Happy Birthday TREF!

Last month marked the 20th anniversary of TREF, CERN’s Tripartite Employment Conditions Forum, which held its first meeting on 27 September 1994. TREF was established to provide a forum in which the Management, Council delegations and the staff would be able to have their say on employment conditions at CERN. Its mandate remains “to oversee the collection of information [about employment conditions at other employers] and to stimulate communication and discussion between representatives of the Member States, the CERN Management and the CERN Staff Association”.


TREF was preceded by a series of bodies, the first of which was established as far back as 1979, the year in which the concept of a five-yearly review of employment conditions was first introduced at CERN. Fifteen years later, the establishment of TREF marked a coming of age. TREF brought a new methodology to data collection activities, systematically looking at the employers that are CERN’s real competitors in terms of recruitment and taking into account the conditions in the Geneva region. In short, TREF brought a scientific approach to the task: appropriate for a scientific organisation. Since that first meeting, TREF has met a further 86 times, contributing greatly to achieving mutual understanding between the three parties involved and providing invaluable information to the full Council to inform the decision-making process.

It didn’t take TREF long to become established and fulfil its remit. By December 1995, TREF had already agreed on a package of employment conditions and submitted it to the Council at its 103rd session, where it was approved by a majority vote. To this day, TREF has continued to work hard to reach a consensus and to provide the Council with information obtained through the scrupulous analysis of data.

TREF was established as a forum to foster mutual understanding between the three parties involved. In this, it has been a resounding success. You only have to look at the positive working relationships between the general staff population, the Management and the Council for evidence. It is a fact that of the 35 international organisations surveyed by the International Labour Organization, CERN enjoys the best labour relations and the lowest number of disputes. This shows that TREF works and saves the Laboratory time and money, and it’s something that all those who put so much effort into TREF can be justly proud of.

Abridged from a speech delivered on behalf of the Director-General by Sigurd Lettow on the occasion of the 87th meeting of TREF on 9 October 2014.