Presidents' words - Gianni Deroma

Gianni Deroma

This week we publish the last contributions in the 'Words of presidents' series by giving the floor to Gianni Deroma (2007-2010) and Michel Goossens (2011-2015).

"Tu patere legem quam ipse fecisti"
This Latin adage has marked my years with the Staff Association (SA). For someone like me, coming from the technical world, the discovery of the importance of the role played by legal matters in the defence of the staff illustrates a new reality and incarnates my years spent with the SA.

We, members of personnel, as citizens have as reference the democratic societies in which we live. CERN is not a democracy. The Member States, the Director-General have full powers, or almost. Contrary to citizens of states, we do not elect our leaders.

So in that context is it useful to have a Staff Association? Or does it only serve as a necessary alibi for those who have the power?

This is where a legal approach makes sense, in counterbalancing the power of our governing bodies. And in executing a mandate, it is in the staff representative’s interest to ensure the proper balance of the scales, symbol of the law: that is what is just. To consider an issue from a legal perspective and file a complaint attacking an administrative decision with the tribunal are healthy actions.

If, during my term, the court did not rule in favour of the Staff Association in its appeals to the Tribunal, its judgments were always useful for clarifying the spirit of the legal texts. As Michel Vitasse, with whom I worked as his vice-president taught me, one should consider the Tribunal’s judgments for the international civil servants as the equivalent of a safety net for the trapeze artist. The more we appeal to the Tribunal the more the meshes of the net tighten and the whole edifice becomes stronger. Of course, it does not prevent a fall, but it is nevertheless extremely reassuring.

The adage quoted at the beginning can be translated as "obey the rules which you yourself have made". What could be more logical? Obeying the law is above all to show some common sense. In the current context of tensions with the CERN Council, is it possible that this common sense is being trampled on? This would be unacceptable.

To seek arbitration before a tribunal is showing to all that we do not live isolated on an island, i.e., the world of scientists, but that we belong to a real and much broader world*, that of the international organizations whose evolution in jurisdiction we follow. Yes indeed, seeking arbitration before a tribunal court is healthy.

Clearly, legal action should not replace the mobilization of staff, but complement and support it. From my experience with the Staff Association, the recognition expressed by the staff is what, emotionally, touched me most. As well as working as a team. What marked me very much also is the discovery of the reality of the law of the international civil service.

Becoming a staff representative and getting involved in the Staff Association have been very enriching, an important step in my professional and personal journey. Long life, with a strong and constantly renewed influence, to our Staff Association!

Gianni Deroma
* For example, the ILOAT (Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization), to which CERN is affiliated, is open to 46,000 international civil servants belonging to some sixty organization.

by Staff Association