Bulletin 60

Spring 2021

Colophon

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Message from the President

Enrico CHIAVERI

Dear All,

Once again, and first of all in this dramatic period, I would like to wish you health, serenity and peace for you and your families.

The activity of the Committee, even in very difficult conditions, has continued with the same commitment and efficiency and, above all, with a deep motivation.  With the collaboration of the Personnel Association we have been able to solve and advance a number of problems:

All this information can be found in more detail in this Bulletin.

I would like to underline that the work and the role of GAC-EPA is always determinant in the framework of various activities extremely important for the whole Organization.

We will continue our efforts, even under particularly difficult conditions.

Once again, I would like to sincerely thank all the members of the GAC-EPA Committee for their continued commitment and expertise in participating in our activities.

Your President, Enrico Chiaveri

 

Editorial

Bernard DUCRET

It cannot have escaped your attention that we are living in peculiar times since March 2020.

As the person responsible for this publication, I must keep its content as foreseen since its inception, i.e., to keep you informed about the subjects of interest to us.  It is difficult for me not to digress on the current situation.

In this edition you will find the usual news concerning the many contacts and negotiations, which have not stopped over the last fourteen months for your representatives.  There is good news and less good news.  I invite you to read these articles.

We heard of the passing away of Horst Wenninger last autumn, but it was not possible for us to pay tribute to him in the bulletin in time.  In the paper version of this issue you will find the tribute.

I would like some aspects of the relationship between the GAC-EPA Committee and you the readers to be improved:

Of course, we remain concentrated on our tasks and try to keep in contact, even if videoconferencing weighs on us more and more.

Meeting in person is so much better.

I hope that the share of humanity in us all that has suffered can come back into our relationships.  Things will never be the same as before.  We have suffered what others suffered at different times and in other forms and we should be aware of this as soon as possible so that we avoid the new world that some are trying to put in place.

My best wishes to you all.

Bernard

 

ESO Matters

Erik ALLAERT

COVID-19, ESO and communication

Since the past winter many countries have gone through a rough ride as far as COVID-19 infections and prevention measures are concerned, including Chile and Germany.  This implies for ESO a kind of roller coaster ride through various phases of the defined ramp-up plans after a full lock-down.  At the time of this writing, the ESO HQ in Garching is in the so-called phase 2+, with a voluntary onsite presence of maximum 30% of the people.  The Vitacura offices are in an “enhanced phase 1-2 state” with similar on-site presence restrictions as the HQ.  Paranal, APEX and La Silla are currently in “minimal science operations” mode.

This does not only impact the various ESO projects and the operation of the observatories and offices, but also the communication of the pensioners with ESO and ex-colleagues.  Emails and Microsoft Teams meetings have become the de facto means of communication.  With the Head of HR being nominated by the DG as the main point of contact for the GAC-EPA representative, the load on that department implies that a reaction can take quite some time, and can even be forgotten.  At the same time HR invests a considerable amount of time in summarizing about once a month ESO’s situation/ status in an email message to the pensioners, which is basically a summary of the COVID-19 information that ESO has continuously updated on its Microsoft sharepoint webpages;  unfortunately these webpages are only accessible to the ones with an ESO account.  We have pointed out this duplication of effort at several opportunities to the ESO management, up to the DG, and argued that both sides would benefit from more openness/ accessibility in the area of COVID-19 and other nonconfidential information.  However, so far we have not been able to convince them.

Outstanding issues

Apart from the information flow issue, there are a few other matters that are pending since a longer time, and data privacy is one example.  ESO has defined its own data privacy policy in 2018, but has so far not implemented it consistently in all areas.  Pensioners are also affected, as for instance bank account data are kept after retirement, and the data passed on to the ESO travel agency (passport number, etc) are not revoked – just to name a few items of a much longer list.  ESO’s internal audit plan for 2021 and beyond lists the “compliance of data protection rules at ESO” as part of the priority 2 audits, i.e.  one of the things they intend to get to after finishing the quite long list of priority 1 audits.  We’ve asked to raise that priority, and offered cooperation in identifying data privacy issues for the ESO pensioners, but received so far no reaction.

Healthcare Working Group

As was indicated in the Bulletin a year ago, the Health Working Group proposed to the ESO Management that an ESO Health Insurance Scheme (EHIS) Board be created along the lines of the CERN CHIS Board.  Since that time, an ESO working group was established to define the mandate and composition of such a board.  This resulted in a proposal that has now been accepted by the ESO DG and the EHIS Board should start work once the Board members have been appointed.  The current ESO Health Working Group (HWG) will continue as an advisory body that interacts more directly with the ESO community and allows the experiences of staff to provide feedback and recommendations.

