The Staff Association (SA) in the Enlarged Directorate (ED) meeting!

The Vice-President and the President presented the plan of activities of the Staff Association for 2017 and expressed the Staff Association’s concerns at the meeting of the Enlarged Directorate (Directors and Heads of Departments and Units) on 3 April.

Five topics were presented, starting with the implementation of the decisions made during the 2015 Five-Yearly Review.

Five-Yearly Review – Follow-up (see Echo No. 257)

2016 – Key points of implementation

Several changes were already implemented in 2016:

  • review of the Staff Rules and Regulations in January 2016 for the diversity aspects, and in September 2016 to incorporate the new career structure and the new salary grid with grades;
  • review of the Administrative Circular No. 26 (Rev. 11) on the “Recognition of Merit”;
  • placement in grades and provisional placement in benchmark jobs of all staff members;
  • definition of guidelines for the 2017 MERIT exercise.

The Staff Association was extensively involved in these reviews, as well as their implementation. Generally, the concertation process has worked well in this regard, leading to agreements that preserve the interests of the staff and those of the Organization.

2017 – First year of the MERIT exercise (see Echo No. 259)

The Staff Association emphasized the following issues:

Corrections of placement in a benchmark job (see Echo No. 261)

By the end of February 2017, the HR Department had already received numerous requests for correction. These requests were initiated by:

  • staff members (144): mostly requests for a change of grade and, to a lesser extent, a change of benchmark job to one with a higher grade span (e.g. from technician in 3-4-5 to technical engineer in 4-5-6);
  • the hierarchy (242): mostly changes of benchmark job title within the same grade span.

For the Staff Association, the agreement remains that requests for a change of grade (promotion) must be considered in the framework of the promotion exercise with reference to relevant procedures.

We insisted, however, that all corrections stemming from placements in wrong benchmark jobs must be investigated and processed as soon as possible and before the 2017 MERIT exercise, whether they entail a change of grade span or not. These corrections must be effective before 1st July 2017, the date of official confirmation of the assigned benchmark job.

Personal positions of staff members

The implementation of the new salary grid generated “personal positions” to many staff members, meaning that their salary position falls outside the salary grid since it is either below the minimum of their grade, or, more often, exceeds the maximum of their grade.

The Staff Association told the ED that we recognize that our colleagues, who are in a personal position with a salary that exceeds the maximum of their grade, cannot all be promoted this year, and that some of them will not get a promotion at all.

Still, we insisted that the case of each of our colleagues in a personal position must be considered and that a personal response must be given.

2017 MERIT Guidelines

The Staff Association recalled that:

  • a promotion is a change of grade;
  • a change of benchmark job reflects a change of functions;
  • these two concepts are different in use and therefore follow different procedures;
  • these procedures must be applied in the same way CERN-wide;
  • no numerical guidelines are to be applied, as was decided by the Management and accepted by the Staff Association.

Consequently, the Staff Association expects a maximum of promotions in 2017, with due consideration of the budget increase in the long term.

Benchmark jobs encompass three grades, not two + one

According to the Promotion Guide (see Echo No. 263), the transition to the third grade of a benchmark job is analysed and evaluated in the same way as the transition from the first to the second grade, based on relevant criteria and with due consideration to the level of functions performed, experience, expertise acquired, etc.

Moreover, recruitment is usually to the first or the second grade of a benchmark job, depending on the candidate’s experience and expertise. However, hiring to the third grade, albeit exceptional, remains a possibility. The grade or grades of recruitment must always be specified on the vacancy notice.

To conclude, displaying grades using brackets “1-2-(3)” or with the 3rd grade greyed out is entirely unnecessary due to the HR processes and can only be demotivating for the staff. We have therefore urged that benchmark jobs be displayed encompassing all three grades "1-2-3" and without parts that are greyed out.

