Organization. Therefore equal opportunities for all professional categories with respect to the LD to IC ratio is essential. The Staff Association will do all it can to ensure this!

For more predictability as to the possibility of obtaining an IC, the Staff Association proposes a new contract policy (Fig. 4), it is based on the principle that the Organization must first establish a plan of its needs and determine its long-term and short-term activities. A short-term contract (LD) limited in duration to the length of the project (of 5 years at maximum) can be awarded for a short-term activity. A long-term contract can be awarded for a long-term activity, whereas, after a certain number of years (to be defined, e.g. three in Fig. 4), the recruited staff member’s skills and performance and his long term employability are reviewed by an evaluation Committee in the position she holds (without competition).

People outside the Organization may apply for these two types of positions (for short or long term activities). No staff member may hold a (LD) contract associated with a short-term activity for a period exceeding five years. On the other hand, these staff, as well as staff members holding an IC, may apply for a job opening for a long-term activity.

Fig. 3 : LD to IC conversion rate by occupational category Fig. 4 : An alternative contract policy


The french text has been published in Echo n° 184.

par Staff Association