English: Morna Robillard, William Blair, David Dallman.
Photos credits, tables: CERN, ESO, PFGB, CHIS, B. Ducret
Printing: CERN printshop
The editorial staff is in no way responsible for the texts, drawings, graphics and photos published. The sole responsibilty lies with the authors. All elements constituting this publication are the property of GAC-EPA and cannot be used without the express written authorization of the publisher.
Most of you will doubtless call summer 2014 poor, if not worse than that, despite the wish for a glorious summer which I expressed in my previous message. And this was not the only concern which we had to deal with over this period: storm clouds presaging a war in Europe grew, not to mention atrocities committed in the Near and Middle East. Whilst we, retirees, had to worry about increasing attacks on our pensions by certain Member States, together with — for the hundreds of us who live in France — a modified application of the CSG-CRDS taxes greatly affecting their income. Meanwhile those affected have formed an Association to analyse the situation in detail in order to undertake the necessary actions in due course. The CERN Council for its part has finally understood that to put in question the honesty of CERN staff (including the Directorate) and to ignore its own rules of governance was not the best way to celebrate 60 years of CERN in the service of peace. These clouds have somewhat dissipated, although we should remain very vigilant, as Council has asked each Member State to inform its President of the changes which they wish to see to our pension conditions. And also one can be a little more optimistic about the possibility of resolving the problems in Eastern Europe without recourse to weapons. And, to return to the topic of summer weather, one can find a minority among us who are pleased to find again youthful memories of summers without tropical nights.
I would like also to take up again what I call the difficult art of communication. As you have certainly observed, since spring your Committee has had a number of hiccups in communicating with you, our members: mail arriving late (or even not at all), errors in addresses and in spelling, double mailings, etc. This has been very unpleasant for you, and I apologise for this, even if most of this was not due to the Committee. We are sure that we are now in good shape with an up-to-date data base of our members which is constantly being improved, and a new way of transmitting these data to the CERN service which takes charge of our mailing. Nevertheless, as I already mentioned last year, the CERN services are less and less at ease with our requests to communicate with you via paper documents, as communication with active staff is now 100% electronic. Thus your Committee has decided that from the beginning of 2015, but only for those who so wish, our communication with you will be electronic and I invite you to read the relevant article in this issue of our Bulletin. For those who wish, for the present, to remain with the usual means of communication by paper, nothing will change.
When you read the present Bulletin you will see that your Committee has not been idle this year, and I thank all members for their work.
Finally I give you my best wishes for the Festive Season and for 2015, and hope that we shall see many of you at our end of year drink.
The new format of our Bulletin and its content have given rise to a certain number of comments addressed to the editor. This shows that it is being read, that the readership is not indifferent and that it gives you at least a part of what you expect from it. The comments received were all positive. One of them allowed us to make a small but important correction in this issue no. 47.
We are going to continue to increase the number of contributions and I would like to encourage you to help us to make firm the ideas presented below. If you have any other ideas, just write to us.
To speak of the sphere of the retired staff of CERN, is to address them as individuals, to speak of their personal experiences, of their health (for example, providing them with information on the best methods of keeping well), of the creative activities, and much else.
A delicate and touchy subject: to speak about health, yes, but how? How to share positive personal experiences of other retired staff, how to provide to others information on health, how to help colleagues who have seemingly tried everything but who would desperately like to regain a more agreeable lifestyle.
The Bulletin could also serve to renew contacts with former colleagues who have lost touch. One could imagine that some might like to invite and play host to former colleagues at home, or to exchange residences for holidays. The distances between us could serve as a motivation for travelling in less onerous conditions and the travel could be more enriching by having a local guide.
Finally, a readers’ column could see the light of day. I am sure that you all have something to say and ideas to share. So, don’t hesitate, write to us, we will be pleased to dialogue with you.
What about ESO?
