Brussels row over 3.7% EU salary rises

A row has broken out in Brussels over plans to raise the salaries of tens of thousands of EU staff at a time of deep economic crisis and public sector wage cuts across Europe.

In a public relations disaster for Brussels, an army of eurocrats is in line to receive a 3.7 per cent pay rise and is threatening strike action next week unless it goes ahead. But now Britain, Germany and a raft of other EU countries have launched a last-minute battle to block the increase for nearly 45,000 civil servants, arguing that it is out of step with the downturn.

Just this week, Chancellor Alistair Darling said British public sector staff would face a two-year pay cap from 2011, while the Irish government announced deep cuts in the sector, with Prime Minister Brian Cowen shaving a fifth off his own salary. The belt-tightening has been particularly severe in the Baltics, where teachers and hospital workers have seen their salaries plummet by up to 20 per cent in the past months.

“It would send out completely the wrong signal to go ahead with the rise at this time. It would portray Brussels as a gravy train of fat cats that keeps on rolling while everyone else is tightening their belts,” said one ambassador from a nordic EU country. EU civil servants earn up to €168,000 (£151,000) per year net and enjoy other allowances and generous pension schemes.

Quizzed on the issue during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels yesterday, Gordon Brown said: “Obviously everyone is of the view that pay settlements have got to be reasonable at this time.”

However, the challenge by 20 out of the block’s 27 governments could unleash a bitter legal wrangle as it would break a time-honoured method that member states have themselves endorsed. The calculations take into account the wage increase of national civil servants in eight EU member states and the cost of living in Brussels, based on figures from the previous year. “We’ve never managed to overturn this rule in the past,” another EU diplomat said, referring to the oil crisis of 1972 when member states lost a case against the European Commission.

EU officials and unionists are bristling at the accusation that they do not deserve the wage rise and say they plan to disrupt voting sessions at the European Parliament in Strasbourg next week as well as European Council meetings.

“We are the perfect target for populists because we are seen as being some kind of spoiled elite. We will get a rise now but next year we’ll face big cuts as our salary will reflect what’s been happening across Europe this year,” says George Vlandas of the EU for U union in Brussels. “We are completely in the legal right. And we are prepared to take this to the European Court of Justice if it goes that far and we know we will win because the rule is as clear as day.”

European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, acknowledged that closed-door negotiations had not yet broken a deadlock and reminded reporters on Friday that “rules have to be respected”.

Officials believe that the Council will eventually be forced to accept the pay increase this year but they fear that governments will try to renegotiate the method early next year.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing