CESI Europe Academy 2015: Action needed to improve workers’ rights in public administrations!

On June 25-26, more than 150 participants from CESI's various member organisations gathered in Dublin for the 2015 edition of CESI's Europe Academy, this time themed 'Better anticipate changes and restructuring in public administrations in Europe: the role played by the information and consultation of workers'. During the two-day symposium, expert speakers of various backgrounds discussed why and how restructuring processes in public administrations need to take better account of the employees' perspectives. The conference took place timely against the backdrop of current work both in the European Commission and CESI at EU social partner level to create an EU-wide right to information & consultation of central administration workers, especially in restructuring processes.

CESI Europe Academy 2015: Action needed to improve workers’ rights in public administrations!

The symposium was formally opened by Emilio Fatovic, President of the CESI Europe Academy* and by John Clinton, Secretary General of CESI’s member organisation POA (the Irish Prison Officers’ Association).

Europe Academy President Fatovic: Discussing information & consultation of public administration staff is highly topical

In their speeches, Mr Fatovic and Mr Clinton highlighted the topicality of the conference’s theme: In the context of tight public budgets, public administration workers across Europe are increasingly confronted with restructuring processes in the public administrations. However, while these often compromise on their working conditions, they are not covered by CESI (Confederation of European Independent Trade Unions) symposium
EU legislative framework on information and consultation (I&C) of workers – which covers the private sector only. As a consequence, they often cannot provide constructive alternative solutions to restructuring activities or at least suggest how potential negative implications on them may be minimised. For CESI, which represents several million central, regional and local-level public sector workers, this must be a field of concern and action. 

CESI Secterary General Heeger: Lack of information & consultation of workers in the public administrations is harmful in multiple ways

CESI CESI symposium in DublinSecretary General Klaus Heeger followed up on this during his intervention: “Especially during the recent time of crisis, people are in particular need of the services provided by the public sector. Despite this increase in needs austerity-induced restructurings have hit the public sector even more severely than the private sector. Staff has been laid off, pensions have been cut and salaries frozen. As a consequence, workloads have increased while working conditions have worsened, leaving many public administration workers with seriously increased stress- and psychosocial health-related problems.” Klaus Heeger highlighted that adequate working conditions for public administration employees need to be ensured and that staff members must have the possibility to provide input in how their work is being organised. Otherwise, he stressed, staff members will not be able to identify with their job, feel responsible and deliver quality services. Leaving their input away would also preclude valuable practical suggestions from employees relating to more favourable alternatives to restructuring or ways to limit negative impacts on working conditions, Klaus Heeger added

Expert speakers make a case for a better involvement of public administration workers in restructuring

A plethora of expert speakers presented evidence about the negative implications that restructuring often has on public sector workers, exchanged best (and worst) practices of how public administration restructuring is being managed in the Member States and discussed how to achieve a full right to information and consultation of public administration workers in the management of restructuring:

• Eurofound research manager John Hurley presented research evidence on the extent to which public sector restructuring tends to increase the work intensity and the exposure to psychosocial risks among the sector’s employees. Birgit Köper from the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) complemented this with a research-based presentation on why not only workers but also employers can benefit from employee involvement in restructuring activities; and finally

• European Parliament official Marion CESI (Confederation of European Independent Trade Unions) symposiumSchmid-Drüner explained why the European Parliament in its 2014 Resolution on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: implementation of 2014 priorities and in its 2013 Resolution on information and consultation of workers, anticipation and management of restructuring called for a legal act on the provision of I&C of workers and the anticipation and management of restructuring “in order to ensure economic and socially responsible adaptation to change by EU industry in such a way as to maintain workers’ rights”.

Moreover, five case studies were presented on how public administration restructuring should (and should not) be carried out. These covered restructuring in the:
• City Council of Spanish city Huelva – by the First Deputy Mayor of Huelva, Saúl Fernández Bevía;
• City of Oxford’s recycling services – by Peter Sloman, Chief Executive at Oxford City Council;
• Belgian Federal Public Service of Finance – by François Goris, President of the Belgian National Union of Public Services (UNSP-NUOD);
• French veterinary services – by Laurent Lasne, President of the French national union of veterinary public health inspectors (SNISPV); and
• Spanish hospital sector – by Juan Carlos Mejias Roman, Secretary of the Spanish Nursing Union (SATSE).

The way forward: Full I&C rights for public administration staff first, then for local and regional administration employees too

This CESI symposium in Dublinexpertly input paved the way for a discussion on how to proceed to ensure a better involvement of public administration workers in restructuring processes.

Picking up on the European Commission’s work on a possible revision of the EU’s I&C legislation** and CESI’s current negotiations in the EU’s sectoral social dialogue committee ‘Central government administrations‘ to secure full I&C rights for central administration staff, Stefano Martinelli from the European Commission gave an update about the European Commission’s plans concerning the future of social dialogue at EU-level.

CESI’s Policy Advisor for EU sectoral social dialogue, Agathe Smyth, laid out CESI’s position on the future of I&C of public administration workers: Aiming at a successful conclusion of an EU social partner agreement that grants central administration workers a full right to I&C in restructuring processes, to be transformed in a second stage into a binding EU directive as foreseen in TFEU article 153. Should this not be possible, however, the EU’s existing I&C legislation should be revised so as to extend its scope of application to central administration workers, Ms Smyth said. In his subsequent concluding remarks, Mr Heeger CESI symposium in Dublinadded that a successful realisation of full I&C rights for central administration workers may then, hopefully, lead to a snowball effect to give this right to local and regional administration employees too. 

Presentations, speeches and further conference material can be accessed here. A synthesis report will be made available, too. The conference’s Twitter feed can be found under #CESIweb.

* The CESI Europe Academy is CESI’s training centre. Each year, the CESI Europe Academy engages in usually two projects with the financial support of the European Commission. These projects provide CESI’s members with the possibility of delving deeper into current social and political issues in Europe and engaging them in debates with policy-makers and international experts through the seminars at the heart of each project.
** A social partner consultation is running at the moment. Please find CESI’s contribution here.

For further information please contact:

Marcella Migliori
Project Officer CESI Europe Academy
Tel.: +32 2 282 18 74
Email: migliori@cesi.org

Aurélie Quintin
Policy Advisor CESI Europe Academy
Tel.: +32 2 282 18 61
Email: quintin@cesi.org

Agathe Smyth
Policy Advisor EU sectoral social dialogue
Tel.: +32 2 282 18 65
Email: smyth@cesi.org