TREF celebrates its 20th anniversary

The early years and RESCO

In the nineteen sixties and seventies it was the practice to set up ad hoc working groups to study specific topics concerning the personnel, such as revisions of the Staff Rules and Regulations, five-yearly salary reviews, pensions fund matters, the health insurance scheme, etc. Usually, these bodies were made up of Member State delegates, with representatives attending from the Management and observers from the Staff Association. The documents and the strategy were prepared in large internal working groups.

A major exercise called the Review of Employment and Social Conditions (RESCO) took place in 1979. For RESCO a series of sub-groups examined particular topics and formal meetings took place in several Member States. There was a very considerable investment in time and money, but the results were comparatively minor.


Subsequently there has been a succession of three tripartite bodies set up by Council to study the question of employment conditions at CERN. The first, the CERN Employment Conditions Working Group (CEC), was created in December 1982 to examine the salaries and related financial conditions of employment of CERN personnel. It met only three times in 1983 and proposed changes in the allowances paid to students, subsistence allowances, maternity leave and public holidays.

In December 1983, Council passed a resolution for the creation of a standing Consultative Committee on Employment Conditions (CCEC), where the Member States, the Management and the Staff Association could consider all aspects of CERN employment conditions. CCEC met 17 times between 1984 and 1987, and presented recommendations on such topics as the revision of the Staff Rules and Regulations, the proposals of the Working Group on Pensions, the five-yearly salary review, the procedure for regularly updating allowances and the validation of the salary index formula.

In 1987 the CERN Review Committee recommended in its report to Council that CCEC should be dissolved since it considered that Council should delegate full responsibility to CERN Management to implement agreed policies within approved budgetary limits. The Committee of Council set up a tripartite Study Group to examine this recommendation. It met three times and came to the conclusion that there was a need for a body in which personnel policy matters were discussed between the three parties. It defined the terms of reference for a tripartite forum with an improved mandate to replace CCEC, to be known as the Tripartite Advisory Committee on Conditions of Employment (TRACE). Council adopted a resolution for the creation of TRACE and the simultaneous dissolution of CCEC in December 1988.

TRACE met seven times between June 1989 and May 1990 and devoted most of its time to the five-yearly review of salaries. Member State delegates were unable to reach a consensus on a recommendation to Council on the subject, so Council mandated the Management to negotiate directly with the Staff Association under the aegis of the President of Council.

The Restricted Tripartite Group

Then, for three years TRACE was dormant. Finally, following discussions in June 1993 in Council, in December 2013 the CERN Management submitted a proposal to Council for a modified procedure for concertation with staff regarding modifications to the Staff Rules and Regulations to replace the TRACE procedure. A Restricted Tripartite Group (RTG) was set up to examine possible alternatives for a tripartite structure. This Group met several times during the first half of 1994 under the chairmanship of J.D. Walsh. It produced a report “Remuneration and employment conditions of CERN staff” (CERN/RTG/8), which proposes to create a new body, called the Tripartite Employment Conditions Forum (TREF), “in which representatives of the Member States, the CERN Management and the Staff Association would examine remuneration and other employment conditions”. The report details the mandate, membership composition, and working procedures of the new body. It contains a recommendation on how to handle proposals on employment conditions made by Management to Finance Committee and Council. In particular, a conciliation mechanism exists to deal with the case where Council wishes to see substantive changes to a Management proposal.

TREF, the first twenty years

The RTG/8 Report with its resolution were adopted by Council in its June 1994 session and TREF held its first meeting on 27 September 1994 with John Walsh as Chairman. Since its beginning, TREF and the Staff Association have known rather long tenures for their respective presidents (see Table 1). This longevity has been an asset for the concertation process since the items concerning employments conditions, and its social and financial aspects, discussed at TREF most of the time need a good technical and in-depth knowledge of the issue, and thus continuity is essential. The same goes for all members of TREF, where many delegates have participated in the work of the Committee over many years.

TREF Presidents Staff Association Presidents
1994 John Walsh 1994–1995 Michel Borghini
1995–2003 Jan Bezemer 1996–1998/2005–2006 Michel Vitasse
2004–2006 Fernando Bello 1999–2002 Jean-Pol Matheys
2007–2011 Coen van Riel 2007–2010 Gianni Deroma
2012–present Bernard Dormy 2003–2004/2011–present Michel Goossens

Table 1: TREF and Staff Association Presidents during TREF’s first 20 years

As a discussion forum and advisory body to the Council, TREF has proved to be an essential tool for the stability of working relations and conciliation mechanisms at CERN. TREF is the outcome of a long tradition of concertation and the existence of instruments and procedures proven to work. It should be remembered that TREF was created after some disagreements and conflict between the staff on the one hand and the regulating bodies and Management on the other. By promoting dialogue at all stages of the concertation process, TREF limits the risk of conflicts. In particular the presence of conciliation in the event of disagreement between the partners should reduce this risk even further.

Amongst the innovative decisions made during the years of TREF, we want to mention:

  • saved leave;
  • pre-retirement programmes;
  • possibility offered to the Director-General to introduce measures to limit the increase of CHIS expenses, by encouraging the use of health care providers and treatments which provide the best quality-to-cost ratio;
  • long-term care allowance;
  • calculation of the annual basic salary and stipend index.

Happy birthday TREF

On the evening before TREF’s 87th meeting on Friday 10 October 2014, there was a short celebration to mark TREF’s 20th birthday. In its speech1 the Staff Association reiterated its firm intention to continue to collaborate in a positive and constructive spirit with Member State delegates and Management in the upcoming discussions in TREF, in particular those in the framework of the 2015 five-yearly review. It is therefore encouraging to see that all speakers expressed their wish to see the discussions in TREF during its next 20 years, and beyond, take place in a genuine atmosphere of confidence and mutual trust, in the interest of all, CERN staff, users, and Member States.


1 The complete text of the speech is available here.
The Proton published for the 50th anniversary of CERN in October 2004 and referenced in the beginning of the speech is available here (French version).

by Staff Association