EU civil servants have taken part in a three hour strike demanding a 3.7 per cent pay rise that they had expected. Fifteen of the European Union’s 27 member states want them to do without it.
In the current economic down-turn, diplomats described the action as politically bizarre. Central and eastern European members who have cut salaries at home are especially opposed to boosting pay in Brussels.
A workers’ union official, Felix Géradon, said: “Last year in Europe, civil service salaries were raised in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, and it is these adaptations in salary, which exceed inflation and therefore mean gains in purchasing power, that we’re looking to catch up with this year, because we did not get them last year, like the others did.”
Since 2004, EU employees’ wages have been based on what counterparts in eight of the older, wealthier members earned the year before. The Commission president has underscored this was agreed as EU law. Downing Street has told British staff that settlements must be reasonable “at this time”.
But in Brussels they say calculating according to year-old conditions is a problem. There is also the aspect of leaving home countries to come here, said EU Council official Goran Welin: “We are more paid of course but that’s how it always has been to have people coming down from different nationalities because that is very important.”
The row concerns employees of the European parliament, the commission and the council — some 44,500 people in Brussels and elsewhere. Their salaries now range from 2,550 euros per month for a secretary to more than 17,000 euros for a departmental head.