This development is basically welcomed by the HWG, but it is nevertheless strange that although the retired staff are an important stakeholder in the EHIS and that the original proposal to set up the EHIS Board came from the ESO GAC-EPA Representative, no pensioner was invited to participate in the working group.  It is also disconcerting that although a retired staff member may be appointed to sit on the EHIS Board, this is at the discretion of the President of the Staff Association and on condition that the appointed person is also a member of the Staff Association.  This is currently not possible with the present SA statutes.  In practice we do not see any major problem here as the ESO Staff Association have welcomed the participation of a retiree on the Board.

A meeting of the Health Working Group (HWG) was held on 31 March 2021.  Apart from discussing the EHIS Board proposal mentioned above, the terms of reference of the HWG itself have been modified to now include a student representative.

A proposal was made to the ESO Cigna Administrator to consider improving the coverage in cases where a high congenital risk for a certain disease exists.  As present, no such risk is covered specifically by the medical plan, but it could allow increased frequency of examinations or DNA tests.

To the alarm of an ESO staff member, information on the Cigna website seemed to indicate that injuries resulting from certain sports such as paragliding were excluded from the medical plan.  After clarification with Cigna, it has been confirmed that these sports are covered for medical costs.  The website information has since been corrected.

ESO International Staff Association

The International Staff Association Committee has in the meantime sent the association’s draft new stats statutes to all its current members, and presented this shortly in a general assembly.  There are 14 major changes compared to the current, old (and obsolete) statutes, of which the Staff Association membership for GAC-EPA members is one.  The staff is voting on each of these 14 changes separately.  That will then lead to a final draft, leaving the changes out that did not get approval.  This final draft will then be voted upon as a whole, requiring a quorum of 2/3 of the Staff Association members.

Erik Allaert

 

Pension Fund

Philippe Charpentier

The autumn 2020 bulletin contained the last report by Michel Baboulaz as the GAC-EPA representative on the Pension Fund Governing Board (PFGB) since he was ending his second three-year mandate at the end of the year.  On behalf of us all, I wish to congratulate him and thank him most sincerely for the six years he has spent on the PFGB and the Actuarial Technical Committee (ATC).  I also thank the GAC-EPA Committee for the confidence they have placed in me by nominating me as your representative on the PFGB for the coming three years.

As Michel indicated in the autumn, the PFGB has had a 60% renewal of members who are in charge of the destiny of our pension fund since January 1st.

I would also like to remind you that the PFGB has two representatives from the CERN Staff Association:  Isabelle Mardirossian (President of the Staff Association) whose mandate on the PFGB has been renewed for three years, and Peter Hristov who has been re-elected vice-president of the PFGB for one year and who has been nominated as a member of the ATC replacing Michel.  The ESO Staff Association also has a representative on the PFGB, and the 10th member is nominated by the Council of ESO and has been elected as Chair of the ATC.

Since the beginning of 2021 there have been two meetings of the PFGB, but my late nomination meant that I could only attend the second one on 15 April.  Nevertheless, the PFGB accepted that, at the first meeting, Isabelle Mardirossian could exceptionally represent GAC-EPA in case of a vote, hence there was no lack of representation.

During the first meeting, the PFGB proposed to Council the nomination of Mr Doug Heron (GB) as new CEO of the Fund (and thus head of the PFMU of CERN), following the non-renewal of the mandate of the current CEO Mr Matthew Eyton-Jones.  This nomination was approved by Council at its March session and Mr Heron will start work on 1 August 2021.  From the month of May until the end of July, Elena Manola-Bonthond, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the fund, will take over the functions of CEO during the end of contract leave of the current CEO.

Despite the health crisis we are all experiencing, the performance of the assets of the Pension Fund in 2020 was remarkable, with a return on investment of 9.21%, more than twice the performance of other Swiss pension funds.  Thanks to this exceptional ratio, the coverage of our fund on 1 January 2021 is 79.8%, which is 10% higher than expected.  If all goes according to the actuarial studies in the coming years, 100% could be reached in about 2032, with a level of 127.3% in 2041...  but who knows what the future will bring.  It should be noted that this performance is not without a certain amount of risk-taking, although it is limited so as to remain within the tolerances allowed by the fund’s investment principles.  This limit is still under discussion, but if increased risktaking leads to better performance, it can also lead to greater losses.  It is therefore a balancing act for the portfolio managers within the PFMU.

The fund’s assets on 1 January 2021 amount to CHF 4.74 billion.

The health crisis has nevertheless affected our members, and there is clearly an excess of mortality in 2020 among our retired friends and their spouses compared to what might have been expected.

