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16th Sep 2019

Commission takes EU states to court in salary dispute

  • Commission takes council to court over salary dispute (Photo: Fotolia)

A tit-for-tat dispute between the European Commission and member states over civil servant salary increases will now end up in court.

“The European Commission has today decided to take the Council to the Court of Justice for failing to adopt the council regulation on the annual adjustment to the remuneration and pensions of EU staff as anticipated in the staff regulations,” the executive said in a statement on Wednesday (11 January).

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The move comes after the council - representing member states - refused to sign off a 1.7 percent EU civil servant salary hike.

The commission says salaries are entitled under staff regulations to be adjusted automatically to national cost of living inidices and to the evolution of civil service salaries in eight member states (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom).

Basic monthly commission salaries range from around €2,300 per month for a newly recruited AST 1 official to around €16,000 per month for a top-level AD 16 official with over four years of experience.

Last year EU civil servants were awarded the 1.7 percent increase but the austerity strapped EU-27, who collectively give the executive around €130 billion every year, have since changed their mind.

Member states in favour of the freeze had already made a formal request last November for the commission to invoke an exception clause. The clause could allow the commission to cap the salaries given the tough economic climate netted out upon the rest of Europe.

Around 1,000 commission staff responded by staging a protest on 22 November and effectively threatening a strike. Salary cuts, they demanded, should only be shaved off from the higher-grade officials.

A vast majority of EU civil servants live and reside in Belgium where inflation is expected to top three percent. The commission points out that despite the three percent inflation increase, they have agreed to a cut in salary in real terms for those residing in Brussels by accepting only a 1.7 percent increase.

The executive says efforts are already under way to cut its expenses and reduce staff numbers by one in 20 between 2013 and 2017. They also intend to lengthen the working week from 37.5 to 40 hours and raise retirement age from 63 to 65. Altogether, this should cut expenses by €1 billion by 2020, according to administration commissioner Maros Sefcovic.

The commission and the council already faced off over the issue two years ago at the Court of Justice. The commission won the decision. Its staff saw a 3.7 percent salary increase.

The executive is already suffering from a bad overall public image. A flash survey conducted by the commission near the end of December found a majority of Europeans have lost their trust in the EU institutions.

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