Morna Robillard, Susan Leech O'Neale, William Blair, Susan Maio, Michel Baboulaz, David Jacobs
Photo credits, tables: CERN, ESO, PFGB, CHIS
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.
This is the title of an article that I read recently. Of course, the author concluded that what you think depends on your own preferences and affinities.
That times change is not a scoop. I saw this again when I was in a meeting with some CERN pensioners trying to put names to persons and/or pieces of equipment, photographed in the sixties. A thrilling experience where I found here a site where a staircase of two steps was not “protected” by a ramp to prevent falls, there handling heavy equipment without the precautions we expect today, and everywhere the flagrant absence of female colleagues. Do you prefer the good old days or modern times?
Today I could do without the fences in Geneva around every puddle, in order, so they say, to prevent drownings; the presence of lawyers' offices next to doctors' surgeries so as to incite you to sue if your illness does not go away instantly. Here I prefer by far the good old days when legal intrusions were an American speciality and we relied on common sense.
What has all this got to do with GAC-EPA?
The long saga of our physical and computer access to CERN shows that the attitudes underlying the phenomena mentioned above concern us directly in our daily lives: it took repeated actions by your Committee to have our rights and liberties recognised, even though we had to accept being subject to identity controls at each entry and exit.
We have also been active with repeated actions to ensure that our representation in the organs of governance of our social protection systems (Pension Fund and Health Insurance) does not lose in quality or impact. The excessive veneration of audits and blind faith in certain neo-liberal confabulations of “good governance” represent a permanent danger that we must ceaselessly confront. Let us never forget Rosa Luxemburg's warning : “formal democratic institutions are nothing else than instruments of the interests of the dominant class”.
The year 2017 is coming to an end; it is the time to reflect on the past and on how we would like to live as positively as possible in the coming year.
I wish you all and your dearest a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2018.
For years men and women have sacrificed their careers, their social environment, their liberty, even their life, to denounce what they believe to be unjust and inadmissible. They have struggled against what seemed to them to be contrary to the development of life, the restriction of individual
liberty, dangers to the planet. Some research workers are concerned about this situation as I write these lines, we can call them today those who “Raise the Alarm”.
These look-outs, we can find them in numerous areas of the economy - industry, finance, health, politics, communication… They are in more and more danger it seems proportionally according to the amount of financial prejudice their discoveries make public.
We, typical citizens, can remain out of this and close our eyes, as when we encounter a beggar in the street, but as for me, I cannot do this and I think incessantly of the celebrated words of Stephane Hessel — “be indignant”.
Every time I discover a new case in the press —or in specialised news channels— I ask how the public can still remain deaf and behave as if nothing happens. One has to believe that people do not see the dangers and have become completely anaesthetised…
Recently at a health conference in Paris I realised how much the public is kept on the margin of some practices in this area. Many reputable and honest researchers rushed to the ramparts and tried to be heard. I could deplore the gap between reality and what a certain industry supported by a galaxy of unrestrained media and politicians is capable of doing in the field of pollution of our planet, including mafia type practices, and how they treat those who raise the alarm.
The prevalent attitude is as always to try to silence people, by cutting research budgets, closing access to scientific publications, damaging their reputation via the main media, attacking, via sponsored methods, their disturbing discoveries. Once the researcher is mastered, again there is silence and they pass to something else, until the next time…
I am honoured and happy to have worked at a world renowned research centre, CERN; I rejoice that every day I worked there has never, at least till now, been profit driven, long may that be the case…
I wish you Merry Christmas and a good year in 2018.
Your attention please :
Please! Take pity on our treasurer by taking into account that the annual fee is CHF30 since 2014.
Please modify your standing order.
The GAC-EPA accounts are the following :
Since 1 September 2017, ESO has a new DG , Xavier Barcons. I met him shortly after he took over and explained some of the concerns of the ESO Pensioners, in particular those of the pension guarantees and of health care. On the question of health care, a long standing issue for pensioners is that ESO does not contribute at all to their 'Stop-Loss' health insurance premiums as it does for active staff. I told Xavier I would like him, together with the new Director of Administration (see below) to re-visit this issue that had always been summarily refused by the previous administration. In due course I will prepare a summary paper for him outlining our position.
Director of Administration
The previous head of administration, Patrick Geeraert, left ESO at the end of August to return to CERN. His successor, as from mid- October, is Ms Claudia Burger.
ESO has been without a mandated Staff Association committee for over a year. This was because of the difficulties in the acceptance of the proposed 'Staff Association Recognition Agreement' as mentioned in previous Bulletins. The aim of this agreement is to better define the role and responsibilities of the Staff Association as under the previous ESO administration, the Association had on many occasions found themselves side-lined by the management. However, with recent staff elections held in the summer, a new staff committee has been elected to enable a fresh start with the new DG. I have met with the new staff committee and again clarified the issues important to retired staff. For the new Chairman, Gie Han Tan, the approval of the Recognition Agreement is of top priority, but the approval of the new Staff Association statutes is also of high importance. The new statutes are one of the main unfinished activities that relate to retired staff. I have offered to work with the new committee to help finalise this document as it also includes the future affiliation of ESO GAC-EPA members.
In August there was a meeting of the ESO Health Working Group. This was mainly to prepare a list of points for discussion at the upcoming annual meeting between Cigna, the healthcare provider, and ESO. A number of the issues are old points that have never been satisfactorily resolved, like the updating of some of the reimbursement ceilings and Long Term Care benefits, as well as the rehabilitation costs after an operation. Another request is for increased transparency for decisions made by the Cigna medical consultant.
Exactly 11 months after I wrote my request to the previous DG on the threshold level for Article 20 applied for pensioners, I received a formal reply from the head of HR. The conclusions are the same as I had heard informally and explained in the previous Bulletin.
Once again in August, a number of retired ESO staff met for a get-together in the Biergarten in Haag an der Amper, just north of Munich.
News in brief and activities of the Committee — (May-October 2017 period)
The Secretariat remains at your disposal for any additional details through the contact form.
Composition of the Committee, allocation of posts, 2017 election
The current Committee has been in place since 3rd February 2017 and since then, no changes have occurred in the distribution of posts. The Committee thus comprises 21 elected members, 1 coopted member and 2 invited members.
This period of the year is election time. We have to partially renew the Committee since 12 elected members are coming to the end of their current mandates; one of the two auditors will also be reaching the end of his mandate, so we have to elect a replacement.
The 2017 election concerns the mandate period 2018-2019.
Following the request for candidates made on 14 August 2017, we have 13 candidates : 11 of the 12 who are finishing their current mandates, 1 of the currently invited members and one new candidate. We therefore have enough candidates to hold a formal election.
Concerning the auditors, we have received just a single candidature, this being the auditor who is reaching the end of his current mandate, so we consider, as was decided in a similar situation in 2013, that a formal election is not necessary and so this candidate is implicitly reelected.
Important note :
In future we would be very happy to receive more candidatures from recently retired GAC-EPA members; most of the current members of the Committee have devoted many years serving the interests of the retired staff and a certain renewal would be very welcome.
The documents for the election were sent out on 13th October 2017, for return of the ballot papers by 15th November at the latest; the counting will take place on 21st November and the announcement of the results will be made the same day during an informal information meeting. In addition the members of the GAC-EPA will also be informed of the results in the first Bulletin of 2018 and also during the 2018 Annual General Meeting.
2017 Annual General Meeting of the GAC-EPA
The last Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on 24th March 2017. The minutes of this AGM were sent to you together with Bulletin 52. You can refer to them to recall the various issues covered.
Reminder: keep these minutes as their approval will be solicited during the next AGM which will take place at the end of March 2018 (date to be decided).
Relations with the Staff Associations (SA) of CERN and ESO
In the previous Bulletin, I described how we were represented on the CERN Staff Council and its working groups. We actively participate in these bodies for it is important that our viewpoints are heard and eventually taken into account by the Management, our social protection being directly dependent on our former employer, namely CERN.
Two working groups in particular hold our attention:
the working group on pensions and
the working group on social protection
for it is in these that various aspects directly affecting us are examined, namely our Pension Fund and our Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS).
Concerning the SA of ESO, I leave Martin Cullum, who represents the retired staff of ESO on our committee, to tell you more since, as you were able to ascertain from his articles in Bulletins 51 and 52, in their Organisation relations between the Management and the Staff are not devoid of difficulties.
Relations with the CERN Management
To simplify as far as possible your access to the CERN sites, we repeat this reminder:
To avoid difficulties in accessing the CERN sites, ensure that your personal access card and that of your spouse (where relevant) are up-to-date, and that if you enter by car that it is properly registered. This registration can be done in building 55 (main entrance of the Meyrin site), on production of your identity document and the vehicle papers.
Every person entering the CERN sites, whether on foot or with a vehicle, must be in possession of a personal access card which has not expired.
Furthermore, after many discussions between our President and the services responsible for site access and security, some other progress can be mentioned:
the Jura door to the Meyrin site (building 33) is again accessible (pedestrian access)
access to the Prévessin site via the route du Maroc is again possible (pedestrian access)
Some minor points have still to be resolved.
Another aspect of our relationship with the CERN Management, which has been mentioned before, concerns the electronic access to administrative documents, the access to WiFi when we are at CERN and the question of our computer identity. There has been little progress so far on these issues since the Management has established a task force to investigate them, from which we impatiently await some acceptable solutions.
We are also closely following what is happening with the Alumni programme which has been set up and which could in some instances help with problems of communication.
Relations with the Administrative Council of the Pension Fund (CACP)
Reminder: on the CACP, whose role is the governance of the Pension Fund, we have a GAC-EPA representative, Michel Baboulaz, in function since 1st January 2015. The CACP is supported by the Investments Committee and the Actuarial and Technical Committee.
All these bodies are composed of members of the Councils and Managements of CERN and ESO, as well as members representing the Staffs nominated by the CERN SA and the ESO SA, and the GAC-EPA.
The mandate of Michel Baboulaz on the CACP has been extended by a further 3 years starting from 1st January 2018.
Not much news so far from the Working Group on the governance of the Pension Fund which was set up in November 2016; a decisive point to be tackled will be the future composition of the CACP. Our SA and GAC-EPA representatives will remain vigilant to ensure that the staff and the retired staff will continue to have an appropriate and fair weight in this council.
The article by Michel Baboulaz on the Pension Fund will give you more information.
Relations with the CHIS Board
the CHIS Board (CERN Health Insurance Scheme Committee) is the body responsible for questions of health insurance, whose current role is purely consultative, at the discretion of the CHIS (health insurance administrator); this committee meets in principle each month; our two delegates, Morna Robillard and David Jacobs regularly participate.
The new rules of the health insurance(pdf) scheme came into force on 1st September 2017; in the latest CHIS Bull' there is a form enabling you to ask the CHIS for a paper version of the new rules.
The article by Morna Robillard and David Jacobs on the health insurance scheme will give you more information.
Relations with the current and future retired staff
Various sources are used to inform you; as well as those described in earlier Bulletins, we have decided this year to hold an:
Informal Information Meeting on
Tuesday 21st November 2017 at 15h30
in the Council Chamber
We will inform you about:
the GAC-EPA 2017 election results
the new rules of the health insurance scheme
the CERN digital memory project
This meeting will be followed at 16h 30 by the traditional end-of-year drink at Restaurant no.1 (Novae)
We hope to see as many of you as possible at the the Meeting and at the drink.
Do not forget to consult the website of the GAC-EPA (which you are reading at this very moment!), it contains much useful information for current and future retired staff.
At the top and the bottom of the Welcome page there are contact links where you can leave us a message which we will not miss answering.
Of course, you can also write to us at:
c/o Staff Association
CH -1211 Geneva 23
Deadline for the next Bulletin: end April 2018
We remind you that if you want a Staff Association card for 2018, you must send a request using the contact form.
The card allows you to obtain some commercial discounts and reduced fees when joining certain CERN Clubs.
If you need it, the CERN Mutual Aid Fund can help you!
For many years now the Mutual Aid Fund has come to the help of staff members, pensioners, and their dependent families when an unexpected event (illness, accident, family problems etc.) puts them in a temporarily difficult financial situation. A loan or even a gift is possible.
If you have such difficulties, or know someone in such a situation, you can contact the CERN social services who will listen to you and inform you of the procedure to follow. Each case is treated in the strictest confidence.
Composed of a President, a Vice-president, a Treasurer and elected Members, the Mutual Aid Fund studies each case; the requests having been examined and costed by the valuable work of the social workers.
The budget of the Fund is provided on an annual basis by the Staff Association and the Management in equal parts. In addition, each year, the Fund makes a gift of 300 CHF to each orphan below the age of 18.
Reminder from the CERN Medical Service
Every year in Switzerland influenza is the cause of some 100.000 - 250.000 surgery visits, 1.000 to 5.000 hospitalizations and several hundred deaths. During the 2016/2017 flu epidemic in France it has been estimated that out of all hospitalizations for influenza, 15% of the patients were aged 65-74, 56% were over 75 years old or more. And of the serious cases of influenza admitted to intensive care, 67% were aged 65 or more.
