771st meeting – 31 October 2001
Negotiating rights of Council of Europe staff – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1436 (1999)
(CM/Del/Dec(99)689/3.1, REC_1436 (1999), GR-AB(2001)CB9)
The Deputies adopted the following reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1436 (1999) on the negotiating rights of Council of Europe staff:
“The Committee of Ministers notes that the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation 1436 can be separated into two axes. The first concerns the improvement of industrial relations within the Council of Europe proper. The second concerns the more complicated issue of negotiating rights within the co-ordination system which provides recommendations on remunerations to Governing bodies of the Co-ordinated Organisations.
Improving employer-employee relations within the Council of Europe.
· As to paragraph 14.i of the Recommendation:
The Committee of Ministers considers that it is in the interests of the staff members and the Organisation to further strengthen dialogue and negotiation between management and staff representatives. In this regard, it notes:
1. that there already exist a number of permanent or ad-hoc joint bodies set up with a view to, where possible, providing the Secretary General with proposals reflecting agreed solutions.
The Staff Regulations thus provide for the Joint Committee, which must be consulted on certain matters and which was seized in 1998 and in 2000 on important questions for the staff (1998 – change of social protection system; 2000 - implementation of early retirement measures).
A Supervisory Board on social protection questions was established in 1999. The Committee of Ministers notes with satisfaction that the Staff Committee recently hailed the successful functioning of this body and the work it accomplished in the preparation and finalisation of the new insurance contract convened between the Council of Europe and AGF for the sickness insurance of active and retired staff, whether insured under the wholly private scheme or under the mixed scheme based on affiliation to French Social Security. Bearing in mind this positive assessment, and in keeping with this Board's joint staff/management nature, it has been agreed that, subject to the Secretary General’s agreement, its chairmanship will now alternate between a representative of the administration and a staff representative.
The Committee of Ministers further notes that the current re-organisation in the areas of health, safety and restaurant facilities is based on the principle of increased co-operation between the Administration and staff representatives on matters concerning employees' day-to-day lives. Accordingly, the existing bodies (Health and Safety Committee and Restaurant Committee) are to be merged into a new joint committee, for the purpose both of steering the Administration's activity and ensuring that staff are better informed.
2. that a Joint Working Group, composed of representatives of the Secretary General, the Administration and staff (Staff Committee and trade unions), under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Director General of Administration and Logistics, was mandated to provide an opinion on the Secretary General’s proposals for a New Staff Policy. The Joint Working Group’s work culminated in a final report from which the Secretary General drew extensively in elaborating the proposals which he finally submitted to the Committee of Ministers.
The Committee of Ministers notes with interest that the question of staff participation was studied in detail by the Joint Working Group, on the basis of the proposals in Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1436 and with a regard to other proposals from the Staff Committee and trade unions.
The Joint Working Group noted that, in spite of the advancements made in this area, a feeling of dissatisfaction continues to exist with regard to the quality and results of social dialogue within the Council of Europe. On this basis, a general agreement was reached on the need for greater dialogue. The need to give the trade unions official status and clarify their role vis-à-vis the Staff Committee was raised, as was the idea of setting up a Staff Association that would be responsible for managing social, cultural and sports activities.
In conclusion, the need for a transition from a rationale of mere consultation – as referred to in the Staff Regulations – to one of partnership based on the search for a shared perspective has been agreed. The arrangements for implementing this new approach have still to be defined, while not impinging on the Secretary General’s view
that the search for mutually agreed solutions with staff representatives cannot prevent him from defending measures that do not have their support, if such measures appear to be in the Organisation’s interests.
The Committee of Ministers notes with satisfaction that the major guidelines for such future dialogue in the Council of Europe have been broadly agreed by the Secretary General and the staff, and expresses its support. It understands that, in the spirit of the Joint Working Group’s conclusions, the joint structures noted above seek wherever possible, to reach a unanimous opinion. To this end, they are often given a relatively lengthy time to reach agreement. This evolution of the consultation process is slowly bringing about a culture of negotiation, a commitment on either side in a growing number of situations to try and overcome possible differences of opinion. However, it is clear that in some cases, this is not possible, and the Secretary General then receives two points of view.
The Committee of Ministers welcomes the readiness expressed by the Secretary General to extend this procedure further – to approach more closely negotiating rights in the proper sense. It notes that the Secretary General had instructed the Administration to examine the situation in this regard in other organisations.
Finally, the Committee of Ministers notes that the Secretary General has taken account of Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1436 (1999) in the elaboration of the New Staff Policy and, in consultation with staff representatives, will continue implementation of the said Recommendation.
The Committee of Ministers would assure the Assembly that it attaches great importance to a well-functioning social dialogue in the Organisation through a variety of practices and procedures adapted to this end. It notes with interest that in the last two years, the Staff Committee has held weekly meetings with the Directorate General of Administration and Logistics and regular meetings with the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. These regular contacts have had a positive impact as highlighted both by the Staff Committee in its annual report dated 25 April 2001 and by the Secretary General in his address to the Extraordinary General Meeting of staff of 15 June 2001.
· As to paragraphs 14 ii and iii:
While stressing the overall managerial responsibilities of the Secretary General, the Committee of Ministers accepts the recommendation to hold an annual exchange of views with the Staff Committee.
In regard to sub-paragraph iii, it recalls that the Staff Committee was recently invited by the GR-AB to give its opinion on the Secretary General’s proposal for a New Staff Policy and that an exchange of views was held with Chair of the GR-AB. The Staff Committee, on the initiative of the Chair of the Committee of Ministers or the Chair of the GR-AB can be heard whenever appropriate, including at its own request.
Improving the Secretary Generals’ and the Staff representatives’ standing in the Co-ordinated system.
As regards the second axe of the Parliamentary Assembly recommendation, contained in sub-paragraph iv of Recommendation 1436, the Committee of Ministers notes that the Co-ordinating Committee of Remuneration (CCR) is currently undergoing major transformations regarding its modes of operation, the scope and reach of its recommendations.
In this context, the Committee of Ministers will support all efforts towards a more open and efficient functioning of this system.”