Petition to Support CERN USERs

The Staff Association (SA) would like to call your attention to recent developments following the decision on the part of CERN to reclassify subsistence payments made to CERN USERs under a new category, namely a “cost of living” (COLA) allowance. These capped monthly allowances are intended to crudely compensate for the disparity in cost of living between their home country (including non-Member States) and the Geneva area. The replacement of subsistence by COLA was met with a fair amount of apprehension on the part of the CERN community because it could possibly expose the recipients of these payments to financial hardship as a result of COLA payments being taxable, while those earlier classified as subsistence were not.

At the time the original decision was made, some reassurance was given by CERN Management that it would have little real consequence for USERs since it would be tempered by allowances in the tax code which would provide for deductions for expenses incurred while living in Geneva area.

Now that our USER community has had experience navigating the French tax code, the reality appears to be quite different. Many significant expenses such as mortgage, rent, health insurance payments and education fees turn out not to be deductible and many USERs are now exposed to significant unforeseen tax burdens as a result.

The fate of the CERN USER community reliant on subsistence support looks bleak. These professionals perform a significant part of the operational support of CERN Experiments and, without them, CERN's scientific mission could not be fulfilled.

Our aim in this document is to bring the situation faced by our USERs to your attention and give you an opportunity to express your support for the difficulties they face. But our broader goal is to represent the interests of the CERN community, which includes both CERN staff and USERs.

We would also urge you to consider the long-term interests of CERN as well. Replicating the functions of the locally resident USER colleagues on subsistence support will be a painful exercise for CERN. The impact of non-tax-deductible school inscriptions and lease renewals over the next few months may well make this a reality.

The SA believe that solutions exist to meet the legal obligations of CERN while securing a sustainable future for the locally resident USER community. We would like to call on CERN Management to embrace an open discussion with all stakeholders to find mutually beneficial alternatives or complementarities to the current COLA.

The latest efforts to setup an Experimental Associate status and the modification of the Administrative Circular number 11, could address some of our concerns. We are, however, awaiting to witness how the implementation of this new category of personnel will be done.

Let us express our support for the User Community without which CERN could not exist, by signing this petition by clicking on the "Sign Here" button at the top right of this page or simply by clicking here.

by Staff Association