Presidents' Words

In the context of the sixtieth anniversary of the Staff Association, we asked former presidents to tell us about their years of Presidency. We start in this issue of Echo with contributions from Michel Vitasse and Jean-Pol Matheys.


Michel Vitasse

Having had the honour and pleasure of participating in the development of the Staff Association, as its president for seven years, during three different periods in the years 1980, 1990 and 2000 and working with seven Directors-General, I was asked to write a few lines about this experience.

First of all, it has been a wonderful human experience. What a privilege to have met, at all levels, colleagues from all nationalities and of all trades, who devote all their efforts with dedication and passion, to an ideal of European scientific collaboration.

Furthermore, I was able to share with others some principles of action, such as:

  • Defending all categories of staff, maintaining its unity, by taking into account in our strategic and tactical choices, the various cultural sensitivities of our members
  • Recognizing and understanding the constraints of our social partners (Management and Member States). Explaining to them the point of view and expectations of staff, and then develop, in the concertation process, innovative proposals in all areas affecting employment and working conditions. It was indeed at the initiative of the Staff Association that the recruitment program financed by Saved Leave (SLS), the early retirement programme (PRP), and the Long Term Care dependency benefits (LTC) were created.


Today, this tradition of concertation is still part of the CERN culture. This success of being heard, the Staff Association owes it to its credibility, but also to its representativeness. Indeed, the staff has always given strong support to their representatives, whenever they deemed it necessary to do so. I still remember the bitter conflict in November 1995, which opposed staff and our supervisory bodies. TREF, created shortly before, has until today allowed us to reduce the risk of such conflicts. Let us hope it will continue.

Long live CERN and the Staff Association!

Jean-Pol Matheys

I was the president of the Staff Association for four years, 1999 to 2002, and it is a pleasure for me to look back on this particular period in my professional career. It was a very difficult and emotionally-charged period, yet humanly enriching, so mostly good memories come to mind.

Promote and proactively defend the interests of the staff, while respecting those of the Organization, is a challenge that can be taken on successfully only thanks to the visible and constant support of all staff. Constantly reaching out to staff, organizing meetings, explaining the why and the how, and, when the time comes, all together beat the drum, are essential steps. That a team within the Staff Association could converge on this approach to meet the challenges and the means to attain them, would have been impossible without the work, sometimes tough, of my predecessors, and I want to thank them warmly. I would like to pay a special tribute to the late Michel Borghini, who can unfortunately no longer contribute to this column.

A dialogue, including with those whose views and interests are quite different from ours, is both necessary and rewarding. With Management and the Member States, dialogue is essential because it feeds the concertation process. Often we have to go and meet our stakeholders to encourage dialogue; sometimes we have to demand more strongly concertation in good faith as requested by our legal texts. And, if we do not succeed the first time, we try, and try again. That is how success is forged. Thus, for example, CERN was finally able to integrate some people working on the site for many years but employed by sub-contractors on rotational contract. This success story of the Local Staff, to which I helped to contribute, is one of my fondest memories.

To continue building on what our predecessors have constructed, leaning on and strengthening the credibility and representation of the Staff Association, not hesitating to be tough, yet correct when necessary; this is what I wish for the Staff Association over the next 60 years.

by Staff Association