As is the custom at the end of the year, I wish you and your families my sincere best wishes for good health, peace and happiness. May I also add today a wish for the return to normal living conditions as quickly as possible.
The committee continues to work effectively, is highly motivated and full of energy in spite of the extremely difficult conditions.
Since the last Bulletin we have been able to resolve a certain number of problems in close collaboration with the Staff Association.
Health Insurance coverage for surviving spouses and in particular the possibility to purchase a pension for the surviving spouse. The final document has been approved by TREFF and will be submitted to Council in December.
Another important point, now resolved, concerns the CSG-CRDS tax on estate for residents in France. Please take a look at the articles in this bulletin by Joël Lahaye and Jean- Francois Michaud.
We are always there to resolve the various problems which may come up regarding our activities with the Organization and are concerned especially with a return to normal access to the site as soon as possible.
At the moment we are working on an important document which concerns our Pension Fund and Health Insurance in the case of dissolution of the Organization. Some committee members are involved and their knowledge and competence are being put sorely to test.
The GAC-EPA is an essential and fundamental organ of the Organization.
I remind you all that our group’s mission is to preserve the social memory of the Organization. This is vital in these present times. In this spirit we continue to work harder than ever in making the future a peaceful one.
Your President, Enrico Chiaveri
The editors are looking again for translators and correctors in the two languages, English and French. We invite you to contact the secretariat.
In this edition I will describe the conditions under which the Bulletin is prepared.
In these current bleak times, the writing, translation and setting-up of the articles do not cause more problems than usual, because everything is anyway done via the Internet. On the other hand, the production of the paper version and its sending to your homes is more difficult, depending as it does on unpredictable situations following on from political decisions.
I describe here the procedure for the creation of each edition, so that all of you can appreciate the effort required from all those involved.
First of all, each contributor is informed in a committee meeting of the planned date limit for supplying the articles. This is in general two months before the final publication date. The editor then progressively collects the articles and in most cases then sends them for translation (some contributors supply both the original and the translation at the same time, which saves us quite a bit of time, so thanks to them). Our translators normally have one week to react but they often do it even quicker, congratulations!
It is then the time for your servant to assemble all the documents (both originals and translations) and to set them up in pages for the edition which you will receive two weeks later, provided of course that no snags are encountered.
Then he sends back the edition to the contributors and the proofreaders, receives any corrections or modifications in one week approximately, after which the final version is prepared and sent for printing. It is also sent to our webmaster for incorporation on our website. It is set up again and rewritten in a version easily readable on the Web. I would like to emphasise that this is no mean task for our friend Robert.
This edition naturally conforms to your wishes, dear readers, and you will find as usual all the information from the past months. All those involved in its production also continue to participate in numerous working meetings, either in person or via teleconferences, and what you have before your eyes is the result of permanent negotiations in the different subjects which concern CERN pensioners.
May they all be warmly thanked.
COVID-19 and ESO
Following the general lockdown earlier this year in Germany and Chile, ESO defined in June a ramp- up plan for both sites separately, and went gradually through some of the defined 7 phases. Progress was initially very slow in Chile, in view of their high numbers of COVID-19 patients, but the observatories are now at least in a “minimal operation” phase, i.e. not yet all telescopes and instruments are operating. With the current quick expansion of the pandemic all over Europe, ESO-Garching gradually stepped back from its phase 4, with almost all staff working half- time in their headquarters’ offices, to phase 2, with much lower presence at the HQ. ESO pensioners — classified as “visitors”— should get again access to the HQ or the Vitacura offices in phase 6.
ESO puts a substantial effort in updating all relevant COVID-19 related information on its Microsoft sharepoint webpages. Unfortunately, this is not accessible to most retirees: ESO remains restrictive as far as disseminating COVID-19 (and other) information to its retirees is concerned. Instead, HR sends a (very) short e-mail about ESO’s situation/ status to its pensioners, about 1-2 times per month — often triggered by questions or remarks from the GAC-EPA representative.
As could be expected in the given conditions, the yearly CERN Pension Fund presentation for ESO is now not held as a physical presentation in ESO’s auditorium, but as a webcast. The traditional year-end parties for Garching and Chile have also been cancelled.
Healthcare Working Group
Following a Health Working Group meeting on the 29 September and a follow-up meeting with the ESO Administration on October 19, the following recommendations were put forward for discussion at the coming annual ESO-Cigna review meeting.
