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Introduction to National and European Administration and EPSU

National and European Administration

The president of the EPSU standing committee for National and European Administration is Charles Cochrane. Nadja Salson is the EPSU policy officer.

Find out who is your EPSU representative for National and European Administration here

What are the main issues for EPSU?

The national and European administration sector – civil and public servants largely located in the government ministries, agencies, and EU institutions– is hugely sensitive. This is a sector subject to many reforms, often driven solely by financial considerations, from decentralisation, through alignment of working conditions and status to the private sector, to privatisation of some core functions and services. Trade union rights are often more restricted than in other sectors. We seek proper recognition of this sector as an investment in a democratic, fair and rule-based society, not a “financial burden” as is often described by politicians. On the contrary, globalisation and EU integration require a stronger regulatory role for governments, European and International institutions. EPSU is against a deregulation market-based agenda and sees increased attacks on those working in national administration as attacks against the general interest of a democratic and just society.

EPSU has been successful in creating profiles for some groups of workers within the sector. In the prison sector we have focussed on the issue of overcrowding and coordinating demands by security and treatment staff. In the defence sector, the questions of trade union rights and privatisation have been to the fore. Some of our affiliates are also developing other networks of workers’ groups such as driving examiners.

EPSU seeks to establish meaningful exchange with the employers so that both aspects of quality of working conditions and service delivery can be addressed and improved. Over 10 years, we have steadily been developing a process of social dialogue with the EU-27 Directors General of public administration and European Commission’s DG administration and personnel (EUPAN). As the largest representative trade union organisation in the sector, EPSU is leading the Trade Unions’ National and European administration Delegation, TUNED, which was set up in February 2005. This has led to the adoption of joint statements with EUPAN on equality and diversity, mobility and leadership. Since January 2008, we have started a new phase bringing us closer to a “formal” sectoral social dialogue with rules of procedure and a work programme 2008-2009.

What is the European context?

National administrations are increasingly influenced by the EU agenda on better regulation, quality public finances (in the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact), internal market of services as well as the EU social acquis. The Reform Treaty includes a new legal basis for administrative cooperation. It recognises that the effective implementation of EU law, essential for the good functioning of the EU, is a matter of common interest. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights provides for citizens’ right to a good administration as well as trade union rights. These are potential positives if developed correctly, in conjunction with the new legal basis on SGEI and the protocol on SGI

The informal cooperation of EU Directors General for public administration, through the EUPAN’s working group on human resources management ( HRWG), has been integral to key collective bargaining issues. Mobility, wage systems, performance evaluation, including performance related pay, pensions, career systems, recruitment policy, public service performance are all monitored and benchmarked. There is a trend towards promoting cutting and pasting private sector methods onto the public sector whilst little attention has been paid to the views and first hand experience of employees and trade union representatives in this sector, although some employers start realising the limits of such an approach. Recent progress in establishing a meaningful social dialogue at EU level is an important tool to help redress the balance of views and policies developed in this sector.

What is EPSU trying to achieve ?

EPSU is the most representative organisation in the state sector, covering all EU and acceding countries. This fact underpins our ability to speak for national administration workers. Our aim first and foremost is to improve working conditions and provide a coordinated trade union answer to the twin assault of privatisation and rationalisation and develop a positive agenda for this sector. With very little independent evaluation of the level of quality, and unclear objectives, these measures are introduced, usually based on perceived obligations of the internal market.

EPSU wants to see positive references to national administration in EU Law, which call for good functioning services, to be elaborated and built upon. In particular growing evidence of the market failures in civil service systems need to be acknowledged.