In its 13 September 2017 edition, the evergreen "Commission en direct" proposed an article on the Mediation Service, under the proud slogan: "going beyond conflict".
It deserves closer attention.
Behind the smiley faces of the mediator and his team hides a different reality: that of an appointment that gave rise to objections at the highest level (Mr Barroso and Mrs Georgieva) from the Central Staff Committee regarding the selection procedure and the operation of the service.
The FFPE wishes to take this opportunity to repeat that criticism and its recommendations, which are as topical now as ever.
- On the appointment procedure
If there is one person whose appointment should be consensual, it is without doubt the Mediator. Despite that, the current occupant was appointed in 2016 (for the first, and, we hope, last time) without any proper consultation of staff representatives.
But the mediator's CV merited close examination
It showed no experience in mediation, but experience in conflict resolution (whatever that means) and a long career in DG HR and, more particularly, in the disciplinary office and the medical service.
In other words, he is an "insider mediator".
Does that inspire confidence in the independence of his so-called Service? Not really, it's not surprising that staff representatives follow procedures introduced by colleagues with some trepidation.
- On the current operation of the service
It is inconceivable for an institution like ours to have a skeleton staff of just four posts in total when there are so many conflicts and tensions in a multicultural working environment, where staff is subjected to all sorts of pressures.
And that despite the service's own reports which show an increasing number of cases and more and more conflictual relationships, which require time and qualified staff.
Resources are also lacking when it comes to follow-up to the general recommendations included in the Mediation service's reports, while successive "Staff surveys" point to growing dissatisfaction.
The mobility diktat affecting heads of unit and never ending reorganisation of DGs just exacerbates friction and resentment.
The FFPE believes in a truly independent professional service with resources commensurate with its mission. That means
- Enriching the Mediation service with real mediation professionals;
- Ensuring that all mediation is impartial, neutral and independent;
- Linking the Mediation service to the network of confidential counsellors whose experience is an invaluable resource;
- Better defining the mission and ambition of the service, going beyond an auto regulatory and corporatist approach, it should prevent or resolve conflict by restoring social links.
The FFPE considers that mediation has a key role to play in preventing conflict at work from worsening and can, to a large extent, avoid the growth of discomfort and tension situations that are detrimental for staff and the Institution.
We therefore ask our Commissioner, Mr Oettinger, to carry out an urgent in-depth review of the operation of the Mediation service.
You will never walk alone !