news from luxembourg
Poor, poor Commission in Luxembourg. Sometimes it seems like no one wants to come to the EU institutions in this small, but increasingly cosmopolitan, open-minded, and hospitable country. Ask many a colleague in Brussels and they may well answer ‘what do you want to go there for?’ (It’s true the Belgian beers, chocolates and moules-frites can be sorely missed.) Blue Book trainees may be bewildered when they see the offer of a traineeship there and struggle placing the tiny country on the map.
Clearly, efforts must continue to improve the attractiveness of this fundamental site of our institution!
The European Commission keeps finding it excruciatingly hard to recruit people, from the lowest to even the highest-flying grades. We know the main reasons, one of which is the cost of living (especially the cost of accommodation) which is not compensated by a corrector coefficient. (This can especially hit the lowest grades, whose salaries can even dip below the national minimum wage.)
Another big reason can be the (misconceived) lackluster of the jobs (statisticians, translators, auditors, lawyers, knowledge managers, publications specialists …) for those seeking more of the high-flying and policymaking creativity, buzz, spotlights, city lights and the mission-control feel of Brussels.
Then there are misconceptions about the country itself, which go from thinking it’s full of either back offices or farms to it being ultraconservative, men in suits and boring. Then there is the very real problem of commuting in from the neighboring countries.
For years colleagues in Luxembourg have been trying to raise Luxembourg’s attractiveness through a ‘High-level Group to enhance the attractiveness of the Luxembourg site’. This has created four interinstitutional working groups that recommended 12 actions which are gradually being implemented, albeit at varying speeds.
One of these actions is for the creation and management of excellence hubs, five of which have been distilled: Digital, Financial, Legal, Multilingual and ‘Data, Information and Knowledge Management’.
We at TAO see the great value of these hubs to attract new talent and expertise in the specific case of Luxembourg. Such hubs, we believe, can promote collaboration, foster exchanges and create partnerships with academia and public or private organizations. They help us to know what specific talent we need and when. Through the exchanges they create, potential recruits discover what we do and can consider us a good employer.
However, we should remember that recruitment must be fair and open to all. Could there be a risk of giving an unfair advantage to people in those Luxembourg-based communities thus created? In order to stand a chance, do you have to be in Luxembourg first and be part of the community? Could there be a risk of creating temporary post after temporary post? Could all this be acceptable given the urgency to fill some of the gaps?
TAO is looking closely at how this hub concept and other potential recruitment tweaks develop in Luxembourg. For example, the idea of specific competitions at higher grades (to lure people) have their pros and cons. The pro is clearly offering attractive and more competitive conditions for experienced professionals, but the potential con is that it could introduce unfairness for other colleagues who are climbing up the promotion ladder with the time we know it takes (at least for most).
The potential idea of ‘locking’ new recruits into a job in Luxembourg for some years is also questionable. It may seem acceptable enough if it is not too long. But if it isn’t long enough, Luxembourg colleagues would have to recruit and train others again, becoming something of a training center for Brussels.
TAO regrets that the postponement or cancellation of some competitions have kept potential recruits in the dark about their next move. Many of them are temporary agents and contractual agents we know and feel for. Times are tough, but we shouldn’t make it tougher for them.
Let’s not forget about the potential talent we have in-house already, talent that with better and blended training support and coaching (job-shadowing, part-time courses, co-funded diplomas …) could help us fill some of those vacancies!
To add to Luxembourg’s attractiveness issue, we could also mention other aspects OIL and HR need to work on such as the closure of two canteens, that has been sorely felt by colleagues, high hospital costs as well as others. If Brussels-based colleagues know about these extra difficulties, vacancies may be all the harder to fill.
With the teleworking regime of up to three days a week, the option of living across the border in Belgium, France or Germany becomes more acceptable to keep accommodation costs under control and to buy a home, an everyday desire for many. It also helps to extend the potential pool of the hubs created. But we should perhaps be careful not to arrive at a situation where the majority of EU staff could live across the border.
What are your thoughts? How do you see the situation? Have you got ideas about making Luxembourg great again? Let us know your views and proposals, so that we can reflect collectively.