To start with, in this dramatic period through which we are living, I would like to wish good health, calmness and peace to you and your families.
The activities of the Committee, even in difficult conditions, have continued with much dynamism and efficiency.
We have been confronted with problems connected to the health insurance of surviving spouses and the activity of the Pension Fund concerning the possibility of the purchase of the pension of the surviving spouse : see Looking for (page 8-9).
In close collaboration with the Staff Association, our representatives have made a fundamental contribution to the solution or settlement of several of these questions, demonstrating their competence and dedication.
I realise with great satisfaction that the rôle of the GAC-EPA is becoming more and more important in the framework of various activities which are crucial for the smooth functioning of the Organization.
In the near future, we are going to have to continue our activity in difficult circumstances, but I am sure that we could play a decisive rôle in the life of CERN due to our commitment and expertise.
The editors are looking again for translators and correctors in the two languages, English and French. We invite you to contact the secretariat.
A restricted Bulletin
This is the first time that we are living in such a situation of confinement. Even the Hong Kong flu in 1968 spared us such imprisonment.
Never in the history of GAC-EPA nor of CERN have we had to face such a forced stop to activities, giving us problems with this edition. But what are our worries, compared to sad family events?
First things first, the Committee of GAC-EPA sends here its best wishes for recovery to members of GAC-EPA and their families who have been affected; we send our condolences to those who have had to regret a death among their loved ones.
This Bulletin was initially foreseen to be online on our internet site. The fact that the CERN print shop and the distribution system were unavailable led to our decision to do this. But we have found an alternative, and finally you have received this publication in your letter boxes as usual.
The usual activities of your Committee, CHIS, the Pension Fund and of those directly with the Staff Association are being done more slowly than usual. “Permanences” have been suppressed. Consequently the articles which follow are either briefer than usual or absent.
This does not mean that the Committee has been inactive. It has actively continued its work by telephone, together with the appropriate members of the Staff Association; its last meeting was done via video-conferencing.
The Committee remains naturally very attentive to the development of relevant topics, in discussion with the Staff Association, the Directorate, the Administration, and the Member States.
Let us remain vigilant, both on health matters and on the social future. This spring break will at least allow us to reflect on our wishes for the future.
Keep well and take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.
ESO representatives in GAC-EPA
After Martin Cullum has been ESO’s GAC-EPA representative for 10 years, it is since 1 January 2020 my turn to represent the ESO pensioners. Martin was not only very meticulous in keeping record of what happened over the years, but above all he has done an outstanding job in promoting and defending the interests of ESO’s retirees. To follow in his footsteps is therefore quite a challenge. Fortunately, Martin remains involved, and he is now the ESO pensioners’ representative in the Health WG, taking this task over from Sandro d’Odorico.
COVID-19 and ESO
ESO began taking measures against COVID-19 in the very first days of March, starting with restrictions for travels and visitors, leading to general mobile working for all staff in Garching and Vitacura around mid-March, plus a shut-down of the observatories. There was initially a single document describing in detail the measures and status, with regular updates, for which we requested and were granted the permission to copy it to the pensioners’ website (restricted pages). However, soon after that this document was replaced by an entire website, only accessible to people with an ESO account. For the pensioners ESO HR sends now periodically short summaries of the current status per e-mail.
It is clear that this pandemic has caused a lot of stress at ESO (and elsewhere), whereby several personnel/pensioners’ issues were pushed temporarily to the background, while we all got used to communicate from home. It seems we are gradually getting back to the “standard” agenda and are catching up on the issues that were left unattended.
Healthcare Working Group
The following main points were discussed at the last Healthcare Working Group meeting on 10 March 2020. (This was the only HWG meeting since Bulletin #57 was issued.).
- ESO Long Term Care Scheme:
It has been recognised for some time that the benefits of the ESO LTC scheme are not at the same level as those of the current CERN or German National LTC schemes. On the other hand, the contributions to the ESO LTC are very low and deemed untenable in the long term. The ESO Administration is looking into possible modifications to the scheme that will subsequently be discussed by the HWG.
- ESO Health Insurance Scheme Board:
The current ESO Health Working Group is a purely advisory committee with members comprising representatives of the active staff, the staff association and retired staff. In order to give the committee more significance and authority, the HWG has proposed to the ESO administration the setting up an ESO Health Insurance Scheme Board (EHISB), on similar lines to the CHISB at CERN. This would be chaired by a representative from the ESO management and include representatives from all stakeholders as well as technical advisors. It is proposed that the EHISB would send recommendations directly to the ESO Standing Advisory Committee (the ESO equivalent to the CERN SCC), thus obviating separate steps through HR and the Administration. This proposal is still in the early days of discussion. It is still unclear, for example, whether the future EHISB should replace the HWG or be complementary to it.
- Infertility treatment:
The HWG discussed the reimbursement for IVF at the request of a staff member. Cigna reimburses 80% of these costs and for three attempts, but these costs are not included in the Art. 20 safety net. Thus, for some young ESO staff members, this type of treatment is simply unaffordable. At CERN the costs are included in the general rule for reimbursements but subject to an overall ceiling. CERN staff are therefore not financially penalised as they are at ESO. The HWG is requesting additional information on the number of cases and costs involved before reaching a recommendation on this topic.
