5th Mar 2021

EU officials strike over pension reforms

Thousands of EU civil servants will be striking on Tuesday, 20 May, against new staffing rules that will change the present pension system.

When meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign affairs ministers agreed with Commissioner Neil Kinnock that the staff retiring age should be raised from 60 to 63.

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The new rules will also decrease monthly salary contributions to the pension fund from 2 to 1.9 per cent each year, making it harder for officials of the European Union to reach the maximum level of pension.

The aim of the reforms is to cut spending on the pension fund which is becoming a burden for EU member states that are dealing with an ageing population and a growing tendency of staff to retire at an earlier age.

Unions unhappy

Unions representing the EU officials are not happy with the outcome. "The Commission negotiations were held behind our back and the Council had a go with the new European civil servants," Alan Hick, President of Union Syndicale told EUobserver.

"They are giving a terrible message to the newcomers, and it is a reform which we will not endorse".

For those already working in the EU institutions, the new rules will apply through a transitional arrangement where the number of years that that person has already worked in the EU institution will be taken into account.

These new rules, initially proposed by the Commission in 1999, required an agreement by the EU ministers. But this was held back by eight EU countries that had been pushing for more restrictive rules.

Some of these countries, namely Austria and France, are in troubled waters at home over their attempts at reforming their present pension systems.

Kinnock's appeal

The strike, organised by the two largest EU unions, the Union Syndicale and FFPE (Fédération de la Fonction Publique Européenne), follows another huge strike on 11 April, where more than 75% of the EU civil servants downed tools.

Yet Commissioner Neil Kinnock, in charge of administrative reform, regrets the move by the unions.

"I regret it. I don't think it assists in the process of seeing a better achievable outcome. I do hope that the members of the public service make mature reflections whether they decide to go to work or not," he said, hinting that the image of the European institutions was at risk.

This proposal will now go to the European Parliament for its opinion. A final agreement is expected during the Italian Presidency in the last half of this year.

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