Caveats

The Staff Association reported on the failure to comply with agreed concerted rules, especially with regard to the following two issues:

  • Non-eligibility for a promotion of staff members whose salary position would be below 110 % of the midpoint of their grade, which would limit proposals for promotions to staff members whose salary position is equal or superior to 110 % of their grade. This is not acceptable and goes against the rules, which have been laid down by the Management in agreement with the Staff Association and are applicable CERN-wide.
  • Refusal of a change of benchmark job on personal grounds. It is important to recall that the benchmark job assigned to a person has to reflect their actual functions, and not their diplomas or academic credentials. Benchmark jobs should provide an accurate view of all functions performed at CERN (type and number of positions) and thus help to establish a capacity planning. Finally, a person whose functions do not correspond to the assigned benchmark job will be evaluated in a promotion exercise based on the functions associated with the benchmark job instead of those actually performed. This will undoubtedly have an impact on the person’s career.

The Staff Association highly recommends that every person at CERN have the right benchmark job, even if it may not correspond to their diploma.

Three more themes to address

To complete the implementation of the Five-Yearly Review, three themes still need to be addressed in 2017:

  • Internal Mobility,
  • Validation of Skills Acquired through Experience (VAE),
  • Career Development Discussions.

The HR Department has launched three working groups with the participation of Staff Association representatives. The Staff Association considers that these elements will help make careers more dynamic and will thus partly compensate for the losses on advancement decided upon in the Five-Yearly Review.

Concertation

The Staff Association recalled that concertation is a process whereby the Director-General and the Staff Association concert together in an effort to find a common position to the extent possible. Concertation requires a positive attitude, far from defiance, as well as mutual trust. The Staff Association is fully committed to this but stated that the concertation process is not as effective as desired. In response to a question asked by the Director-General, the delayed communication of the minutes and documents of the Standing Concertation Committee was given as an example since it keeps the Staff Association at bay without any objective reason.

Internal Enquiries and Justice

Working on the internal processes on enquiries and justice is necessary and urgent. This observation is shared by several services, and across different levels.

The Staff Association recalled that as an international organisation, CERN has the duties of a nation in respect of its personnel and must put in place exemplary processes related to enquiries and internal justice.

The Staff Association thus requests that a working group be established as soon as possible, under the aegis of the HR Department with the participation of the SA.

Health and Safety

In its annual report, the CERN Medical Service outlined problems related to the psychosocial wellbeing at work: the number of days lost due to long duration sick leave for diseases linked to psychosocial problems has increased significantly.

HR has launched a working group to provide a better understanding of this issue, to identify its causes, and to establish an action plan. The Staff Association participates in this work, together with HR, the Medical Service, HSE and the hierarchy in general. The message of the SA to the ED was that there is no need to panic but that CERN cannot ignore the signs, which reflect suffering at work but imply also a larger disarray and an economic loss for the organisational units.

VICO and Elections

VICO (VIsit COlleagues) (see Echo No. 264)

A campaign of short visits to CERN personnel by staff delegates started in mid-March and will run through mid-June.

The aim of this campaign is to go meet our colleagues in their offices, initiate a dialogue on topics of mutual interest and answer their questions as much as possible. It is also an opportunity for us to encourage our colleagues to join the Staff Association, and to propose to some of them to stand in the elections to the Staff Council in November 2017.

Electoral Colleges

As the Organization was restructured in January 2016 and career paths were replaced by grades, the Staff Association shall review its electoral colleges, taking into account different categories of personnel, different sectors/departments/units, as well as the distribution of staff members by department/unit, etc.

We recalled that five seats in the Staff Council are reserved for delegates representing fellows and associated members of the personnel. In response to a question, the SA stated that the number of these seats will be increased as soon as the interest towards the Staff Association among fellows and MPAs increases in terms of the number of members and candidates in elections. For the time being, only two of the five seats are filled.

We reiterated to the Directors and the Heads of Departments and Units the essential need to have a comprehensive representation of all professional categories across all sectors and departments in the Staff Council, and solicited their assistance in ensuring this representativeness.

The presentation ended with a series of questions and answers. The Director-General expressed her thanks to the Vice-President and the President of the Staff Association for the themes brought forward in the presentation and for their frank replies to questions. She then encouraged the Association to return to the Enlarged Directorate in due time to continue this constructive dialogue.

And we shall certainly do so.

The French version of this article was published in Echo No. 267.

by Staff Association