ESO International Staff Association
After several Staff Committees put an effort in updating the ESO International Staff Association Statutes, the current Staff Committee presented a summary of the actual (almost final) draft to the Staff Assembly held per webcast on 28 April 2020, indicating the main sections that will require a vote. This includes an important change for retirees: if/when approved and implemented as the current draft foresees, and corresponding changes made to the GAC-EPA statutes, ESO GAC-EPA membership will automatically include ISA membership. The timeline for approval and implementation has naturally been impacted by the pandemic, e.g. the voting procedure on the final draft will only start after the phased ramp-up at ESO. We will of course keep you updated on this, so stay tuned!
Almost 2 years ago Rein Warmels and Martin Cullum proposed a scheme to ESO management for former staff members who wish to continue taking an active part in the work of the Organization on a voluntary basis after retirement. This was based on CERN’s scheme for so-called Honorary Members. There were at that time a few iterations on that draft with HR, but that came to a complete stop in the spring/summer of 2019 when the position of Head of HR became vacant. ESO’s new Head of HR (Mrs. Fiona Brazil) took up duty in January 2020, and since then the topic has been raised again. The communication is at the moment quite indirect, as we only get access to the current draft via the International Staff Committee. We hope to make progress soon – both on the proposal itself and the communication channel.
In these uncertain times the Fund management concentrates its efforts on limiting the effect of the decreasing return of most assets. The equity market has lost much of its value, but other asset classes are doing better. The Pension Fund Governing Board and its Actuarial and Technical Committee devoted a large fraction of their time discussing the final report by the SCC working group on amendments to the Fund Rules, especially the purchase of a surviving spouse pension right by a pensioner.
The Fund financial status
2019 was a good year for our Pension Fund which recorded an overall return of 7.29%. But as everyone knows, the coronavirus epidemic crisis created a disruption to economic exchanges and markets. As a result most investments do not produce the expected returns. As at 31st March 2020, the overall return was negative, at -3.78%. Equity stocks were down by -17.32%.
The Actuary delivered a report on the Fund as at 31.12.2019. He estimated the funding ratio at 72.6%, an increase on the 31.12.2018 estimate of 67.8%. These assessments are based on the «Best Estimate» assumptions approved by Council, with a discount rate varying from 1.5% to 5.7%. If, however the recommendation made by the Finnish external auditors is considered, the discount rate becomes 0.17% and the funding ratio at 31.12.2019 drops to 35.9%
The usual statistical tables have not yet been delivered by the Beneficiaries Service. I extracted the following numbers from the Dashboard report by the Actuary as at 01.01.2020. The Fund members numbers from 01.01.2019 to 01.01.2020:
During 2019, 115 beneficiaries died, of which 76 retired members and 39 surviving spouses. 46 active members retired, 25 at an early time and 21 at the staturory age. 8 beneficiaries of a deferred pension became retired members.
The Fund administration
The web site of the Pension Fund (www.pensionfund.cern. ch) provides information on how to contact the Beneficiaries service, which answers questions by telephone or e-mail.
For all beneficiaries of the Pension Fund who have married* since 1 August 2006 after their retirement. Since 2006 the right to a surviving spouse’s pension is granted automatically only for marriages concluded whilst in active service.
For those marriages that took place after departure from the Organization, this right, according to Article II 5.09, can be bought by the beneficiary by means of payment of a premium.
With time it has become obvious that the option foreseen in Article II 5.09 was rarely used (5 acquisitions out of 48 marriages since 2006) since it is too expensive for the beneficiaries. In addition, the absence of a transparent method of calculation has given rise to concerns and litigation.
In February 2018, at the request of the Presidents of the Staff Association and GAC-EPA, a working group of the Standing Concertation Committee (SCC) was set up to study the implementation of the 2005 decision. This group arrived at a consensus and its final report was accepted by the Director-General. This work still needs to be completed with the modifications to the Health Insurance Scheme for which concertation has not yet been agreed. The objective is still to have the new rules approved by the CERN Council in 2020.
We would like all beneficiaries of the Pension Fund who married after 1 August 2006 after their retirement to make themselves known to the GAC-EPA** secretariat. A meeting will be organized to present the dossier and the possible options to them.
* Since 2016, a legally registered partnership is considered as marriage.
** Preferably via the contact form at www.gac-epa.org (select Contact, then To: Secretariat), or by mail to Secrétariat GAC-EPA, p/a Association du personnel, CERN, 1211 Genève 23, Suisse
The Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS)
At the end of 2019, the CERN administrator of CHIS Jean- Pol Matheys stood down and was warmly thanked by the CHIS Board for his 8 years of loyal service.
