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 Franco Francia.

Franco Francia

During my term as President of the Staff Association (January 1978 – June 1980) a major topic was the Review of Social and Economic Conditions (RESCO). It was the first major revision of the CERN Staff Rules and Regulations.

The salary scale at the time, before the revision, had a parabolic shape. For an organization like CERN, which already had a third of its staff with a university level education, this proportion hinted at a too important growth of the total salary bill, compared to the cost of investment and maintenance of the CERN facilities. We thus flattened the curve by stopping the automatic advancement in grades 12 to 14 for three years. This measure, although restrictive for senior staff, made the CERN budget more acceptable in the long term to the Member States. It was a measure that went against the interests of a category of staff, but which, in our analysis, protected the existence of the Organization, and hence was in the interest of all.

The CERN Management and the vast majority of physicists agreed. However, the engineers and some physicists, believing that we were fanatic egalitarians, revolted and created a parallel association whose purpose was to defend the higher grades. The parallel association was finally dissolved when the initiators of the revolt were elected to the Staff Association Committee. Some initiators, when they had taken a position of responsibility in the Staff Association, used it to satisfy their frustrations, sometimes endangering the Organization.

In hindsight, I can say that we acted correctly, but that our action was not sufficiently explained and discussed with all staff categories.

For such painful adventures not to happen again, it is essential that all staff are aware that the decision-making mechanisms for financing CERN have been carefully designed, yet are fragile and highly dependent on the political will of each Member State.

The principles that I have always followed, during as well as after my term, are as follows:

  1. Explain the role of CERN to its staff and to the neighbouring populations.
  2. Ensure attractive salaries and professionally interesting working conditions. This promotes motivation at work and develops attachment to the Organization.

To ensure a long life to CERN the following conditions should be met:

  1. CERN, its employees and the Member States must defend Europe and continue to defend it. The current dismantling of Europe would be fatal to CERN (trivial maybe, but some do not realize this fact).
  2. If a new accelerator were to be constructed after the LHC, it should be in this region. Its design should be such that physicists from all countries may take part (the "grid" will be very helpful).
  3. The current policy of CERN is the right one. Its evolution towards a worldwide organization is desirable. The balance between activities of basic research and a good flexibility for facilitating knowledge transfer to industry is necessary.
  4. The Staff Association should foster the collective spirit of the current young employees through a variety of initiatives. Currently the individualist and opportunistic spirit which has spread worldwide deteriorates relations between co-workers everywhere.
  5. We must fight racism and intolerance by all means.

Internally, every time a major problem occurs, the Staff Association should, whenever possible, concert with Management in order not to weaken the joint action.

Finally, I am convinced that the Staff Association will find the right answers to all questions, provided it puts the general interest of the employees and the Organization before individual interests and opportunism.

The following issues of Gravitons provide analyses and suggestions which are still useful today.

  • N° 9 – Évolution de la recherche (Ugo Amaldi)
  • N° 10 – État de la recherche sur la gravitation (M. Jacob). Arrangement CERN – Commission européenne (O. Barbalat)
  • N° 14 – Greatly reduce the radiation dose (G. Charpak )
  • N° 15 – Interview with J. Lefrançois (Chairman of Scientific Policy Committee)
  • N° 16 – The scientific policy at CERN (A. de Rujula and L. Foà)
  • N° 20 – CERN’s history from 1954 to 1998 (M. Gigliarelli and F. Francia)
  • N° 21 – French-Geneva Campus in Archamp (Y. Lemoigne )
  • N° 22 – L’Opinion des jeunes (M. Goossens), SESAME Centre (H. Schopper)
  • N° 23 – Editorial (F. Francia); Data GRID (F. Gagliardi)
  • N° 25 – Editorial and several interesting articles
  • N° 26 – CERN’s legal evolution (J.M. Dufour)
  • N° 27 – Two interesting interviews (A. Rubio and C. Benvenuti)

by Staff Association