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 continue in this issue of Echo with the contribution of Luit de Jonge.

Luit de Jonge

My only year as president (mid-1982 to mid-1983) of the Staff Association was intense and eventful. Michel Vitasse, who had prepared the ground for me as his successor, had previously worked with his deputies on the modes of staff representation in major international organizations. We had only one official body for discussions with Management, the Standing Consultation Committee (SCC). As its name suggests, this committee was advisory only, but we, the Staff Association, wanted to negotiate and reach signed agreements.

A joint group had been established (President Günther Ullmann and Vice President Romain Pittin, who at the same time was Vice-President of the Staff Association) to study the issue. In the end, it was clear that the CERN Management did not want to change things.

So, the evening and the night before the meeting of the SCC, we prepared an explosive statement. But, as the document with the declaration was not on the agenda, the Director of Administration did not want that we read it. We insisted on the fact that we nonetheless had an advisory role, and the Management was thus forced to listen to us. The Director-General was present at the SCC meeting and a committee lunch was planned (as last item on the agenda).

This statement must still exist in the archives, and it was very hard on the Management. When we finished reading, the Director-General left the meeting room angry... and the lunch was cancelled. But as we were not of the easily daunted kind, we (the representatives of the Staff Association) went to a small restaurant in Russin to complete the last item on the agenda by ourselves. Afterwards, we sent the bill for the meal to the Director of Administration, who returned it to us with a large "seen", in his handwriting. We, in turn, returned it stating "and we have seen nothing." That much for the anecdote. Next, we boycotted the SCC for six months while continuing informal discussions with Management.

At the end of my mandate, in May 1983, I resigned with a not very tender open letter denouncing the situation. Subsequently, the SCC became the Standing Concertation Committee! Then CCEC (Consultative Committee on Employment Conditions), a tripartite committee with the Member States, was created by the CERN Council in December 1983, followed by TRACE (Tripartite Advisory Committee on Employment Conditions) in December 1988, both predecessors of the current TREF (Tripartite Employment Conditions Forum), which was born in June 1994.

After my resignation from the presidency, I returned to the technical field, actively participating in the LEP project, while still remaining a delegate to the Staff Council for two more years.

The experience as president was a great lesson in life given in the unique environment that CERN is.

I wish a long life yet to CERN and its Staff Association.

by Staff Association