ESO Pensioners News
The ESO Healthcare Working Group, in which ESO pensioners are represented by Sandro D’Odorico, monitors the working of the ESO healthcare insurance scheme with Vanbreda International (now part of the Cigna group). The main task of this committee is to make recommendations to the ESO Administration on improvements to the scheme whilst recognising that increased benefits can lead to increased costs. As with any contract, there are sometimes medical cases or new treatments that are not adequately addressed in the contract or differences of interpretation. In such cases the Healthcare Working Group also servesas an intermediary between the individual beneficiaries and Vanbreda when other channels have been exhausted.
One of the main complaints of retired staff in the last few years has been the higher premiums paid for the so-called ‘stop-loss’ insurance that covers the reimbursement of high cost medical cases. Although this represents a smaller part of the overall healthcare premium, ESO has traditionally not contributed to this for retired staff as it does for active staff. Moreover, since 2010, the premiums for retired staff were more than doubled (increased from 0.41% to 1.1%) although the premiums for active staff remained the same at 0.41%.
Although ESO has so far still not agreed to our request to contribute to the stop-loss premium as it does for active staff, we have recently received notification (unofficially at the time of writing) that the stop loss premiums for pensioners will be reduced from 1.1% to 0.57% as from 1 January 2015. This is a welcome step in the right direction for retired ESO staff to be treated equally to active staff.
ESO Staff Association
Despite frequent requests, the ESO Staff Association has not advanced significantly with the revision of its Statutes since the last Bulletin was published in the spring. It seems that the optimism I expressed at that time was misplaced! It is clear that this matter has not had a very high priority for the Staff Association, although I will continue to press them on this as it will lead to advantages for ESO retirees.
As well as the mailing list of ESO pensioners that is maintained by the ESO GAC-EPA representative, we have also been working for some time with those responsible for the main ESO mailing list. This has a relatively new category of ‘ESO Alumni’ that includes retired ESO staff, which allows them to be sent automatically the yearly ESO photo-calendar and annual report if they so wish.
Since the completion of the new extension to the ESO Headquarters in Garching, the access control system for the entire building was renewed. After a few teething troubles, ESO pensioners are now included in this scheme, allowing them access to the car park, main entrance door and to the Max- Planck canteen next door.
News in brief of the Committee — (May to October 2014)
The time has come to give you some news about the activities of the Committee and some of the important subjects that your delegates have had to confront during these last few months. This updates the information given in the Spring 2014 Bulletin and at the General Assembly.
CERN is a laboratory at the forefront of fundamental physics where many scientific teams from all over the world come to use its installations for their experiments, with success. However, CERN is also affected by the financial difficulties of its Member States who do not hesitate to sometimes call into question our employment conditions, in particular concerning social protection, thus creating uncertainty for the staff and doubtless during recruitment too. This also affects us, the retirees.
We summarise here some aspects of these activities, some of which are developed in more detail in the specific sections.
Composition of the Committee, attribution of functions, 2014 elections
There have been no changes in the composition of the Committee since 1 January 2014; the members retain their functions. Michel Boffard, who is our substitute representative for the Mutual Aid Fund, wanted to help the group that takes care of the Information Sessions from 7 October 2014.
A call for candidates for the 2014 GAC-EPA elections for the period 2015-2016 was sent out on 15 August 2014. These elections are for a partial renewal of the Committee and for the election of an auditor.
Twelve members have put forward their name for the partial renewal of the Committee; among these are 8 current members of the Committee whose mandate comes to an end on 31 December 2014. Four members have put forward their name for the election of the auditor.
We therefore have sufficient candidates to open formal elections. We are very happy that members are engaged enough to present their candidacy. The election documents were sent out on 20 October and the counting of the ballots will take place on 26 November 2014. The results will be announced in the first Bulletin of 2015 and at the General Assembly in 2015.
GAC-EPA Annual General Meeting
You have been informed about the AGM of 26 March 2014 and even if you could not attend, you will have noticed that several subjects are preoccupying the retirees and the active staff.
All the topics that came up are still current as we come to the end of the year, in particular the worries that certain Member States are causing over the Pension Fund, and, for those retirees residing in France, the CSG-CRDS taxes.
We greatly regret that, for reasons beyond our control, the AGM could not be followed on a webcast as we had planned.