Infertility Treatment: It is proposed infertility treatment should be reimbursed at 100% for treatment and an 80% for medication (e.g. hormone treatment). This latter would thus fall under Article 20. It was also agreed to change the wording in the medical plan from “In-vitro fertilisation” to “Infertility treatment” so that other treatments against infertility are also specifically covered.
Prior Authorisation: The rules for providing documentation and justifications for treatments to Cigna medical advisors should be clearly spelled out. CIGNA will be asked to provide a clear mandate for the role of the medical advisors as well as their guidelines regarding the consultation of medical advisors.
Information on non-reimbursed expenses in a calendar year: Pensioners living in Germany can claim tax benefits not only on their healthcare premiums but also on other prescription expenses that are not reimbursed. Cigna was asked previously to provide this information but they simply said ‘it was not possible’ even though they keep yearly records for Article 20 and other expenses for which there are annual limits. ESO will ask their tax advisor on exactly what kind of statement from CIGNA will be needed, and press this once again.
Psychotherapy consultancy: Cigna has always requested prior authorisation for psychotherapy. ESO HR have now proposed a scheme whereby the first 5 sessions would not require prior authorisation, only thereafter. This initiative was welcomed by the HWG
The results of the coming discussion and changes to coverage in 2021 will be made known in due 6 course.
ESO International Staff Association
The long-standing issue of updating the International Staff Association’s statutes – including possible membership for GAC-EPA members – is of course also impacted by the pandemic. A return to full-time physical presence in the offices for everyone is currently not in sight. Hence the Staff Committee plans currently to distribute the final draft in November to all ISA members, per e-mail. Depending on the comments received, there may still be a dedicated online meeting held before an electronic voting process will start.
La saga CSG – CRDS...
This article has not been translated into English because it is only important to relations with the French authorities and requires a good understanding of French.
It is important for people concerned to contact the Staff Association or the GAC-EPA as soon as possible because the limit date of filing complaints for tax on revenues of 2017 has been fixed at
2020 has been a fairly rough year for the Pension Fund Governing Board (PFGB), not just because of the pandemic. Except the first one, all meetings were held on remote-conference using Vidyo connections. The following points raised animated debates during these meetings :
the management proposal relative to the right for a pensioner to acquire a surviving spouse pension in case of mariage, which had been worked out by the CCP;
the recommendations made by the Internal Audit Service to the Fund management ;
the Fund CEO contract renewal .
There was a close vote on that last point. Adopted by the PFGB, the recommendation to grant a new contract to the current CEO was addressed to the CERN Council which rejected it. The PFGB Chair then choose to resign from her position and from the PFGB. She will be replaced by the current Finnish Council delegate, as Chair of the PFGB.
More changes are about to take place : the CERN Administration director, ex-officio member of the PFGB, will be replaced as of January 2021, other members will reach the end of their mandate : 2 external experts and me, and the Belgian delegate to Council who resigned. In all 6 members out of 10 will leave and 6 new members will join the PFGB next year.
Selection processes for recruiting external experts and a CEO for the Pension Fund have been initiated. Training sessions were held for the PFGB members, one on the Fund Dashboard application, which provides statistical data over the long term, and another one on portfolio hedging techniques.
The Fund management unit is in charge of investing the funds, managing the invested assets and paying the benefits according to the Fund Rules. Its annual life certificate exercise, with 3328 certificates sent, ended with 4 suspended pensions due to no return of certificates.
Financial position of the Fund
February and March registered strongly negative returns (about - 4.4%) but the invested assets performance later turned to the positive side. The global end August return was +3.09% thanks to the careful management of the Fund portfolio managers.
The Fund Actuary, Buck Consultants, produced the semestrial « Dashboard » review as at 1st July. This review compares the financial progress of the Fund between the last Periodic Actuarial Review (January 1st 2019) and the effective date of the dashboard. Thanks to the good results obtained in 2019, the estimated funding ratio improved to 73.2% at 1-7- 2020, and to 113.6% when projected at 1-1-2041. This review pointed to a higher than expected number of beneficiaries deaths over the first 2020 semester. A first in these actuarial studies.
2019 financial statements
Reminder : these statements and the annual report are available on the Fund internet site : www.pensionfund.cern.ch
The contributions, including the CERN and ESO special contributions, amount to 246,707 kCHF, they do not match the paid benefits, as is the case each year. The pensions and allocations paid amount to 324,639 kCHF, hence a 77,932 kCHF deficit to be compensated by the assets return. The end of year statements show 4,429,448 kCHF as asset total and 12,340,214 kCHF as actuarial liabilities when using IPSAS rules, therefore a technical deficit of 7,910,766 kCHF.
