The European Commission is planning to propose a small cut in the pay of civil servants working for EU institutions this year.
Officials said on Monday (4 October) that the Commission had calculated that pay and pensions should be cut by 0.4% to keep EU staff remuneration broadly in line with changes in civil servants’ pay in member states. Many national governments have cut public-sector pay dramatically to reduce public spending and shrink deficits.
The figure the Commission has calculated is based on the evolution of salaries in eight EU member states: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.
According to provisional figures sent to the Commission, civil servants’ salaries in Spain were cut by 3.86% between June 2009 and June this year. In Belgium and the Netherlands pay increased by 0.7%-0.9%.
The 0.4% decrease, which could still be adjusted, will be forwarded to the Council of Ministers in mid-November for a final decision, which is expected before the end of the year. If approved, the pay cut would be implemented retroactively from July this year.
That the Commission has announced the figure now is seen as an attempt to counter criticism that the EU institutions are not doing enough to reduce costs while the pay and pensions of civil servants in national administrations are being cut back. In a statement, the Commission said that EU civil servants “share the pain with national officials when their salaries go down”.
Günther Lorenz, president of the Union Syndicale staff union, expressed surprise that the Commission had already published the figure. He said that the Commission was “under pressure from member states” to rush out the latest figures.
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Lorenz said that his union would accept the cut because it respected the adjustment system used to calculate the salaries. “We always accept the result of the method, when it is good and when it is bad,” he said.
Following protests from EU staff unions last January, the Commission challenged in the European Court of Justice a decision by the Council of Ministers to reject a 3.7% pay rise for EU staff in 2009. A hearing for that case is expected in December and a ruling in early 2011.
Richard Ashworth, a UK Conservative MEP on the budgets committee, said that while the pay level was going in the right direction “it will still seem like a rather paltry sacrifice” by EU civil servants compared to cuts being implemented by member states.
“It just increases apathy among the voters when they see their pensions and pay slashed while EU officials and politicians remain relatively immune. Senior officials’ pay and pensions are simply out of step with the times in which we live,” Ashworth said.
Helga Trüpel, a German Green MEP, said the cut was unlikely to please national governments, many of which are struggling to defend to their voters the contributions they make to the EU budget.