￼Reminder: Please retain the Minutes since you will be asked to approve them at the next AGM which will take place at the end of March 2015 (date not yet fixed).
Relations with the Staff Association
We maintain the necessary contacts with the Staff Association (SA) to whom the GAC-EPA is attached. Our delegates and representatives take part in the work of the Staff Council, the various Commissions and the Mutual Aid Fund, all under the auspices of the SA, as well as the Working Group on Pension Guarantees, whenever the agendas have items of interest to the retirees.
Since the beginning of the year our representatives have taken part in many meetings of the Pensions Commission, this because of the desire to attack our pensions via a resolution emanating from one Member State delegation, but apparently looked upon favourably by other delegations, that wishes to go back on the measures agreed in 2010/2011 to stabilize the Pension Fund (PF); also the delegations undermined the governance rules of the PF by short-circuiting the primary role of the Governing Board of the PF.
The SA and GAC-EPA reacted vigourously, determined to react to what can only be called an unjustified attack on the agreements passed between CERN, the staff, the retirees and the Member States; the most significant actions being: In our previous Bulletin we published the joint SA/ GAC-EPA letter addressed to the President of the CERN Council at the end of January 2014.
Then on 19 June, an appeal was sent out to ask members to demonstrate during the Finance Committee meeting and before the meeting of the CERN Council on 20 June. The retirees turned out in large numbers and signed a petition against the « vague proposals » of certain Member States. These actions and other, less visible, but just as determined seem to have borne fruit since the CERN Council in its session of 20 June concluded thus:
“In fact on Thursday, CERN Council concluded that a new resolution was not actually necessary.”
Nevertheless the CERN Council put on the agenda for its meeting of 18 September a « mandate for a Working Group of Council on the Pension Fund ».
The SA and GAC-EPA reacted immediately by sending a letter to the Member State delegations to the CERN Council expressing their incomprehension at this move and reminding them that according to the Governing Board of the Pension Fund there is no necessity today to take such an action.
We then learnt that:« Le Conseil a décidé de ne pas créer un groupe de travail. Cependant chaque État Membre est invité, avant mi-octobre, à clairement exprimer auprès de la Présidence du Conseil les changements souhaités dans les conditions de pensions du CERN ».(sic)
On reading the last sentence, it is evident that the subject is not closed and we shall have to be particularly vigilant in this matter.
Relations with the CERN Administration and the Governing Board of the Pension Fund (PFGB)
Reminder: To avoid problems in accessing the CERN sites, make sure that your access card and car sticker are up to date: the formalities for these essential documents are carried out at Building 55 upon presentation of identity papers and the car papers.
We have been informed that the Globe car park is accessible to retirees from 1 October 2014 (after the festivities for the 60th anniversary of CERN); you have no doubt been able to find out about these events from the articles published in the Bulletin of CERN.
Operational Circular No. 2 (Rev. 2), “Conditions of access to the fenced parts of the CERN site”, came into effect on 1 September 2014; some application problems have appeared and we are trying to resolve them.
In the previous Bulletin we mentioned several subjects that our President was discussing with the Director of Administration; here is the current situation:
Operational Circular No. 2 should address the problem of access to the sites and parking. This is in principle resolved: see above.
In order to make our Association better known to people who are retiring, it has been agreed to make the existence of GAC-EPA more visible in the letter that HR sends out to all those who are retiring. We must check that this is happening.
Finally, Gertjan insisted to the Director that the Administration should show that retirees are still a part of the CERN community. We shall doubtless have to come back to this point on a regular basis.
After a discussion between the person in charge of CERN Computer security and Gertjan, retirees should be able to keep their CERN computer identity, with no time limit, but access to data will be limited to our need to consult CERN documents; WiFi access should also be possible; he asked us to think about our needs and wishes so that they can be passed on to the responsible person; the members of GAC-EPA were consulted on this matter in the previous Bulletin. There has been no progress for the moment.
