Presidents' words - Michel Goossens

Michel Goossens

Already at the beginning of 1955, just a few months after the creation of CERN, the members of the Organization's staff who then numbered less than 200, realized that they had to organize themselves into a corporate body to ensure a formal representation with Management and Member States. The Staff Association was born. As the 27th President of the Staff Association since its inception 60 years ago my task is highly interesting and rewarding, with plenty of responsibility, yet not always simple. Indeed, chosen by one’s peers as primus inter pares, the president is like the conductor of an orchestra, who must first convince his musicians to study the score together, before playing it in harmony. Of course, in my position I can rely on the solid foundations laid by my 26 predecessors, as well as the enthusiasm, loyalty, continuous efforts and perseverance of a core of dedicated collaborators, the elected delegates to the Staff Council.

The strength of the Staff Association is its participatory and consensual approach, in-depth discussions, the search for a common solution that addresses the expectations of the greatest number, a concertation with Management, as well as a continuous effort of explanation and persuasion in TREF and on other occasions with the Member States delegates. An experience that demands an effort from all those involved, patience and a willingness to listen, an openness of mind and empathy towards different points of view and expressed expectations, but also loyalty towards the principles of a sincere dialogue, confidence in the good faith of the social partners, and respect for commitments.

The Staff Association has known successes, and has obtained a few exemplary and original advances (creation of a Tripartite Forum for Employment Conditions, long-term care insurance, saved leave, internalization of local staff, balanced measures to put our social insurance on a healthy financial basis). Sometimes there have also been defeats when faced with attacks by our Member States against our employment conditions, considered as "privileges". Then we have to convince our social partners, explain and explain again, and if necessary, take action, relying on all Cernois to help their delegates, by participating in surveys or referenda, signing petitions, raising their voices, and sometimes express their views by "stronger" actions.

The main richness of the Organization is its staff, the basis of its excellence in physics and technology, creator of knowledge and know-how. The staff demonstrates on a daily basis a spontaneous complicity between different cultures and languages, a magical symbiosis between a multitude of types of training in our countries of origin, a willingness to collaborate and an openness of mind to explore with curiosity the origins of the universe through the study of the infinitely small.

The excellence of CERN with its discoveries in basic science, technical developments, and its essential role in the training of future specialists has been recognized on numerous occasions. Obviously, excellence has a cost. However, it is an essential investment in progress, creator of high-quality jobs for our children and grandchildren.

We must defend, all together, our success in basic science, an example of peaceful collaboration through equitable cost sharing that has enabled Europe to have a physics laboratory, unique in the world, and of which we are proud. Let us fight considerations that are merely short-term, purely financial, and have no future. We must demand adequate human and material resources that can ensure the proper functioning of the Organization. We owe it to future generations; they will thank us for not having sacrificed them.

by Staff Association