English: Morna Robillard, William Blair, Michel Baboulaz.
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.
It is rare that topics, whether they enthuse us or preoccupy us, disappear forever from our life.
Let us take for example our Pension Fund: the topic is ever present, with developments which are sometimes positive, or on the other hand quite negative, with intervening periods of varying lengths of flat calm.
For two years now we have rather been in a tempest which last June necessitated a quite exceptional radical action on our part: the occupation of the CERN Council Chamber. Our gamble paid off: the delegates had to listen to a joint Staff Association/GAC-EPA declaration.
Time will tell if we have been heard. Thank you to all those who took part in such numbers in the demonstrations at CERN and at ESO, either by being present in person or by sending us your messages of support. Particular thanks go to the Committee members, who were the hard core of the occupiers. Today, on the first day of autumn as I write these lines, the storm has apparently calmed, but nothing guarantees that this remains the case when you read these words. The only conclusion: we must remain vigilant and be ready to react.
Continuity and change again. I refer to our Committee which you have just mostly (re)elected. Among the candidates there were few new faces but many colleagues who have already been members of the Committee for 4 or 6 years or even longer. Several of these had made it known, more or less explicitly: “but it is the last time”. Thus it is necessary that in the next two years new willing volunteers come forward so that the defence of our interests also benefits from continuity in change. You have been warned!
As is the custom, the autumn bulletin is the time for me to thank my colleagues on the Committee for our work together (this last word is important) and to wish you already a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2016. And I hope, as in previous years, to see a good number of you at our traditional end of year drink.
For this issue, I have waited till the last minute to write the editorial.
I waited in order to see whether the “International Conference on Natural Health”, for which I had enrolled in June and was to take place in Paris over the first weekend in October, would give me sufficient courage to tell you about it.
My aim was to assess whether our Bulletin for the pensioners of CERN and ESO could also bring to us something new and useful on health matters, and if it could shed light on innovative preventive measures at reasonable costs, with satisfactory results. The health of our Health Insurance Scheme is also one of my preoccupations.
I am delighted to say that my conclusion was positive, so here goes.
From 9 am to 8 pm I followed attentively and in the most critical manner what the following had to say: big names of international renown in medicine Doctors, Professors, Researchers, Specialists, many of whom being able to identify warning signals.
Long and heavy days were spent trying to understand what these men and women had to say about the ways in which people are treated, the doubts and worries about the future which come to one’s mind, the bad situations which one has already seen, but also about innovative solutions proposed and the hopes they raise in those who have heard of them. We were 3000 at the Conference at the Vincennes Floral Park, and 4000 more watched the internet streaming (see photo below).
I am not going to go into detail here about what was said, as I am not in a position to make judgments and this is not my role. I am neither a doctor nor a health specialist; as any citizen I pay attention to developments in the world. I left this Conference with much enthusiasm, hence my wish to share these hopes with you. I am keen for everyone to have a better daily life, and I would like to be a messenger bringing news in that direction.
That is why I invite you to look at the web pages of the Conference, and to search for information which interests you about the origins of pathologies concerning our immediate family circle and perhaps certain others whom we see virtually every day.
Why am I doing this, when I should restrict myself to editing this publication?
Because I think that a publication like ours is not designed solely to give you news of our committee work, of our Pension Fund or of our Health Insurance Scheme. As far as I am concerned it should also help to link us together, notably by giving information about issues which preoccupy pensioners, such as health.What do you think? Your comments will be welcome.
I hope that you enjoy reading all this, notably via the web link and thereafter according to your interests or your need to be informed on health matters.
I wish for you in 2016 excellent health and that it will be an enriching year for you from all points of view.
Happy New Year to one and all !
What about ESO?
In August some of our members organised a summer get-together in a Biergarten in Haag, just outside Munich. About 20 people turned up—the weather was hot but the beer was lovely and cool...
Cigna, the new healthcare provider, came to ESO in May to make a presentation to the active and retired staff. Although little has changed since Vanbreda was taken over by Cigna, the new organisation has put considerable effort in revamping their website to provide additional information and facilitating on-line medical claims for those who so wish.
The ESO Health Working Group has been discussing a number of proposed changes to the healthcare contract—some of which were mentioned in the last Bulletin—to be implemented in the annual contract revision that takes place towards the end of each year. Generally the medical reserve fund is in surplus at the moment. The Health Working Group has nevertheless resisted pressure to reduce premiums for the moment in view of the fact that the number of retired staff at ESO is expected to double over the next 10 years.
As a result of our earlier pressure on the ESO Administration, the healthcare premiums for retired staff are now the same as those for active staff. This has resulted in a 12% drop in cost of contributions for retired beneficiaries in 2015. This was much appreciated by the retirees, but so far ESO has rejected our earlier request made in 2013 to contribute to all of the healthcare premiums for pensioners. At the moment, ESO only contributes to the ‘in-kind’ part that covers low-cost medical cases but not to the ‘stop-loss’ insurance that covers medical cases exceeding 25 K€. Historically, this has been the situation for ESO pensioners ever since the system was initially introduced and it was unfortunately not corrected when ESO Council decided to opt for the CERN system in 2004. However, this is now clearly in conflict with the ESO Healthcare Policy that was introduced in December 2013. We therefore intend to raise this issue once again with the Administration.
News in brief and activities of the Committee — (May to October 2015)
After the summer break our Committee met and resumed its activities on September 4. At that meeting it focussed on the agitations shaking our Pension Fund and also dealt with, among other subjects, the icons of the Health Insurance scheme and the preoccupations of those of our members who came to consult our delegates at the information sessions.
The same issues will come up at the following meetings, and you need not doubt that our will to defend the rights of pensioners remains our main objective.
Here then follow articles giving information in addition to that given in the minutes of the AGM of March 18 2015 and in the Spring Bulletin.
The secretariat is available for any further information which you may wish. Use the contact form to write an e-mail to us (tick "Secretariat").
Composition of the Committee, responsibilities, 2015 elections
Since April 2015 the Committee is composed of 21 elected members, 1 co-opted member, and 1 permanent guest member.
On 17 August 2015 a call was issued for candidates for the 2015 GAC-EPA elections, to serve in 2016—17.
The aims of these elections were on the one hand, to partially renew the membership of the Committee, and on the other to elect an auditor. For the partial renewal of the Committee 14 candidates came forward including 12 elected or coopted members whose mandate expires on 31 December 2015.
For the election of an auditor there were two candidates including the auditor whose mandate expires at the end of the year. Thus we have enough candidates to proceed with the elections, and we are grateful to our members who are standing for election.
The papers for the elections were sent out on 15 October, to be returned by 20 November, and counting will take place on 25 November; GAC-EPA members will be informed of the results in the first bulletin of 2016 and at the 2016 AGM. If possible, information may be given at the informal meeting at 15:30 on 25 November in the Main Auditorium, just before the end of year drink.
GAC-EPA Annual General Meeting
The AGM took place on 18 March 2015, and the minutes were sent to you in June together with the previous bulletin.
These minutes contain much information about the preoccupations of the pensioners; we invite you to refer to the minutes, because every topic covered is more than ever relevant as we approach the end of the year, in particular the anxieties for the Pension Fund which some Member States are generating, also, for a fair number of retirees who live in France, the CSG-CRDS taxation question.
May we remind you to retain these minutes which you will be asked to approve at the next AGM which will be held at the end of March 2016 (date still to be fixed).
Relations with the Staff Associations of CERN and of ESO
In these troubled times when attempts are made to attack acquired rights, it is essential that the Staff Associations of CERN and of ESO and the Pensioners Association GAC-EPA are in constant contact and that they envisage well thought out and co-ordinated actions to defend the interests of current staff and of pensioners.
The wishes of certain CERN Member State delegations to change our Pension Fund began to be expressed already in 2013, and have never ceased since then to mobilise us. This problem is the focus of discussions at every meeting of the Pension Commission of the CERN Staff Association (SA), and our respective Presidents (SA and GAC-EPA) have had many contacts with the management, and in particular with the current CERN Director-General, who is as preoccupied with this situation as we are; the DG has also made his opinion clear in several articles in the CERN Weekly Bulletin.
Our joint appeal to attend the demonstration on June 18 (the day of the CERN Council meeting) was well received since more than 500 current staff and pensioners joined in and we have been able to obtain that the Staff Association President, accompanied by the President of GAC-EPA, could read a joint declaration in front of the Member State delegations; you have been able to read this in the columns of the Echo Bulletin of the Staff Association :
This demonstration, which took place in a calm and dignified manner, did not give rise to any polemics but it showed our determination not to accept without flinching the “diktat” of certain Member States; besides, the CERN management said that it also was satisfied with the form of the demonstration and noted that this action coincided with the position of the “Nine” (elected by the CERN senior staff).
Nevertheless, this did not make the CERN Council give way, since it has mandated 3 experts to study the feasibility of putting in question acquired rights, in particular those affecting the Pension Fund and thus possibly to revisit the agreements negotiated in 2010/2011; the report of these experts is due in the next few weeks; we shall be alert; its contents and the follow up which Council gives to it will determine our future actions
Let us remain alert to combat any questioning of our acquired rights, and be prepared to act.
Relations with the CERN Administration
Reminder: To avoid difficulties in accessing the CERN site, make sure that the papers, for yourself and your wife (as appropriate), are in order, the access card with your name and the sticker for your car: the formalities for these documents are carried out at building 55 on presenting an identity document and your car papers.
Although the Operational Circular no. 2 (rev. 2) “Access conditions to the enclosed domain of CERN”, came into use on 1 September 2014, in its application there remain some problems to resolve, for example:
access to this circular for pensioners—dogs are not admitted
access for several cars
In general, access for pensioners to CERN administrative documents which sometimes concern us is not evident ; we are in contact with the HR and IT departments to try to resolve this problem.
We are aware that a seminar on preparation for retirement is going to be organised in November of this year; The GAC-EPA will be able to present its activities and the interest which retirees have to become members. Beneficiaries of the Pension Fund may of course attend this seminar if they wish.
Relations with the Governing Board of the Pension Fund (PFGB)
The PFGB, whose role is to govern the Pension Fund has been to some extent maltreated since the CERN Council seems to wish to impose its will on it; its prerogatives and its mandate, which nevertheless were defined by Council, are badly treated.
Even so at its meeting on 12 June 2015 it noted the yield of the Fund (2.74% at the end of May) and discussed the 2016 actuarial study to be carried out by the actuary Buck Consultants.
The PFGB also noted that the annual report of the Polish external auditors (NIK) criticises the use of the discount rates IPSAS (30 year bond rates of the Swiss Confederation), which produce irregular variations in the financial commitments of the Fund. Matthew Eyton-Jones, the new Chief Executive Officer (administrator) of the Fund, took up his functions on July 1 2015 and joined the PFGB; Thierry Lagrange, Head of the the Finance Department and interim CEO was congratulated on his work from February to end June 2015. Michel Baboulaz, our representative on the PFGB, having noted that some members of the PFGB had rather superficial knowledge of CERN and its activities, suggested a guided visit to some of the installations; the President welcomed this proposal and a first visit was planned for 23.09.2015 to the SC video exhibition.
Michel also met the new CEO and informed him of the role of GAC-EPA.
Relations with the Health Insurance (CHIS) Board
The CHIS Board deals with health insurance matters and its role is now consultative at the discretion of the Health Insurance administration; nevertheless the discussions which take place in it are not without interest, and our two delegates, Morna Robillard and David Jacobs participate assiduously.
At its latest meeting it was decided to set up a group, led by our on-site doctor Dr Veronique Fassnacht, to look into the possibility of reimbursing infertility treatment.
It was also disclosed that the CERN Social Service is concerned that some pensioners are having difficulty in correctly filling in claim forms ; the President of the CHIS Board as well as the HR Department contact person with UNIQA would welcome the support of GAC-EPA in tackling this; our delegates remarked that while we are not in principle opposed to this, we could not substitute ourselves to the responsibilities of the HR Department of CERN, and besides GAC-EPA does not have contact with every retiree (only around 50% of those are members of our group).
Relations with present and future retirees
When your Committee meets, 10 times a year, its agenda is entirely devoted to matters concerning the defence of the interests of pensioners. The aim is the same when its delegates and representatives take part in the various Staff Association Commissions.
In addition we take care to keep you informed of our work and in case of need to mobilise you as was the case last June.
Here we remind you of the various channels of communication which we use for this:
the General Assembly,
the present biannual Bulletin,
the Staff Association Echo bulletin,
email, if we have your email address ; you can let us have this via the contact form on the welcome page of our web-site via the button ” contact ” or via the direct link which follows:
The CERN Council carries on with its investigation of reform possibilities of our Pension Fund. Pending the joint legal opinions of the three external experts selected by the Council, all hypotheses for a radical change of the CERN-ESO Pension Fund are considered: a switch from the current defined- benefit (DB) scheme to a defined-contribution (DC) one, either for all members, or for active and future members or for future members only. The report by the legal experts is expected in December and the Council has decided that, in parallel with this legal analysis, it would commission a full cost analysis by Buck Consultants of the impact of switching from a DB to a DC scheme.
Reminder : in a DB scheme, pensions are set by the Rules as a percentage of the insured salaries, contributions are then adapted. In a DC scheme, the Rules define first the contributions (usually according to age). The contributions for each member are accumulated in a personal savings account and the retirement pension results from the conversion of these savings into an annuity. Savings accounts may be credited depending on the return obtained by the fund.
The Fund Actuary made several studies, relating to the withdrawal of active members from the Fund, or the introduction of a Progressive Retirement Programme at ESO. A review of the calculation method of costs implied by a hypothetical closure of CERN is under way. The choice of parameters and assumptions (in November 2015) to be used in the coming 2016 Periodic Actuarial Review will have a decisive impact on the calculation of the long term funding level of our Fund.
As the 2015 Five Yearly Review of Employment Conditions at CERN will soon come to an end, it appeared necessary to study the potential impact on the Pension Fund of some measures under consideration : notably the extension to recognized partners of pension benefits, which will cost something, and the new career structure with its « non-recurrent » therefore non-pensionable advancements.
The new CEO took his appointment on the 1st of July and he held meetings with every person involved in the Fund management. He also presented the information meetings for members at ESO and CERN in September, and announced that he will strictly apply the assets preservation strategy, while reducing the share of alternative investments in hedge funds.
As shown in the graph below (presented by the CEO), some global 2015 events had strong impacts on stock markets, from the end of the fixed exchange rate CHF/EUR to the fall of the Chinese market. When compared to Swiss indices for pension funds based on the LPP (Loi sur la Prévoyance Professionnelle), our fund did minimize these moves, both downwards and upwards.
LPP40=fund with 40% invested in quoted equities
LPP25=fund with 25% invested in quoted equities
Monthly investment performance report :
Despite a heavy drop of the return in August, the performance since 2015 start was at +1.67%. The report on next page shows the monthly results since January 2012.
Members and beneficiaries since 1955 :
Distribution of members and beneficiaries as at 31- 12-2014
The Health Insurance Scheme
Since spring, the CHIS board has met just twice (May and August), out of the six occasions foreseen, evidence of its reduced role as reported by Michel Baboulaz in Bulletin No.47.
CERN Management continues to work on the revision of the CHIS rules started in spring. At the time it was promised to bring the draft to the CHIS board for discussion during the summer but so far nothing has been received.
The Director General wrote to France requesting a regularisation of the legal status concerning retirees living in France and receiving a French pension. In May it was reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had transmitted the letter to the Ministry of Social Affairs with a note from the Minister. There was no further news in August.
As mentioned in Bulletin No.48, the CHIS reserve fund is invested with two banks. Following the mid-January financial turmoil, the performance of one has not recovered as much as might be expected but the CERN Management is not open to discussion at the present time.
The CHIS administration reports an increase in the number of pensioners turning to the Social Services for help in filling out reimbursement claims and has informally requested aid from the GAC-EPA Committee. The Committee is, however, firmly of the opinion that it is not the GAC-EPA’s role to act in this way.