Flu vaccination has proved itself to be worthwhile in reducing by half the number admitted to hospital. It also greatly reduces the seriousness of flu symptoms.
Influenza can be transmitted without experiencing any symptoms, thus a risk of infecting other persons who could die from influenza.
The flu vaccination is sure, simple and effective. It is recommended by the Swiss and French authorities for persons over 65 years of age.
Your doctor, local nurse or chemist are all capable of answering your questions concerning the flu vaccine.
In between the Periodic Actuarial Review as at 1 January 2016 and the next one as at 1 January 2019, the Pension Fund Governing Board conducted a number of analysis of methods and factors relevant to this Review.
Following on the end 2016 document analysing many actuarial factors (see Bulletin 52), the Actuary conducted a specific study of the impact on the Fund of those members who have purchased added years of membership. With data from the recent purchases made, where the amount contributed to purchase additional benefits had been calculated using rates set since 1986 by the Regulations of the Fund, he estimated the cost to the Fund of providing these additional benefits in the future. In almost all cases this cost appears higher than the amount contributed, resulting in a financial strain on the Fund.
A change of the rates set in Chapter III of the Regulations would imply a review of the Regulations which should also consider the rates applied to calculate the transfer values granted to active members leaving the Fund.
In view of the coming Periodic Actuarial Review, the Actuary carried out a review of the different mortality tables which would be suitable, with or without scaling factor, for the Fund's membership. The PFGB should then determine whether this membership is seen as closer to the Swiss population or to the European-based International Civil Servants. A change in professional categories found at CERN has indeed been observed since about 35 years, as a consequence of many activities being contracted out.
The 2017 audit plan presented by the special auditors PwC, replacing Mazars, has been examined and approved by the PFGB. The PFGB also took note of the successful completion of the annual Life Certificates exercice, after 2 pensions temporarily suspended, and it received information on the latest roadmap to deployment of the beneficiaries management software due to start production by end 2018.
With help from the specialized consultant, discussions are progressing in view of defining which policy should apply in matters of investment risks and what level of freedom should the portfolio managers have in stress situations. These managers currently are cautious of signs of markets overexuberance and high levels of debt.
Summary of CERN+ESO membership 2016-2017:
as at 2016-01-01
as at 2017-01-01
as at 2017-07-01
The active members population now exceeds that of the beneficiaries.
The twice-yearly Dashboard as at 1 July 2017 presented by the Actuary compares the financial progress of the Fund between the date of the last Periodic Actuarial Review (1 January 2016) and the Dashboard effective date. It evaluates the funding ratio as having increased from 72.5% as at 1 January, to 73.2% now, still below the 75.7% expected by the Periodic Review.
The financial statements for the year 2016 indicate a decrease of the investment income, but also a reduction of the investment management fees from 39 MCHF in 2015 to 22 MCHF in 2016. The Fund CEO expects further reductions thanks to the on-going contract renegociations with advisers and the global custodian.
The Fund's investments in 2017 benefited from the strong appreciation of the equities markets since beginning of the year. The assets return as at 30 September was +3.71%, indicating that the annual target of 3% above Geneva inflation should be reached. It should be reminded that in 2016 the Fund did not reach the target, with a return of 1.48% only.
The Health Insurance Scheme
Since April the CHIS Board has met 5 times - May, June, July, September and October. Apart from formal subjects, the dominant topics of discussion have been the new CHIS Rules and matters surrounding their introduction.
Management of the scheme
A continuing concern, expressed both by GAC-EPA and the Staff Association is the lack of effort to give more support staff, even temporarily, to the CERN CHIS Administration.
In June UNIQA Assurance SA was renamed UNIQA Global Care SA but this has absolutely no effect on the services they provide for CHIS.
UNIQA reported the 2016 statistics to the CHIS Board in May.
There was a strong increase in reimbursements and direct payments. As there was no significant ageing of the insured population or increase in tariffs, this seems to be mainly due to an increased consumption of medical services.
Analysis of the Key Performance Indicators shows that they were fully respected by UNIQA and the quality of service met all contractual obligations.
The 2016 financial situation was reported to the CHIS Board in June. While income stabilised after the increases of previous years, expenses were up by 8% (in line with the 2016 UNIQA statistics). The excess thus fell compared with 2015 (HIS : 9.9 MCHF and LTC : 2.8 MCHF) and the year ended with a capital of 217 MCHF (compared with 205 MCHF in 2015).
