Five-yearly review: where do we stand now?

A reminder

The first issue of Echo in 2016 announced a year of changes with many challenges for the Staff Association and the staff it represents. Indeed, following the decision of the Council in December 2015 to approve all components of the five-yearly review, many changes were to be implemented in 2016. This is the case of the new career structure, the definition of benchmark jobs (BMJ), the redesign of the advancement and promotions process, etc.

Looking back at 2015 and the various statements

In December 2015, the CERN Council emphasized: the substantial effort made by the Staff Association and the Management, taking into account the difficult economic situation faced by some Member States, led to the creation of a package of measures as balanced as possible.

It is clear however:

  • that there was no alignment of CERN basic salaries with the comparison salaries;
  • that in the new career system, staff will have their advancement prospects, and consequently the level of their pension, reduced with respect to the current MARS system;
  • that the overall reduction of the advancement budget will have a negative impact on the revenue of the CERN Health Insurance System (CHIS).

Nevertheless, some measures relating to diversity were granted, mitigating the effects of other decisions taken during this five-yearly review.

Still, the Staff Association doubts that the attractiveness and competiveness of the Organization can be maintained solely with the measures taken in the field of diversity, however positive and necessary they might be.

Thus, in its December resolution, the Staff Council estimated that the package of measures was not sufficiently balanced and made additional demands, particularly regarding the new career system.

A memorandum to the Director-General requested that all terms and procedures for the implementation and monitoring of the new system for advancement and promotions (transition measures, BMJ, career development interview, skills assessment, fair career perspective, training, validation of acquired experience, internal mobility, internal publication of all open positions first within CERN, etc.) be subject to an agreement in the Standing Concertation Committee (CCP) before implementation of the new system. The Director-General responded positively to this request.

The work has started

Since early 2016, several working groups have been formed, including the group on BMJ and another one on promotions.

Representatives from the human resources department (HR), from different sectors and departments and from the Staff Association attend the meetings of these groups. The Staff Association representatives report back to the Staff Association Executive Committee and to the Staff Council. The topics are further discussed within the Staff Association Commissions; in this case, within the Commission for Employment Conditions1. Although discussions in the working groups are in general positive and constructive, management and the Staff Association continue to disagree on several points.

Unanswered questions

The Staff Association is in disagreement with management over the BMJ. They define, among other things, the type of work (e.g. administrative assistant, technician, engineer, physicist, etc.), the level of required qualification(s) (or equivalent) as well as the classification of the functions.

Management advocates a classification system with 3 salary grades per BMJ, but with a strong filter for promotions to the 3rd grade of the BMJ. The promotion from the 2nd to the 3rd grade would thus be subject to more restrictive conditions than the promotion from the 1st to the 2nd grade. The intention of management is to set numerical "guidelines" that the departments will have to follow. The Staff Association considers that the promotion into the 3rd grade should be done on the basis of the person meeting defined criteria, and irrespective of numerical guidelines; no one should be denied a promotion because of a numerical guideline being over-committed.

The definition and the number of BMJ also remain as a point of contention. However, the Staff Association has been assured that the BMJ system can evolve, and will be adapted and revised on the basis of return from experience and the needs of the Organization, among other factors.

There is little concern about the positioning of Staff in the new salary scale, that is the mapping between the old career paths and bands to the new grades which is completely automatic, save for those people who will fall in personal positions outside the nominal grade extent.

On the opposite the Staff Association remains very vigilant about the assignment of Staff to specific BMJ’s. In most cases this assignment will be clear and will not be contested. In some cases this could be more problematic since BMJ’s cover three grades in most cases with usually some overlap. In other words being in the right grade does not guarantee that you will be assigned to the proper BMJ. Beyond just the title of the job the consequences could be for your career perspective: whether you are assigned to a BMJ that starts with your grade or another one that ends with you grade, the perspective is clearly better in the first case.

Let us take an example: A person currently in Career Path D will be positioned in Grade 5, and could be assigned to a BMJ of technical engineer covering grades 4, 5 and 6. But the same person could be assigned to a BMJ of technician covering grades 3, 4 and 5. Of course this assignment has to take into account many factors such as the academic level, the experience acquired on the job, the actual level of functions performed, previous promotions, etc.

As one can see, the placement in a BMJ is a critical process. Staff members will be initially placed BMJ in August and will have until the next “MARS” exercise to ask for a revision if they believe that their BMJ is not the right one.

Another disagreement concerns the entry level salaries of staff recruited on or after September 1, 2016. We have obtained assurance that the entry level salaries will be the same as those currently observed at CERN. However there are still anomalies in the salary scale meaning for example that an inexperienced engineer should be hired on a salary position in grade 5 while the BMJ of an engineer covers grades 6, 7 and 8. This is due to the fact that the starting salary in grade 6 is higher than the current entry level salaries in E. This clearly shows that the proposed system should be further improved.

Look for information!

A letter to each staff member will be sent by HR in mid-August. This letter will mention the salary position of the member of personnel in the new salary scale, as well as their temporary assignment to a BMJ. This letter is NOT an amendment to the contract.

More information will be provided at the HR meeting on June 28th. The Staff Association will also certainly keep you informed, advise you in public meeting, and through various articles.

In case of further concern, do not hesitate to visit our offices or contact your departmental delegates who will be able to assist you if needed.


1 Internal commissions, with the exception of the Individual Cases Commission, are open to all members of the Staff Association.

by Staff Association