News on Approved Health Care Providers
The existing 2014 agreement with HUG has been extended through 2015.
The negotiation of an agreement with Clinique La Métairie (Nyon) has reached an advanced stage (in coordination with the other International Organisations). If concluded, the agreement will give another approved hospital in the region.
UNIQA has presented the statistics of reimbursements in the first six months of 2015, a high proportion naturally reflecting treatment in 2014. Compared with the figures of 30 June last year these show :
A drop of 1.5% in the number of persons insured, now, at 14344
An increase of 4.9% in the total amount reimbursed, now at 36.9 MCHF
An increase of 16% in reimbursements to those in a recognised state of dependency, now at 3.8 MCHF
Almost 80% of the claims concerned expenses in Switzerland.
Statistics on the beneficiaries of the CERN Pension Fund and their affiliation to CHIS
Almost 92% of CERN beneficiaries remain affiliated to CHIS after retirement. For spouses and orphans receiving the survivor’s pension, the proportion is only slightly lower – 88%.
Reminder: help on matters relating to CHIS
Apart from the CERN Social Services mentioned earlier, the UNIQA helpdesk is always there to give aid by telephone, email or in person, if you do have access to the Web, the quickest method is usually to go to the UNIQA website from which you can click on the CERN symbol (UNIQA partner) to reach the CERN website fully describing our Scheme and allowing you to print out forms for Claims, Dental estimates, etc. Also from the UNIQA website you can log-in for Member Access, or create an account if you have not already done so. In the Member Space you can see details of the insurance cover, claims and documents for you and your family. Further improvements to the websites are being worked on and there is a project to improve the clarity of the reimbursement claim form. The periodically published CHIS Bulletin is another source of reliable information.
As usual, Gunilla Santiard, René Barthelemy, Michel Boffard and Jean François Michaud, meet every first Tuesday of the month except in January, July and August (see calendar).
As in previous years the main subject which our colleagues bring up is the CSG and CRDS taxation on CERN pensions. The sessions have been very lively (overflowing even some Tuesdays)
This year a ruling from the European Court of Law has come up allowing some persons to request a reimbursement of the CSG and CRDS taxes levied on income from inheritance and capital gains from real estate. These categories of reimbursement are possible since 2012. A model letter (obviously in French) for requesting reimbursement is at your disposal.
This only applies to persons who are not registered with the CPAM of the French Social Security system
As far as the reimbursement of the CSG/CRDS taxes levied on CERN pensions goes, the C2S group decided to consult a lawyer to look into the details. This was announced at the last General Meeting.
A model case has been filed with the lawyer, Maitre G. TEISSIER in Annemasse and is representative of several similar cases. Two further cases have been filed since and are being examined.
The cases concern :
be a beneficiary of a French retirement pension
own a "Vitale" card
never have used this "Vitale" card
having been taxed for CSG/CRDS on one's CERN retirement pension
not having been able to get reimbursement because of not having obtained proof of non-affiliation to the French Social Security system
being a beneficiary of CHIS.
A letter to request an “Amicable arrangement” for reimbursement has been sent to the CPAM. Since the beginning of July, apart from a receipt to acknowledge receipt of the letter by the CPAM, no further action has taken place. It is a well-known fact that administrative services run at reduced speed during this period of the year though. The lawyer will take up the case again as of 15 October. The other two cases are under review and a request for exemption has been made to the tax authorities.
Apart from the tax business other topics have been brought up and solved in so much as our knowledge and means have allowed this since the beginning of this year.
We trust that the information sessions come up to your expectations and we are always ready and available to listen to your enquiries and give advice.
If you wish to write a word of sympathy to the bereaved family you can send it via the CERN Pension Fund, which has their address but is not authorised to give it to third parties.
This section is reserved for you. We want to present the exploits of our enthusiastic retirees. There is life after CERN, and for many it is rich in achievements. It is these activities that we wish to present to you with our Reporters column. We go in the field to visit those who want to talk to us about the passions of their retired life.