Demographic statistics at 31-12-2019
(Tables produced by the Fund benefits service)
The 3375 beneficiaries reside in 49 countries, they have 36 different nationalities.
The Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS)
The CHIS Board has continued to meet monthly as planned, except in July when the meeting was cancelled. In view of the COVID-19 situation, all meetings have been video conferences.
Reimbursements for transport costs continue to rise (up 38% between 2015 and 2019) and the need for prior approval from UNIQA (except for emergencies) has led to some difficult cases, including a few where the CHIS member has invoked the help of GAC-EPA.
You must keep in mind that approval is given for specific transports or series of transports relating to treatment for a condition described in the letter of justification from your medical practitioner. The letter should also justify the choice of treatment location, the expected number of transports and the desired result. For example, the request for approval might originate from the doctor saying “come to see me monthly for the next n months” or “you need a course of physiotherapy for that arm”. Of course, you may have several such treatments and conditions overlapping or existing in parallel.
Following the output of a SCC working group, the CERN management has proposed that CERN withdraw from contributing to benefits resulting from events taking place after retirement. For CHIS this impacts contributions for surviving spouses for whom a surviving spouse pension was purchased and also children conceived after departure from the Organization. For the first, the DG chose in May not to follow the recommendation of the CHIS Board and Staff Association for no action in view of the exceedingly small number of cases involved. At a special meeting on 27 October the CHIS Board reviewed the proposed changes to the CHIS rules and noted a point concerning the future CHIS contribution level of these cases which must be resolved at a future SSC.
You are very strongly encouraged to have a vaccination against influenza, especially in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline for submitting claims related to treatment in 2019 has exceptionally been extended from 12 to 18 months.
The online submission of reimbursement claims (myUNIQA) is being relatively well used with few complaints. An app will soon be available to allow you to make claims from your mobile.
Morna and David
Since the last bulletin, quite a few retirees living in France had an unwelcome surprise when receiving their latest income tax statement. For some of them the amount payable for the last four months was « astronomical ». The question was whether the amount corresponded to the CSG-CRDS on their CERN pension or whether it related to something else.
After enquiry it appears that the amount also concerns revenue from the tax payer’s fortune. Dossiers concerning subjection to CSG-CRDS on wealth were lodged with the Staff Association five years ago and followed up by Joël LAHAYE. They were treated by the chambers of Hanotin in Paris. Recently, we had good news from the chambers (see Joël LAHAYE’s remark on page 7).
We ask all those interested to immediately contact Jean François or Joël, so that they can react before 31 December 2020.
Concerning the other judicial appeal, GAC is still in contact with the chambers of Maitre Brocard in St Genis so as to follow the evolution of the individual dossiers presented to him, on a personal basis, by certain retirees.
For the dossier presented and followed up by Maitre Teissier of Annemasse (the case of Mr Jean Terrier), the summons to the Social Security Affairs tribunal of Bourg En Bresse, expected since 2016, finally came for 12 October. JF Michaud went there with Me Teissier. The verdict will be announced on 23 November.
Please note that those who are concerned by the problems of subjection to tax on their pension or on the revenue from their fortune can contact us through the French form version, choose "C2S" under "Destinataire")
Current conditions do not allow us to hold the Information Sessions on the CERN site.
Because of this, we had planned to hold a session off the CERN site, more particularly in a room of the Smash restaurant. Unfortunately, the announcement placed in Echo appeared too late, and no-one turned up.
We now no longer think that the conditions for a certain confidentiality are guaranteed in the place that we chose in February.
We therefore propose to no longer hold meetings in person so long as the current conditions persist.
THE question which is posed all the time is: « When can retirees have access to the CERN site ? » .
All we can do is tell you to follow the link proposed by CERN: https://hse.cern/covid-19-information
You can ask questions by using the the contact form, choose "Information Sessions" under "To".
Pay attention, please:
Our treasurer reminds you that the annual subscription is :
She ask you to favour paying it by standing
order via the bank. And reminds you also that paying your subscription by a postal order
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.
A little bit of humour
And nevertheless, happy Christmas and new year 2021
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
Susan Leech O’Neale
Layout: 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.