Through Claude Genier, our delegate and member of the Governing Board of the Pension Fund, we are closely following the work of GBPF in charge of the governance of the Pension Fund.
We have asked the PFGB to intervene to provide us with information on the investments by the administrator of the Fund. There has been some reticence.
At the annual information meeting of the PF, Th. Economou, the administrator, announced his departure at the end of his mandate in 2015. CERN has started the recruitment procedure for his replacement.
The CHIS Board is another instance where we are in regular contact via our two delegates, Michel Baboulaz and David Jacobs; the CHIS Board has seen its rôle reduced this year after various reports from the external and internal auditors; whereas previously it proposed modifications to the Rules of the CHIS, it can now only give its opinion on proposals emanating from the Administration. The CHIS Board also regularly informs us about the situation of the Health Insurance Scheme by means of its regular Bulletin (CHIS Bull). The latest number of this Bulletin published an article about the liability of certain retirees for the French CSG et CRDS taxes. We reacted to this via our delegates; you will find a more detailed article about the Health Insurance Scheme elsewhere in this Bulletin.
Relation with present and future retirees
As often mentioned our aim is to keep you informed of what is happening within CERN and ESO, and to help you, principally with the subjects of concern to retirees such as social protection (Pension Fund, Health Insurance Scheme, pension guarantees etc.). We have several channels for this:
this biennial Bulletin
the Staff Association bulletin Echo
e-mail, if we have your e-mail addres; you can send it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org (adress no longer in use/adresse plus en service)
There are also our Information Sessions, run by four members of the Committee, held on the first Tuesday of the month (except January, July and August) and always appreciated. We can help with your personal problems by pointing you towards solutions, but we advise you to obtain confirmation from the relevant administrations since they are the only ones who can give you an official answer. These last few months we have had a lot to do with the French CSG and CRDS taxes. All is not resolved, far from it, as you can see in the article about the Information Sessions.
In 2014 some of you requested a Staff Association card that you can use to obtain discounts. Please forgive us for not having been able to provide these cards earlier in the year. Several factors beyond our control were at the origin of this delay.
If you want an SA card in 2015, please let us know.
Since the end of the year is approaching, we would like to remind you of the end-of-year drink which is highly appreciated. You will be receiving an invitation, but take note that it will be held on Wednesday 26 November at 16:30 in Restaurant No. 1 Novae.
Following the presentation of the actuarial study to Council at the end of 2013 which led in consequence to some delegations having doubts as to the good health of our Pension fund, I closed my article in the spring 2014 Bulletin with the warning ‘remain vigilant and ready to mobilise in case of attacks on our pensions’ Here is a summary of what has happened this summer. The warning to be vigilant remains unfortunately still valid.
Our mobilisation en masse in June succeeded in discouraging the delegations from voting a resolution in Council which would have put into question the agreements of 2010 with grave consequences for our Pension Fund. Since then at the end of the summer we have been confronted with new attempts to put into question our acquired rights.
Indeed, we learned that on the agenda of the CERN Council of September 18 there appeared the mandate for a ‘Council Working Group on the Pension11 Fund’. The Presidents of the Staff Association and of GAC-EPA, in agreement with the Pensions Committee saw that this was a reason to react immediately, and sent an open letter to all Member State delegates to Council and to the Finance Committee, expressing our lack of understanding of this approach and reminding them that according to the Governing Board of the Pension Fund it is unnecessary at present to act in this way. Clearly some delegations are pressing for the annual contribution of 63 MCHF from the Member States to the Fund to be used instead for physics, and, also they would like the Fund which at present gives ‘priority to benefits’, to instead give ‘priority to contributions’.
The open letter from the Staff Association and GAC-EPA resulted in the fact that such a working group has not been created at the present time, and so this danger has been avoided at least for the present, but vigilance remains the order of the day!
This remains all the more true because the CERN external auditors, the Polish state auditors, have made very critical remarks about the current governance of the Pension Fund, suggesting that the current representation on the Governing Board of the Pension Fund by current and retired staff members (4 at present) is too much compared to that of the Member States. This study, being carried out at present, could lead to putting in question or even a weakening of our representation on the Governing Board.