Our thoughts are with their loved ones, and we hope that 2021 will return to a “normal” level.  However, it was felt by the fund’s actuary that Covid-19 would have little overall impact on the long-term balance of the fund and it was only proposed that 2020 should not be considered in adjusting the mortality tables to our population.

The table below gives a view of the demographics of the members (active) and beneficiaries of the Pension Fund as at 31 December 2020, compared to 2019:

2020 2019
CERNESOTotalCERNESO Total
Members (pre 2012-01-01) 1'648 302 1'950 1'711 310 2'021
Members (post 2012-01-01) 1'743 209 1'952 1'719 193 1'912
Total Members 3'391 511 3'902 3'430 503 3'933
Deferred retirement pensions 243 58 301 218 58 276
Retirement pensions 2'349 113 2'462 2'401 107 2'508
Surviving spouse pensions 828 16 844 796 14 810
Orphan pensions 40 1 41 38 2 40
Disability and ex-gratia 19 6 25 24 6 30
Total Beneficiaries 3'479 194 3'673 3'477 187 3'664

The next triennial actuarial study is scheduled to be concluded in June 2022.  We will fore sure keep you informed of the forecasts that emerge from this study, the parameters of which will be set during the Spring.

The PFGB has also decided to create a working group to take into account environmental, social and managerial constraints (ESG criteria) in the Fund’s investment policy.  This is a very important point because the search for performance should not be at the expense of the essential aspects of the fight against climate change, social balance and sustainable development.

Philippe Charpentier

 

The Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS)

David Jacobs

The CHIS Board has continued to meet monthly as planned, except for merging the March and April meetings.  In view of the COVID-19 situation, all meetings have been video conferences.

Regularly updated useful information about the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the home page of CHIS, and on https://hse.cern/covid-19-information.  Keep yourselves informed! The strong recommendation is to get vaccinated in your country of residence as soon as possible, according to the rules in force there.  Although vaccination at CERN may become possible in the future, there is no prospect of this any time soon.  So do not delay.

The 2020 revision of the CHIS Rules mentioned in the last GAC-EPA Bulletin came into force on 1 January 2021.  They are available from https:// chis.cern by selecting “Regulations” under “Documents” at the top of the page.  The file name is “CHIS Rules 01/01/2021”.

CHIS contributions decreased by 0.93% in 2020 compared with 2019, while HIS expenses decreased much more steeply by 9.08% resulting in an operating surplus of 15.7 MCHF, an increase of 9.3 MCHF on 2019, to be added to the CHIS Reserve fund.

While the gradual decline in contributions is to be expected, given the rather static hiring situation and the steady age advance of the well-known retiree “peak”, UNIQA regards 2020 spending as having been a singularity, hypothesizing several reasons for the observed decrease.

Detailed analysis of the figures is difficult, due to the number of overlapping factors.

After a good year in 2019, the Reserve fund return on investment fell sharply in 2020.  September saw the engagement of 3 new managers in addition to the previous 2, the distribution of capital not being made equally but by investment specialty.  Four immediately began to make positive returns, allowing the fund to rise to 295.8 MCHF, a weighted global return of 1.17%.  In 2021, to end-February the figure was -0.21%.  The managers are being watched closely with the aid of a CERN-funded Custodian and all will shortly be interviewed.

The introduction of online reimbursement claims (myUNIQA) is judged to have been a good success, with more than 70% of claims being made this way by the end of 2020 with a reduced error rate.  At the same time, some shortcomings are recognized with attached documents and an upgraded version is promised soon.

In the face of the increasing offer of alternative therapies, their recognition (or not) by CHIS must be considered in a future review of the Rules.

Hopital La Tour has agreed to reimburse to CHIS the 1.6 MCHF overcharged on small items in recent years.  This was accounted for in 2020 and the actual payment will be made this year.

The UNIQA office in downtown Geneva remains closed to the public because of COVID-19.  You can use (e)mail or telephone to contact them.  In addition, the office will move on 1 May to:

UNIQA
26 Avenue de la Praille
Case postale 1431
CH—1227 Carouge

Morna and David

Reminder

Pay attention, please:

Our treasurer reminds you that the annual subscription is :

30CHF

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

costs money to the association.

C2S

Jean-Francois MICHAUD

What’s new since the last bulletin?

The CSG—CRDS on assets and on pensions paid by the CERN Pension Fund is still on the agenda;  things are moving in the right direction but we will have to be patient.

As regards the CSG—CRDS tax on assets

The files submitted by pensioners are monitored, along with the files of working people, by Joël Lahaye, delegate of the Staff Association.

