EU takes its members to court in staff pay dispute
European Commission escalated a dispute over pay increases for EU staff, saying it was filing a case against EU member states in the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission escalated a dispute over pay increases for EU staff on Wednesday, saying it was filing a case against EU member states in the European Court of Justice.
The Commission, the executive arm of the EU, wants to protect a planned 3.7 percent pay rise for EU employees, saying it has a legal obligation to increase their salaries.
But EU member states say the increase is above inflation and unseemly at a time when all 27 countries in the bloc are doing what they can to restrict public-sector pay and keep budget deficits in check during an economic crisis.
The member states, which pay the EU's bills, have taken a decision to restrict EU staff pay rises to 1.85 percent.
The row threatens to damage the image of the EU's top institutions, which employ around 50,000 people across the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council for EU member states and the Court of Justice. The most senior jobs in the EU bureaucracy can pay up to 18,000 euros a month.
"The Commission has confirmed its decision to take action before the court," Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, chief spokeswoman for the Commission, told a briefing on Wednesday, saying the case aimed to annul the member states' decision to restrict pay.
"It's up to the court to decide what the Commission consider to be a violation of rules that have been agreed by member states... We are talking here about respect for agreed rules. It's not an issue where political discretion is at play."
EU civil-service pay increases are determined by a formula taking into account changes to civil-servant payrolls in eight of the bloc's wealthier member states over the past year.
The formula is legally binding, the Commission says, and can produce salaries that go up as well as down -- since member states have cut civil-service pay this year, EU staff salaries are very likely to go down next year.
That is an argument unions representing EU employees have used to fight their case and pressure the Commission to act.
"The way the salaries are worked out is protected by law, it is something that has to be adhered to," Georges Vlandas of the Union for Unity, one of the unions, told Reuters.
"It is the economic crisis that has been the cause of this problem, not the employees' salaries."
A spokesman for the European Court of Justice said the Commission's case had not yet been received by the court, explaining that it could take several days to arrive. The court remains in recess until Jan. 11.
Under normal procedures, such a case could take anywhere up to 16 months to be decided, the spokesman said. But the Commission is seeking an accelerated procedure, which could mean a decision is handed down in the next 4-6 months.
Reuters Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2010, 20:32