Report : An “inquiring mind, dabbles in everything”
Today I would like to tell you about a CERN retiree, an “inquiring mind, dabbles in everything”, in the positive sense of thirsting for all sorts of knowledge.
I met Jean-Pierre Bertuzzi at the CERN centre for reselling scrap material (formerly “chez Spyse” as you may remember?), to which I occasionally go. Our conversation and reunion were certainly animated, and we got round to talking about growing tomatoes; the interest which I have on this subject led me to decide to meet him the following week for an interview.
Jean-Pierre is a passionate gardener, notable for growing tomatoes. He started with an area of 4x12 metres and he is planning this autumn to construct a greenhouse of 8x20 metres for his favourites. The greenhouse has been bought and I can see now the expressions of his neighbours—who profit from the rich variety of his present crop—when construction is finished.
He knows a lot in this field and has now become one of these rare protectors of varieties which are disappearing. His contacts with other such specialists and his own experiences have led him into research. It is his pleasure not only to keep these types of tomato alive but also to show to his friends that you can have a much better treat eating vanished types than eating those varieties which are available on market stalls. In France today there remain only a few initiated persons who know this, such as Kokopelli, some great chefs, and a network of gardeners who are keen on biodiversity.
But his activities do not stop there. Jean-Pierre is also someone who constructs spaces, who renews things, who will repair anything, and a collector. His big house has become an eclectic storage place where anyone looking for a remnant or a piece of material could find what he is looking for. To the question “but when will you find the time to use everything you have stored to make what you have in your head?” he replies with a laugh “but I don’t give a damn, this is my life!”
Alongside this, he continues to work on his other passions, for example to perfect his latin, by re-reading old texts in order to decipher them in monasteries or libraries of old books.
He is also an enthusiastic collector, notably of electrical and electronic measuring instruments. His profession at CERN naturally led him to “keep under his wing” measuring instruments from the last century, and he has extended this collection to other equipment such as, for example, machines which engrave wax cylinders to make sound recordings of the voice and of music. He still has more than two thousand vinyl discs, this shows how much he likes music...
There you are, I have presented to you with pleasure a different retiree, as an example of what each of us could do on retirement.
Occupation of the Council Meeting room We were there !
On 18 June 2015 at 07:45 Members of the GAC-EPA committee assembled discreetly in front of the Council Chamber with the view to occupying it. A “first” in the history of GAC-EPA. On opening the doors, fifteen committee members in the company of former Staff Association Presidents and a few well-known supporters settled into the chairs of the Member State delegates with one aim in mind—to render the start of the June Council meeting session impossible.
At 08:10 Michel Vitasse gave a brief explanation to explain our presence and immediately after him, the Vice-President of the Staff Association, Celine Grobon, made a few detailed remarks to reassure everyone and explain the happenings on the ground floor too. A screen was switched on to show the activity down below.
At 08:32 the Director-General entered the room brandishing the door handle, probably tipped off by his services, asking who had removed it! Gertjan Bossen quickly reassured him that we were not the culprits but took advantage of the situation in order to voice our peaceful intentions. He then explained why we were there and made the request that both Presidents, of the GAC-EPA and of the Staff Association, be allowed to make a declaration together before the start of Council, straight after the opening of the meeting. The request was accompanied with the sanction that, if refusal to address the meeting was given, the room would remain occupied.
The DG then asked to hear what the declaration would be. Michel Goossens read it out, the DG thought it a bit long but accepted the principle of a declaration at the start of the meeting. He then went off to where the Member State delegates were taking their breakfast in order to inform Madame, the Chairman of Council.
On his return at 08:53 he told us that the idea to read out the declaration had been accepted by a large majority of delegates and Madame the Chairman of Council, and he asked that the room be vacated.
Gertjan Bossen asked everyone to meet in the anti-chamber of the Council Chamber in order to welcome the delegates. On arrival a few words were exchanged with smiles all round between the two Presidents and Madame the Chairman of Council, and the somewhat surprised delegates were able to take their places, watched closely by the demonstrators.
The door closed and then we heard that the two Presidents had been requested to take the floor to make their declaration. We all went down five floors to get a coffee, sure that our action had made an impact and to talk it over.