Staff unions are hoping that their strike last week (8 November) will win them top-level intervention to save their salaries. Trade union members at the European Union's Council of Ministers are hoping that Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, will persuade member states to drop demands for extensive cuts to the EU's staff spending in discussions of the next long-term budget settlement.
Representatives of the three main Council unions met Van Rompuy yesterday (14 November) following the day of industrial action, and said they were encouraged by his approach. Council unions have officially notified their intention to strike as from tomorrow (16 November). But they are now expected to withdraw this threat, pending developments in the run-up to a European Council discussion on the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) on 22-23 November.
The unions were scheduled to hold a meeting today (15 November) to discuss their next move.
A staff representative close to the discussions said that Van Rompuy had pledged to fight member states' attempts to cut the administrative budget further than the European Commission's initial proposal – which unions fear would result in reductions to salaries, pensions, and spending on equipment, buildings and infrastructure. Ambassadors of member states will discuss the proposed cuts before a plan is put before leaders at this month's European Council, and the outcome remains uncertain, particularly as several member states, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, called in July for significant cuts to the budget for staff in the EU institutions.
Most working-group meetings initially scheduled for the Council on 8 November were postponed because of last week's strike. An official at the Council could not confirm what proportion of staff took part in the strike last week. Unions estimated the turn-out to be about 90% – some 2,700 people.
Unions representing staff at the Commission did not participate in the industrial action, believing that the member states, not the Commission, should be the target of protests.
FFPE, the European Civil Service Federation, said that a strike in the Commission would not serve the best interests of Commission staff.
However, to show solidarity with workers at the Council, Commission staff organised a protest rally in front of the Commission's Berlaymont building at lunchtime on 8 November.