There is strength in numbers and TUEM is by far the biggest trade union for MUACs staff. Between active and retired members, we have well over 500 members that support us in defending their interests and those of Maastricht UAC.
We do not know where this came from and it came as a surprise for TUEM as well. All we know is that it could easily be seen as a provocation, but for what purposes, we do not know. It certainly came as a surprise to our German colleagues (and their management as we understood) but thanks to the cooperation agreement between TUEM and GdF, we are in continuous contact with them. In the current circumstances, such an open communication at the level of the unions is obviously quite important!
As we know all too well, such transitions take many years to prepare. As for other airspaces, it is not up to TUEM to suggest such politically sensitive options.
Article 15, paragraph 3 of the Maastricht Agreement stipulates that […] any one of the National Contracting Parties, or the Organisation, may […] express its intention to terminate the present Agreement at any time after the expiry of four years from the date of its entry into force.
It goes on to specify that such a termination shall be effective on the expiry of a period of six years from the date of receipt of the notification and that the Party having requested the termination of this Agreement […] shall bear the costs resulting from this termination.
This appears to imply the following:
The timeline of two to three years proposed by Deloitte seems unrealistic. If EUROCONTROL formally announces the intention to terminate the Maastricht Agreement, it remains valid for another six years.
The costs associated with closing the centre, including any costs for making staff redundant etc would have to be borne by the Agency. In other words, the 41 Member States would need to share these (presumably) substantial costs.
To suggest that this can be done without considerable disruption to the services Maastricht UAC provides seems naive. It seems unlikely that staff would readily accept six years of uncertainty. It could result in demotivated staff, many of which could seek employment elsewhere. This would not only compromise ATC but services provided to other units as well as technical validations and implementations for which Maastricht has been a global front-runner for many decades.
The party that chooses to terminate the agreement does not seem to be in a position to set conditions on whether, to whom and under what conditions the responsibilities for the provision of Air Traffic Services across the airspace of the Four States are transferred. It would be up to responsible states to determine the future setup / institutional model of Maastricht UAC, if any.
It is clear that Deloitte were not held back by any concern of the complex consequences of the suggestion to separate MUAC from the EUROCONTROL organisation, nor of the impossibility of achieving this within 2 or 3 years. If they had bothered to look at the numerous previous studies on the subject, they could have realised the substantial cost increase for the Four States and, ultimately, the airspace users are prohibitive as are the practical implications of such a far reaching decision.
Unfortunately, all this does not mean it cannot happen. Eamonn Brennan is not happy with the increased autonomy that the Four States have negotiated for MUAC. The report incorrectly claims that this approach is not working: it has not even been implemented yet but it is clearly the intention of the Director General’s office to sabotage it in any way. The sensible thing would be to give that new setup a fair chance. Unfortunately, the sensible thing would also have been to not spend €298.500 on a poorly executed and flawed study.
Eamonn Brennan was appointed as Director General of EUROCONTROL at the end of 2017 and his term began on 1 January 2018. This means his five-year mandate ends on 31 December 2022. Whether this mandate is extended or not, is of course up to him and up to the States. The appointment or prolongation of the Director General does not require unanimity from the 41 States, but is decided through a weighted vote (depending on the contribution share of each state).
There are existing provisions in the GCE (Leave in the interest of service). The union(s) proposed to activate this and other (largely existing) measures last year when the COVID-crisis was in the early stages. The Director General simply was not interested… We can only speculate on the reasons why. He possibly seems to want something different, a big bang.
We don’t know, but with the claims of up 30% savings on the Agency budget – whether accurate or not, it would be strange that the States ignore the report completely. It seems unlikely that they would suddenly all agree, but we don’t really know. The uncertainty that this creates for the staff is in our opinion unacceptable, especially given that we are in the midst of a global crisis that has many people on edge already.
While the report makes clear recommendations, it is far less detailed on the justifications or the consequences of their recommendations. The impact of such an institutional change on the pension fund appears to be significant – this was also recognised in previous, more in-depth studies. While a number of transition or hybrid solutions could be considered, it is generally considered as a socially unacceptable and administratively very complex issue. Deloitte seems to have conveniently side-stepped the issue.
Note that the report makes another recommendation on reforming the pension scheme for EUROCONTROL staff, dealt with in a separate question.
The institute has undergone many reorganisations over the past years that have had a major impact on its catalogue of courses and its functioning. The report suggest to move the functions from Luxembourg to EUROCONTROL HQ in Brussels – so while the physical location in Luxembourg would be abandoned, EUROCONTROL would retain some training capacity. Aside from that, the market for ATM training is one of the more profitable ones and a ‘free’ training centre has been a thorn in the side of these private companies. So it is probably less an issue of costs than it is a question of (perceived) unfair competition. It could be aimed at pleasing some (private) ANSPs, despite the fact that it will upset Luxembourg and other States (as their regulatory experts extensively use IANS for safety courses for example).
The current institutional setup is not ideal: some decisions need to be taken by the 41 Member States, even if it only concerns Maastricht and its Four States. For that reason, a decision was taken to give the four States and MUAC additional autonomy through an amended Maastricht Agreement. This is in the process of being implemented and it would give the four States more authority over MUAC. Everyone agrees that this step would benefit an operational centre like MUAC that relies on innovation and initiative to make its mark on European Air Traffic Management. But to conclude that it should no longer be (part of) an international organisation is a step too far: a lot of the achievements over the years were due to the fact that we operated as an international organisation and were able to look beyond national borders and other limitations. It is an edge we definitely should retain and promote.
Any change of the institutional setup needs to protect the staff’s working conditions and ensure that the current staff’s rights remain unchanged. If that is the case, then a separation of MUAC is nothing to be feared. However, it is difficult to create an international organisation that can keep the current conditions. The union will fight to preserver the staff’s rights, including that of future staff: there is already too much differentiation in the current setup without creating even more staff categories.
The terms of reference were written by the Director General’s office, but we do not know who, if anyone, else was involved. As it appears to have been a personal initiative from the Director General, it should not be a surprise that most of the conclusions closely match comments that he, members of his staff and some other key players have made before.
It is obviously too early to know that kind of details. The study has clearly not considered those (and other, even more fundamental) consequences. Having said that, the European Union has freedom of movement and employment. This means that for people from the 27 EU States, there should not be any issues. For people that are not EU citizens, the situation would be more complicated/uncertain.
The study was initiated by the Director General, but it is not entirely clear what triggered it. As far as we know, there was no clear request or mandate of the Provisional Council/Permanent Commission to conduct the study.
It may well be that the only purpose of the study is to instil fear and uncertainty in people’s minds – while this is a well-known way to force some changes in a company, it is generally a detrimental effect on people’s motivation and belief in the brand. Applying such a ‘technique’ during a global crisis is even more questionable…
No, Article 26 §4 states that the refund is only possible to members. This implies that you have to be a contributing member at the time you leave the Agency or retire to claim back the strike fund contribution. This principle was discussed at the 2002 Annual General Meeting, where the strike fund was introduced.