A reply from the tax office sent to one of our colleagues informs us that:

Since the taxation of income for the year 2018, persons who are covered by a health insurance scheme of a State in which the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems apply (States of the European Economic Area and Switzerland) and who are not dependent on a compulsory French social security scheme are not liable for the CSG and CRDS (9.2% and 0.5%) due in respect of income from wealth.

However, these persons are liable for the 7.5% solidarity levy.  If you meet this condition or, in the case of a married or civil union couple, if both spouses meet this condition, you tick box(es) 8SH and/or 8Sl, your income from assets and similar income (property income, income from furnished rentals, life annuities for valuable consideration, capital gains from professional activities, income from movable assets, capital gains from the sale of securities, gains from the exercise of options, gains from the acquisition of free shares) will not be subject to CSG/CRDS.

If you are married or in a civil partnership and only one of the spouses meets the above-mentioned condition, you must indicate, by category, the amount of income from assets held by the spouse benefiting from the exemption so that it is excluded from the base subject to the CSG/CRDS, in boxes 8BF, 8RV, 8RC and 8RM.

This suggests a lot of difficulties in filling in the form for the next tax return.  On the other hand, it will certainly allow those concerned to claim back the CRG—CRDS levies over the last three years.

Concerning the CSG—CRDS levies on CERN pensions, we had been waiting since 2016 for a summons to the Pôle social of the Bourg-en-Bresse judicial court for our Annemasse lawyer to plead the case of one of our colleagues.

The summons finally arrived on 12 October 2020 and a judgement was pronounced on 7 December 2020, successfully.  The report made by our lawyer is reported below:

  1. CERN has legal personality and as such is a subject of law distinct from the French and Swiss States.
  2. In this respect, reference should be made to the social security agreement of 30 December 1970, and more particularly to Article 1 thereof, which specifies that CERN staff members are not subject to French legislation on social security and family benefits, since the International Organisation provides its members with cover against the risks of sickness, invalidity and old age under the conditions of the provident scheme it has set up.
  3. These provisions have a higher authority than those of Article L 311-9 of the Social Security Code.
  4. Consequently, the certification of the option of maintaining the scheme offered by UNIQA instead of the CPAM at the time of retirement by the person concerned is binding on the latter organisation13 since affiliation to the CERN social protection scheme is exclusive of any other affiliation with the CPAM.

On the basis of all these results, example letters have been proposed for the pensioners concerned by these levies so that they can take steps, either with the CPAM or with the tax office.

As a reminder, you are invited to go to the GACEPA website to get information and use the documents made available to you.

Also as a reminder, you can ask your questions using this site by clicking on “contact” and send us a message;  everything is done to help and inform you.

Still on the subject of CSG - CRDS levies on pensions, in 2021, rectification requests have been proposedbythetaxofficetomanypensioners,with a reminder over three years.  You have 30 days to contest this rectification request, which you should do if you are not dependent on any French health insurance scheme.

Finally, it came as a surprise when a pensioner received the following reply to his complaint:

“Your request has been registered in our service and transmitted to our departmental directorate which is in charge of processing it.  There are a lot of applications in progress and I cannot tell you how long it will take to process your application (minimum one year delay).

We did say to you: “you will have to be patient!“

The spokesman of the “C2S” commission, JeanFrançois Michaud,
who warmly thanks Jean-Claude Gouache and Michel Vitasse who give him great support.

Information Sessions

Jean-Francois MICHAUD

As mentioned in the bulletin, sanitary conditions do not allow meetings to be held anymore.

You are therefore invited to ask your questions via the GAC-EPA website:  you can ask questions by using the the contact form, choose "Information Sessions" under "To".

 

Obituary

For the list of deceased beneficiairies of the Pension Fund consult the list of deaths.

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.

Special Tribute

We would like here to refer to the tribute to Horst Wenninger, which appeared some time ago.

The GAC-EPA Committee would like to add to this tribute that Horst served as President of our group from 2007 to 2011.  We would like to thank him for his commitment to defending the interests of pensioners throughout his successive terms.

Purchase of a surviving spouse pension.

Michel Vitasse

Warning: Only those retired persons who got married since August 2006 or will get married in the future are concerned by this new measure.

The CCP Working Group (SG-CCP PF18) proposals relative to the purchase of a surviving spouse pension were presented at the latest Annual General Meeting (see the 20-02-2020 AGM minutes).  They were endorsed by CERN Council and they entered into force on January 1st 2021.

The Management however, during internal concertation and against the quasi unanimous CHIS Board advice, decided to impose two changes to theHealthInsuranceRules:

Modification 1 : with respect to couples who got married after the entry into force of the new regulations, the CHIS does not cover the spouse if a surviving spouse pension has not been purchased (already existing couples may keep their current coverage).

