The GMB Trade Union, representing over 620,000 members including its Brussels Branch, has called upon its allies in the European Parliament to campaign for MEPs’ Assistants to be given greater security and stronger rights at work, in particular on current rules which allow unfair dismissal of staff.
A motion proposed by members of the GMB Brussels Branch on the posted workers legislation was formally adopted by the GMB at its Congress in Brighton. This followed approval at Regional level earlier this year.
Moving the motion at Congress, Branch Secretary Kieron Merrett said, “Members of the European Parliament can be proud of their record in passing important employment laws at European level. So it is a shame that their own staff do not enjoy the same level of protections.”
MEPs’ Assistants are employees of the European Parliament but in a special category of staff. They are subject to a clause in their staff regulations which allows them to be dismissed at any time, with no evidence, and no possibility to challenge the employer’s decision. No compensation is given to staff dismissed in this way. This situation would of course be impossible if MEPs’ staff were covered by national employment laws.
MEPs have in the past contended that this bizarre situation is necessary because “that trust is the basis of the working relationship between the Member and his accredited parliamentary assistant.” However, this situation is not found in the other Parliaments of Europe where staff are enjoy national employment protections.
Amendments to the staff regulations covering Assistants in the European Parliament have recently been discussed by MEPs on the Parliament’s JURI committee. MEPs on the committee have voted to create a new “conciliation procedure which shall apply before the contract of an accredited parliamentary assistant is terminated.” Whilst this is a positive first step, the exact form the procedure may take will subsequently be discussed and defined in the “Implementing Measures” for these regulations. GMB Brussels Branch will be working to ensure that Assistants are given the best possible protection.
The GMB’s resolution in full:
173. UNFAIR DISMISSAL OF MEPS’ STAFF
- is concerned that, since the introduction of the „Assistants‟ Statute‟ in 2009, the staff of Members of the European Parliament have been subject to a rule which allows them to be dismissed at any time, subject only to a requirement for the MEP to state a reason for the dismissal, with no suspension, no investigation, no fair hearing, no right of appeal and no compensation;
- is concerned that, whilst the majority of MEPs are exemplary employers, some have used this rule as a licence to treat their staff with contempt;
- notes that it can be difficult for MEPs‟ Assistants and for the GMB, as the only Trade Union representing them, to enforce their contractual rights when they can be threatened with dismissal so easily;
- recognises that MEPs‟ Assistants, many of whom are GMB members, provide vital support to MEPs and the European Parliament which should be recognised and valued;
- believes that the European Parliament has been the source of a great deal of positive and important legislation on employment rights, but that in order to have a truly credible voice on employment rights it must set an example to employers across Europe; and
- therefore calls on the GMB’s allies in the European Parliament to be at the forefront of efforts to reform the Assistants‟ Statute and to give their staff greater security and stronger rights at work.
B59 BRUSSELS BRANCH