This afternoon the European Commission
has announced that it would be taking member states to court for blocking the standard pay rise due to EU civil servants.
The legal move, which the Commission is obliged in its nature to make, came after member states in late December voted (quite sensibly in my view) to halve the planned annual inflation-busting 3.7% increase in pay to 1.85% due to the current financial climate in which millions of EU citizens are having to tighten their belts in the face of the worst economic crisis in several decades.
"The commission has confirmed its decision to take action before the court to ask for the annulment of the council decision," said a spokeswoman quoted by EUObserver
. The Commission will naturally hope now for a quick decision by the court.
The annual pay adjustment for EU staff, which was agreed by governments in 2004, is an automatic mechanism (known here as 'The Method') that is based on the average pay in the previous year for civil servants in eight other member states, including France, Germany, the UK and Italy.
Gross monthly salaries for EU commission staff currently run from €2,550 for a secretary to almost €18,000 for a head of department, so are not the worst paid jobs in Europe by any stretch of the imagination...
Nonetheless, unsatisfied about any cut (although still a rise let us not forget) the staff unions have been rallying support in favour of strike action
- which to date have not been too numerous nor too disruptive, and yet may not be over, as staff of the Parliament could get in on the act next week.
After initially indicating (via about a dozen emails I received each day) that the trade unions would organise widespread full-scale strikes, this threat appears to have been scaled down in response to the Commission's statement, although rumours are flying that there are still plans to hinder the MEP hearings of EU commissioner nominees which is due to begin on Monday.
Any disruption to the hearings timetable
(which is already quite packed) could delay the investiture of the next European Commission, which has been in caretaker status since 1st November following the delays in gaining the complete ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.