Our action today has been very successful and I wish to thank all of you who have contributed, either by your personal presence or by the messages we received from those of our members who for various reasons were unable to attend this morning's demonstration.
Our colleagues in the hall of the Main Building got the last news and were able to watch live on a large screen what was happening on the 6th floor where the members of the GAC-EPA Committee and some friends occupied the room where the Council was to meet in session.
After discussing with the Staff Association President Michel Goossens and myself, the DG, who had taken note of the occupation of the meeting room at 08:40, went to inform the Council members of our demand to intervene before the Council to read a declaration.
The Council's President gave her consent, and we evacuated the meeting room, but stayed in the corridor to ensure that the delegates of the Member States observed our presence.
As planned, after the opening of the Council session by its President, Michel Goossens and myself were invited to address the Council. Michel then read the declaration that you find below.
Photos of the meeting and the text of the declaration will also be published in "Echo" this week.
A very warm thank you!
Gertjan Bossen, president
One year ago, the Staff Association, together with the CERN-ESO Pensioners' Association, organized a staff meeting in front of this building to express our concern about certain actions of this Committee. Today we deem it necessary to come before you and convey in person, dear delegates, the concerns and worries of the staff. Indeed, the last 18 months we have observed a tendency of Council to take matters, in particular in the field of pensions, into its own hands, bypassing established governance structures, which Council has itself put into place. As a result, the Director General was prevented from playing his essential role of intermediary between staff and Council, an essential element of the established social dialogue.
The creation of CERN in 1954 was very much based on the willingness of many countries of the old Continent to share resources to create a joint fundamental physics laboratory. The emphasis was on sharing resources for the common good to allow European scientists to engage in fundamental research that none of the individual countries could afford given the dire economic situation in Europe in the early nineteen fifties.
These days, in contrast with the beginning of CERN in the nineteen fifties, we hear more and more delegates put forward their individual complicated national economic situation to suggest measures, which reflect those “back home”. Does that mean that measures of austerity must be blindly and uniformly applied everywhere and to everything? Should CERN merely be seen as a cost centre, an expense to be minimized? Should the spirit of decades-long cooperation at CERN be replaced by a competition between Member States in matters of taxation, economic privileges, and social benefits?
Of course not. Member States should act in the global long-term interest of the Organization. Nobody can claim that our economies are today in a worse state than during the first years following the Second World War or than at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
CERN, and fundamental research, is an investment for the future, a strategic resource to be managed, an opportunity for growth and development. Therefore, today, as in the past, we should strengthen, rather than weaken, the sixty-years-old humanistic vision, driven by several Nobel Prize laureates, to fund a laboratory that embodies "science for peace" by bringing multiple nations and cultures together.
The Organization’s success story is clearly associated with the motivation and dedication of the staff, CERN’s essential resource. For over sixty years, many hundreds of CERN staff, women and men, of all ages, cultural and training backgrounds, all together, build, operate and develop the accelerator, computing, administrative, and experimental infrastructures. Their efforts and experience, in collaboration with the thousands of users, enabled a series of major physics discoveries (the latest being the so-called Higgs boson) leading to several Nobel and other prizes. CERN’s knowledge transfer contributes to the training of hundreds of students, postgraduates and teachers, the scientific and technical elites in a modern Europe, thus creating jobs with a high added value, and hence creating growth and wealth. Thanks to its own developments and through its policy of technology transfer, CERN provides the economic and industrial world with important advanced technologies such as particle acceleration and detection, now routinely applied in medicine (e.g. scanners, hadron therapy). The World Wide Web has revolutionised the way we communicate and do business around the world.
In a strictly short-term financial approach, some delegates to Council attack, more or less explicitly, the level of our wages and, more often, that of our pensions. More specifically, they challenge the sixty million Swiss francs that CERN, as the employer, must pay annually as a special contribution to the balanced package of measures to ensure full funding of the Pension Fund on the 30-year horizon. This package was approved by Council in December 2010 Council, and formalized in a Council Resolution in June 2011, just four years ago. Thanks to these measures the funding ratio has recovered significantly in only four years. Therefore, unilaterally attacking one of the components of the package is not only unequitable but also counterproductive, putting the Fund’s long-term equilibrium in jeopardy.
In addition, and more recently, the Council appointed three legal experts to study how far the concept of acquired rights protects the level of pensions of (current and future) beneficiaries of the CERN Pension Fund. Without doubt, with the intention to find out by how much these benefits can be cut.
Speaking as representatives of staff and pensioners, we want to express our strong disapproval of envisaging measures and policies aimed at reduced employment conditions for the sake of short-term savings, which endanger the future of our Organization.
Trust between employer and employee is essential to guarantee efficient dialogue and social peace, as we have known it up to now. Therefore, statements putting into question the impartiality of some CERN officials in their dealings with Council, and attacking their professional integrity, are received as an insult to all staff. Such behaviour endangers the credibility of the Organization, not only in its role of employer but also in its role of a State, in as far as CERN defines its Rules. We recall that these rules, CERN, being an international organization, must be in agreement with the rules and jurisprudence applicable to the international civil service.
CERN, through the voice of Council, must be a genuine trustworthy social partner that acts in good faith. Therefore, we demand respect for commitments and procedures, in particular that Council
The Organization must not destabilize its employees with inappropriate initiatives. Governance structures and procedures defined by Council are in place to ensure that needed measures in the field of social and economic policy can be proposed in a timely way by the relevant bodies.
The Staff Association, representing active staff as well as retirees, follows the Rules, and respects, and will continue to respect, its commitments towards the Organization. In the upcoming discussions it will continue to cooperate in a positive and constructive spirit with CERN Management, in the SCC, and with the Member States delegates in TREF, the PFGB, and elsewhere, in the interest of all parties: CERN Management, the staff, the user community, and the Member States. We hope that, from its side, Council will adopt the same positive, constructive and open attitude.