It is a day of April almost like the others in the European Central Bank (ECB). Except that the lunch hour, not less than 400 employees leave their workstation to meet on the great lawn at the foot of the Tower in the heart of the prestigious Frankfurt business district. Equipped with blue umbrellas, they come together to form a band. Against them, Adrian Petty, a young British hair curled, and black costume with a red tie, expressed in a megaphone. "We know why we're here." There is a democratic deficit at the Bank. We have a President who speaks, but who does not speak with us. And I would like to say, Mr Trichet, we want a conversation with you, a conversation that has meaning. And now, do sign on the Board of Governors! "And everyone to wave his umbrella destined for the 36th floor of the Eurotower, where is decided as every first Thursday of the month monetary policy. "That is what we want to do", launches Adrian Petty. "Negotiate!" replied the crowd in chorus.
Curious agitation for the elite of the best universities and proud to be back in a large institution working in the construction of Europe. The ECB employees enjoy very favourable working conditions: a good remuneration, an important part of the budget given to the training, a premium of expatriation equivalent to 16.5 of the salary, a crèche and a European school for families, not to mention that they pay no income tax... Belong to a Union does pas, a priori, a part of their culture. The Organization Ipso, which Adrian Petty is the President, claims yet 460 members on nearly 1,700 employees, representing approximately 27 unionization rate. Internally, they wear a blue ribbon on their jacket lapels "to show that they want to be treated fairly".
"A repressive culture."
The origin of the malaise, a new system of retirement less advantageous. But, for the trade unionist, this conflict is especially revealing of a problem of governance within the institution. "We have never been against the pension reform, but we dispute the fact that it unilaterally," says Adrian Petty to the "echoes".
The manifestation of April there did nothing. The Board of Governors adopted the month following the new system. Ipso was then implemented his threat: a part of the staff of the ECB will be on strike today for an hour thirty, a first in the history of the Bank. The Union also wants to make a complaint before the European Court of justice.
That may well grow in the street of the employees to the seemingly enviable fate Thierry Desanois, which represents the unions of the central banks in Europe (SCECBU), "the success of Ipso is related to an obvious lack of dialogue." When it does not listen to people, this necessarily leads to the conflict.
Discontent incubates for at least three years. In July 2006, the staff representatives had sent a letter to Jean-Claude Trichet in which they regretted not having enough weight in decisions. They complained of "management by fear", "repressive culture", "the arbitrariness of a power system internal is not subject to the responsibility or the sanction", "control of the network of the"old"and these colleagues (...)". "that put their ambitions and their interests before the common good, a heinous phenomenon that a public institution like the ECB does not deserve."
Of course, this view of things is probably caricature. "During the preparation of the reform of pension and after intensive discussions with the representatives of the staff, the initial reform was considerably amended", said a spokesman for the Bank. The strike, on the other hand, does not unanimity in the Union. 460 Members, there have been 300 voters, including 230 for the walkout. "Some people believe that the strike will be ineffective, now that the decision is made." "Others fear reprisals," said a member of Ipso, which prefers to remain anonymous, because the employees of the ECB have all signed a code of conduct prohibiting them from speaking to the media.
A problem of labour law
The organization is not much resonate with those who do not want to be perceived as privileged, younger charges minted University, with support personnel or even workers from Eastern Europe, that unionism is synonymous with communism.
But several legal experts agree that the statutes of the ECB are a problem for labour law. As a European institution, it does meet any national legislation. The Board of Governors sets itself the conditions of employment and at the same time is responsible for enforcing. "It is well away from the separation of the powers of Montesquieu..." "This creates lot of discretion", sighs close counsel of Ipso. The European Central Bank is not that employer, she also plays the role of organization of social security for health insurance or pensions. The ECB, the employees are not civil servants, they have a contractual relationship with their employer. They elect each year a Committee of staff to represent to the Executive Board. But the Committee has only a right of consultation, not negotiation, unlike instances of representation of the European Commission.
Other institutions such as the European Bank of investment (EIB) and the European Bank for reconstruction and development (EBRD) have the same status. But Ipso accuses the ECB Directorate a policy of "consult and ignore". The Union wants more transparency in the internal decisions. It is a representative in the commissions that examine the recruitment, promotions or disciplinary sanctions. He wants that the conditions of employment may not be changed without the agreement of trade unions. In short, a right to bargaining. For Adrian Petty, "the ECB has an excessive independence interpretation, that it refuses to justify to its employees its internal decisions, in the same way that it refuses to report to Governments on its monetary policy." "But it is quite"decouple"these two aspects".
Less frequent promotions
Since his arrival at the head of the Bank, in 2003, Jean-Claude Trichet wanted applied to his institution the same budgetary discipline than it recommends that the countries of the euro area. Hence some popular measures in the eyes of the employees, such as the reduction of the overall envelope of the increases of 2.5 to 1.5 per year or the fact recruit primarily by three-year contract. In a letter to the Staff Committee, he thus justified his approach: "The ECB is a unique work place." Among the challenges that it faces, "the duty to European citizens to maintain its costs, even when it is reasonable to reduce".
Ipso members refuse to be considered a privileged. "If you are working in BNP Paribas, you can always go to Société Générale". We have a monopolistic employer and, when it worked ten years at the ECB, it is not clear of recaser in the private sector. "We have the impression of having a long term with our employer relationship," says a representative.
And then there is also a kind of wave associated with heart and soul that the institution matures. The ECB employs nearly 1,700 employees today. It is far away, the time of the "start-up" where 200 people worked on the introduction of the single currency, for the most part on nights and weekends. The stabilization of the workforce has also limited opportunities for promotions, while there is a high concentration of executives of thirty-five to forty-five years. "Culture became less cooperative, testifies this employee in the creation of the euro, the promotions have become less frequent and particularly ad personam.". At the time, employees were more likely to retain information for the top in the competition. "Some employees also describes the Organization as"bureaucratic and political. " "The ECB economists have little room for manoeuvre in the expression of ideas, outside monetary orthodoxy", j. one of their counterparts in an investment bank. According to a survey conducted by the Staff Committee, a majority of employees do not understand their goals and found that the internal assessment procedures lack transparency.
That is why Ipso could federate discontent, which crystallize today on the question of pensions. The movement found its leader and a message that brings together: Europe must build with institutions which respect the principles of democracy.