As planned, the position has been filled by Sandrine Baudat and we wish her well in her new and demanding job. As you can see above, the Scheme has also been given a new logo. Sandrine has asked that you be encouraged to use (if you can) the revamped CHIS Web site https://chis.cern for up-to-date news and links to official information elsewhere. She also recognizes the need to inform many retirees on paper by post.
Since May 2019, the CHIS Board has contributed to a further revision of the CHIS Rules, in part to introduce new features, such as the electronic submission of reimbursement requests, and also to attempt an improvement in readability. Following approval by the DG, the revised Rules came into force on 1 April 2020. On this occasion 1.7 thousand letters were sent to retirees with no known email address.
UNIQA was awarded a further five-year contract (2020-24) as third-party administrator of CHIS and you can now submit reimbursement requests electronically via myUNIQA, although submission on paper remains possible. UNIQA encourages us to submit requests regularly rather than many at the same time, as this is more efficient for them and less error prone.
The CHIS Board was pleased by the performance of the reserve funds in 2019 – 8.78%. It is likely that the result will be much worse in 2020.
If you wish to write a word of sympathy to the bereaved family you can send it via the CERN Pension Fund, which has their address but is not authorised to give it to third parties.
Tribute Jean-Pierre LAGNEAU
Dear Jean-Pierre, When I first knew you, you were a researcher at CERN. You also taught the notions of fundamental physics to the technicians. It is through these lessons that I got to know you. In the 1980s you had the courage to abandon your prestigious and well-paid career to dedicate your knowledge to the emancipation of the most deprived. That was when you created the association Education and Liberation. You travelled through several South American countries at a time when that continent had started an extraordinary liberation moevement.
It was in Chile in fact that the first socialist president of the American continent, Salvador Allende, was democratically elected. It was the first time that Western democracies allowed the election of a socialist president. This free election released an unprecedented wave of solidarity and hope in the working class movement in the West. Unfortunately, the programme of nationalization of the copper mines in Chile led the American companies to organize the assassination of Allende in 1973 with the complicity of the Chilean army under the direction of General Pinochet. The general indignation that followed gave strength and justification to your new association Education and Liberation. You then made contacts in Chile and several other countries in Latin America (Nicaragua) and Africa (Benin; Togo). Knowing that the sale of their local handicrafts would bring in little money, you decided to buy their goods from time to time with the little money at your disposal and then sell them on. This work as an improvised merchant took a lot of physical effort and an absolute faith in the efficacy of your action.
Your strength came from the hope that your example could accelerate the rise of third-world countries that had been subject to colonialism for many centuries. You hoped to give these countries the means to rediscover confidence and dignity.
You who always gave the best example of solidarity and fraternity have been taken from us at a time when noone could accompany you to your last resting place. The pandemic caused by a new virus means that we could not have a worthy celebration at your funeral, but many of us will long hold a memory of your example. Your friend is still here to bear witness to the beauty of your person and the light shed by your actions. It will be difficult to find another Jean-Pierre, but many other responsible people will advance the cause of justice and peace in our world before egoism, dogma, and stupidity suffocate the dreams of the living.
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death on 26 March 2020 of our friend and former colleague Jean-Pierre Lagnaux. So, we will never again hear his calm and gentle voice and see his slender frame unloading his boxes and installing himself in the hall of the Main Building, to sell fabrics, clothes, necklaces and other pieces of workmanship. Items which he had bought from various indigenous communities encountered on his travels, and then offered for resale for the benefit of the association ‘Education & Liberation’, which he had founded in 1981.
Born on 1 December 1934 in Belgium, he was a professor of physics detached by his country to the then young CERN. In the 1980s Jean-Pierre had the courage to leave his comfortable job and the career he had established, by resigning to dedicate himself totally to his association. Convinced alter-globalist well before the word was coined, from then on he put his knowledge and its handing-down to supporting the poorest and to be the focus of his future actions.
He was one of the founding members of the Long-Term Collections (LTC), the humanitarian organ of the Staff Association financed by the CERN Staff. The LTC has often supported projects in Central and South America, as well as in Africa. Primary schools, later technical schools as the young people grew up, he never slackened his battle against poverty and ignorance. He was a real Man, of which there are only a few.
A great humanist has left us and we will pay our respects to him once the current medical situation allows it. Today our thoughts are with his wife, his daughter and son, and the rest of his family.
Rest in peace Jean-Pierre, your duty has been accomplished and we thank you deeply for the example you have shown us.
The Committee of the Long-Term Collections and his friends from CERN.
Our colleague Franco Francia, his great friend and accomplice, himself also strongly committed to the battle against North-South inequalities, has written the moving tribute on page 10.
This Bulletin reports on the activities of the Committee of the CERN-ESO Pensioners’ Association (GAC-EPA) and on the work of the CERN and ESO committees in which the GAC-EPA is represented.
Editor-in-chief: Bernard Ducret
Photo credits, tables: CERN, ESO, PFGB
The editorial staff is in no way responsible for the texts, drawings, graphics and photos published. The sole responsibilty lies with the authors. All elements constituting this publication are the property of GAC-EPA and cannot be used without the express written authorization of the publisher.