Some good news even so
Indeed our Pension Fund is in good health! The latest results of the performance of our Fund show this: at the end of July 2014 the return on the Fund for 2014 was 3.20%, which is 1.34 points above the target of 3% above inflation, while of course remaining within the risk limits defined by the Governing Board.
The following table presents a complete overview of the situation of the Fund at the end of July in the usual format.
The assets of the Fund have now gone back above the benchmark of 4 billion CHF, and the investments are well managed by the Investment Committee of the Pension Fund, which is now chaired by Alessandro Raimondo of the Staff Association.
I remind you that the situation of the Fund is published regularly and that its quarterly report can be consulted.
In addition, for those of you who were unable to attend the annual information meeting of the Pension Fund which was held on 16 September 2014, you can consult the report presented then on-line.
Furthermore, the long term forecasts of the actuary are confirmed: the latest ‘dashboard’ (quarterly update of the actual forecasts) published by the actuary and validated by the Technical Committee of the Pension Fund (now chaired by Sylvain Weisz of the Staff Association), indicates that the rate of coverage of the Fund will reach 100% in 2041, which is the target set by the decisions taken in 2010 for rebalancing the Fund. So the objective has been reached… for the moment.
As announced at the Annual Meeting on 26 March the CHIS board, which was a supervisory committee, is now limited to the follow-up and comment of the management of our Health Insurance Scheme. This results from the amendment to the Rules of the Health Insurance agreed by the Director-General and effective as of 1st June 2014. This amendment sets out the roles of the Administrator of the Scheme and the Strategic Advisor who assists the Director General and chairs the CHIS board which in turn is a sub-group of the Standing Concertation Committee (SCC). The CHIS board consists of 4 members nominated by the Director-General, of which the Administrator is one, 4 members nominated by the Staff Association of which 2 members representing the GAC-EPA.
I read out a declaration from the GAC-EPA Committee at the CHIS board meeting in August, in reaction to the article entitled “Taxation of certain pensioners under CSG/CRDS” which appeared in the last CHIS Bull, No. 38. This declaration initiated an exchange of opinions and information between the Chairman of the CHIS board and the GAC-EPA Committee, see GAC-EPA Bulletin for feedback.
Adjudication of Third-Party Contract for the Health Insurance Scheme (Administrator)
In September another lengthy procedure came to a close, the attribution of a contract for the management our Health Insurance Scheme, which has been renewed with UNIQA by the Finance Committee. Several companies were involved and the technical specifications of each offer were carefully examined with the help of external consultants. In particular, the procedure necessary for any change-over in the manner of dealing with reimbursements to ensure the least possible upset was studied. Finally though, UNIQA was retained and any difficulties in a change-over avoided. Nevertheless, UNIQA must review their computing procedures, in particular the electronic submission of reimbursements via internet.
UNIQA issued statistics on 30 June 2014. These figures show in comparison with those of 30 June 2013 as follows :
an increase of 1.8% in the number of persons insured, now at 14557
an increase of 2.8% of the total amount reimbursed, now at 35.2MCHF
an increase of 15% of the number of dependant persons, now at 228
As a result of negotiation in common with other international organizations it has been possible to conclude a tariff agreement with the Clinique de la Colline in Geneva which becomes an approved provider as of 1st July 2014. This clinic has been added to the list of Approved Healthcare Providers as published in the CHIS Bull no. 38.
Frequently Asked Questions
A prescription issued by a Swiss doctor is valid and accepted by a Pharmacy in France and vice-versa.
Each year, as always, Gunilla Santiard, Rene Barthelemy and Jean Francois Michaud, the Information Sessions team helped colleagues to solve more or less minor problems.
Again the question of paying CSG and CRDS taxes was the number one problem. In order to help with this recurrent question which is on the increase, the Committee set up a “CSG GROUP” comprised of Jean-Claude Gouache, Michel Baboulaz and Jean-Francois Michaud.