Modification 2 : with respect to couples purchasing a surviving spouse pension after the entry into force of the new provisions (i.e.  in cases of new marriage or existing couples requesting application of the transitory measures), the surviving spouse will be entitled to remain a CHIS member after the death of the beneficiary ;  the CHIS contribution will be based on the full surviving spouse pension independent of the « tranche » level purchased and it will entirely be paid by the surviving spouse (with no contribution by the Organisation).

The Staff Association and the GAC-EPA opposed strongly to this change to the balance of contributions, on matters of both content and form which are distorting and impairing the balance of the provisions agreed on the pensions side.

Our initiative has unfortunately been unsuccessful since, following arbitrage by the Director General, these two modifications were submitted to the CERN Council and by now approv ed.

Michel Vitasse

Social Insurance:  Guarantees in the event of dissolution of the Organization

At the last Annual General Meeting on 20-02-2020 a reminder of decisions taken since 1976 was given along with two lines of study to follow up for which the Standing Advisory Committee now awaits proposals (see Minutes of the AGM).

The first line of study within the Organization is to have our Health Insurance Scheme recognized by CERN Council as an acquired right, financed by Members, partially capitalised and to continue in the event of dissolution of the Organization,

The working group proposal is to recognize this as an Article under the guarantee of benefits in the Rules of the CERN Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS).  This Article* which takes its reference from Article I 3.03 of the Rules and Regulations of the Pension Fund of CERN should be formally adopted by CERN Council following the process of concertation which, hopefully, will take less than a year.

The second line of study is external to the Organization and involves the Swiss authorities (DFAE, OFAS and FINMA).  It concerns checking out that the 1996 decision of CERN Council to set up a Foundation under Swiss law having an international aspect ruled essentially by the Federal law for occupational pension (LPP) is still pertinent following its structural reform that took place in 2012.  In particular, to check that the financial responsibility of the Member States is still engaged in the case of bankruptcy or deficit of the Foundation.  Alongside this discussion with the Swiss authorities, also on the table is how to include Health Insurance and LTC within the aims of the Foundation.

If all possible obstacles can be overcome, the required amendments to the constitutive Act of the Foundation will need to be drawn up and formally 19 approved by Council.

A vast and long procedure…

*The proposed Article is:

CERN guarantees the benefits acquired under the provision of the Rules by the Members of the Scheme until the cessation of rights of the last beneficiary.  In the event of dissolution of CERN, its Council will take the necessary steps to guarantee the acquired rights at the date of dissolution.

Definitions:

DFAE - Federal Department of Foreign Affairs OFAS - Federal Bureau of Social Insurance FINMA - Independent Authority for the Supervision of Swiss Financial Markets

Michel Vitasse

Addresses

Pay attention, again:

We receive paper Bulletins back that did not reach to their addressees;  most of them are returned due to an incorrect address.

The editorial staff asks these recipients to contact the Secretariat in order to update our mailing list

Readers' Letters

Letters published in this section remain the responsibility of their authors, and may not correspond to the Association's opinion.  The Association cannot be rendered liable for the content.

Open letter to GAC-EPA representatives

Since March 2020 here is the diktat of the DG (Fabiola Giannotti)

Access to CERN for retirees and family members:

Retirees, including honorary staff members, are not allowed on the CERN grounds except in exceptional cases, for access to certain facilities, e.g.  the bank vault.

Hello :

I am writing you a few lines, to express my indignation about the restrictive measures taken against retirees and their families for access to CERN.

I understand that these measures should protect the health of former staff.

However, I feel it as a complete exclusion from CERN life.

We can no longer access the bank, the post office, the Uniqa offices and the pension fund offices.  In my case this means the loss of some personal belongings that were in my office, the loss of two health reimbursement files left in the Uniqa mailbox at Bat.33.  But what angers me the most is the loss of all personal contacts with my former colleagues.  By the way we are also excluded from the cern mail service.

I always thought of CERN after 50 years of service as my family.  I realize now that once we left via the front door (retirement) we are no longer worth anything and one tries to let us sink into oblivion as quickly as possible.

I beg your pardon for having bothered you, but I want to tell someone.

Maccaferri Remo Ancien du CERN


Colophon

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

Proofreaders: (French)

Marcel Aymon
Catherine Laverrière
Gertjan Bossen

Proofreaders/Translators (English)

Michel Baboulaz
Susan Leech O’Neale
David Dallman
Morna Robillard

Layout:  Bernard Ducret
Photo credits, tables:  CERN, ESO, PFGB

Printing:  EXAPRINT

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.


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