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Friday, January 08, 2010

Infuriating and fatal

Over on Comment is Free we take a look at the simmering EU pay dispute, which took a new turn yesterday when the Commission decided to take all 27 EU member states to the ECJ over their refusal to increase their offer of a 1.85% pay rise for EU officials to 3.7%.

It seems it is not only us that think this is a ridiculous situation. An article in Die Welt by Brussels correspondent Hannelore Crolly argues that,

"It is a fatal decision for the EU Commission to argue over the increase in payment to 50,000 already well-paid employees in the face of objections from the debt ridden member states in court…In a deliberately insensitive and almost frightening way, the Commission is again sending the wrong message to the people, who it should be trying to win over for the European cause."
Similarly an article in K├Âlner Stadt Anzeiger argues: “The EU is fighting against the countries that support it. It is not just painful, it is infuriating.”

In today's WSJ Charles Forelle takes a critical look at the "compulsory method" that was used to arrive at the 3.7% pay increase demanded by EU civil servants and which has become central to the dispute. He notes that,

"To crunch the civil servants' cost-of-living adjustment, the EU's statistical office doesn't rely on Belgian data for housing costs. Instead, each year it surveys its own staffers, asking them how much they pay. The purpose isn't lost on those surveyed. A privacy statement attached to the survey says the data will be used "for the calculation of the annual salary adjustment."
He adds,
"Rent-survey data accounted for nearly all of the increase in the EU's
bespoke cost-of-living figure…Had the EU used the Belgian consumer-price index -
which fell 1.1% - to adjust the civil-servant salaries, the raise would have
been a more recession-friendly 1.7%, instead of the now-vilified 3.7%."

As we've argued before, with civil servants in Latvia seeing their pay cut by 25% and Ireland slashing 1.3 billion euros off its public sector wage bill, EU officials' refusal to accept a compromise wage increase of 1.85% does seem rather churlish, to put it mildly.

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