First of all the Group got in touch with the French Diplomatic Mission in Geneva, then with the AFIF (Association of International French Civil Servants) as well as with the Pensioners’ networks of some international organizations in Geneva. A meeting took place at the French Mission where it was decided that an inventory of persons concerned 15 and a questionnaire be set up. Everyone interested in the Group replied via the GAC-EPA website. In all, the survey covered 165 persons.
A meeting with Mrs Thevenot, chair of the AFIF who supported all our efforts, took place. The outcome was a first contact with pensioners at the ILO (International Labour Office). Another meeting would be good, as obviously we are taking similar steps in the same direction.
Here are the results of the survey and some comments.
(CV = Carte Vitale)
10 personnes ne sont pas concernées et se répartissent ainsi : (elles ne touchent pas de retraite française).
7 personnes sont du département de l’Ain.
2 personnes sont du département de la Haute Savoie.
1 personne d’un autre département.
Les 24 personnes qui sont du département de la Haute Savoie :
2 personnes ont été assujetties à la CSG :
1 personne, possédant une CV et l’utilisant.
1 personne n’a pas de CV. Elle doit demander et obtenir de la CPAM un justificatif pour être remboursée
4 personnes ayant et utilisant la CV passent à travers …
18 personnes n’ont pas été concernées. Pas de CV.
Les 23 personnes qui sont d’un autre département que l’Ain et la Haute Savoie :
9 personnes ont une CV et l’utilisent mais aucune n’a été concernée par l’assujettissement …
1 personne a été assujettie, mais n’a pas de CV; elle doit demander un justificatif à la CPAM pour être remboursée.
13 personnes n’ont pas été concernées. Pas de CV
Les 108 personnes qui sont du département de l’Ain :
Sur les 108 :
76 personnes ont été assujetties à la CSG et, parmi elles, on note 7 réponses incomplètes à notre questionnaire.
Sur les 69 réponses restantes exploitables :
7 personnes ont une CV jamais utilisée; question : comment le prouver ?
4 personnes n’ont pas de CV : elles doivent demander un justificatif à la CPAM pour être remboursées
6 personnes seront taxées car elles possèdent une CV et ont effectué des demandes de remboursements
52 personnes ont été remboursées de la CSG et de la CRDS.
32 personnes n’ont pas été concernées : Pas de Carte Vitale.
A noter enfin que 11 personnes doivent fournir un justificatif ou prouver la non-utilisation de la CV.
These results show that the Ain department is in the front line.
The AFIF meeting of 9 October did not give a reply to the following questions:
Can you give back your French pension even after claiming it for several years?
Can you ask to be struck off the CPAM of the French Health Insurance system?
Can you hand back your French Health Insurance Card (Carte Vitale)?
How can you prove you have never used your French Health Insurance Card?
A meeting has been arranged for the end of October with the firm of lawyers Tessier in Annemasse. It may provide some answers to the above.
End November we expect to receive a reply from the European Commission about international civil servants paying CSG and CRDS taxes in France.
A few special cases as well as questions related to the Health Insurance Scheme and UNIQA reimbursements were dealt with by the Information Sessions team.
As always the most-read page of the GAC-EPA site is, alas, the obituary. Please remember the limitations of this list, and notify me of any error.
Thank you to all those who have opted for electronic communication only, it does help with the expenses of the GAC-EPA.
Some communication will remain on paper, for example the ballot papers for the elections.
Please communicate to the treasurer any effective or planned change in both your postal and electronic address.
The site continues to improve slowly, but steadily. The main goals for the near future are to propagate the new format to all existing pages and to adapt them also for reading on mobile devices. More and more of you are using tablets as the prime device to access content on the web. My top criteria remain readability and adaptation to problems of vision. I hope to make considerable progress there.
Jean-Marie Thomas collected copies of the old bulletins from the first days of what was then just the GAC. I intend to have them all scanned and converted to searchable texts (by optical character recognition or OCR) and then add them to the bulletins that are already available. Some contain valuable references to previous Pension Fund actions.
There is enough work, be patient… And if you are adept at computing, remember that I’m still looking for a successor!