Since the last Bulletin, the performance of the two reserve funds (Sarasin and UBS) has continued to improve and now stands in excess of 4%.
Revision of the CHIS Rules
The new CHIS Rules came into force on 1 September, following approval by the Director General in July. The Official Communication of 12 July summarised the main changes and was sent to all CHIS members on 31 July along with a covering letter from the head of the Human Resources Department.
A declaration form (Spouse Health Insurance and Professional Income Declaration - SHIPID) is being prepared in support of the provisions of the Rules for a supplementary contribution when the spouse of the main member uses CHIS as primary insurance and is in receipt of an income or retirement pension. In addition, a procedure for the handling of the SHIPID declarations must be established. Due to the previously mentioned manpower shortage these provisions will not be applied until 1 March 2018.
The CHIS Board is following closely the situation concerning spouses who are employed as “frontaliers” who may have problems with the compulsory declaration requested by the Swiss authorities as at 30 September 2017 concerning their health insurance coverage. CERN Administration has been in contact with the Swiss authorities about this issue, which presents a certain amount of confusion regarding the recognition of CHIS as valid health insurance cover. Some special cases concerning mainly spouses who have taken Swiss nationality are particularly concerned. The Swiss authorities have given the signal that all should be in order by 1/01/2018.
Since the Spring Bulletin: no change to report from the Information Sessions which have been held with the help of René Barthelemy, Michel Boffard and Jean-Francois Michaud.
We are available every last TUESDAY of the month in the Staff Association meeting room, except during June, July and December to meet any retiree who may have a personal problem.
The calendar of meeting dates is on the link : https://www.gac-epa.org/History/Calendars/Calendar-en.html
and announced in the “ECHO” one or two weeks prior to the session. As usual the subjects under discussion since this autumn are much the same as always, you know them well:
Health Insurance problems
Help with Tax Return form
Access to CERN site (solved for the time being)
And, the French tax problem concerning CSG and CRDS taxation on CERN pensions and on private estate, as always. We gave advice on what steps to take. Refer also to the “C2S” article.
In close collaboration with the Staff Association and for more personal problems, we have set up a “Private problems” commission.
As always members of the Information Sessions commission try to give a reply to all questions. The atmosphere is friendly and convivial and we find the exchange of opinion a very rich experience.
We trust that everyone who sought us out or requested our support has been satisfied and we are prepared to continue our action in this field.
Thanks again for your trust in us and for your support.
C2S Action Group
How better to inform you about our law case established in 2014 if it is not by notifying you of the e-mail exchanges with our lawyer.
As a reminder, in the spring bulletin we informed you of the following:
What about this spring?
Last autumn, I received the acknowledgment of my referral, justifying that the TASS has accepted this document. I am waiting to receive the convocation to the hearing and will not fail to keep you informed.
After waiting a few months and our lawyer having recontacted the court of Bourg en Bresse, the following answer was received in March 2017:
“For your information, I have asked the Registrar of the TASS for details of the date of the summons for the file referred to above. He told me that it takes at least a year...”
Here is the continuation of the e-mails since then, without comment:
20 August 2017
As we have our first GAC meeting on September 1st, I am writing to ask if you have any information on a possible summons to the court of Bourg en Bresse?
Thank you for your reply.
21 August 2017:
So far, I have received only the acknowledgment of receipt of the objection I made following the reply of the Amicable Appeals Board (CRA) of which you will find a copy attached.
I will not fail to keep you informed of the rest.
I remain at your disposal.
21 August 2017:
Thank you for your quick answer. But, having read the acknowledgement of the Court, I am surprised at the date of July 31st 2017. The referral you sent us for acceptance and possible remarks was dated October 2016. They mention that the referral was only received on the June 15th 2017 so where does this “gap” of 8 months come from between the referral and disposal of the protest? You sent us a reply from the TASS, announcing a possible delay of one year for a summons. Will it be the same delay following the acknowledgment of receipt?
22 August 2017:
I first seized the TASS before receiving the decision of the Amicable Appeals Board (CRA). I seized it a second time after receiving the response to prevent the CPAM in one way or another evoking a procedural flaw.
I remain at your disposal.
22 August 2017:
Thank you for your explanation. I am far from knowing all the wheels of justice.
The only thing I will remember is:
“Patience and waiting count more than force or anger”
Since 22 August, I have received nothing so I wrote the following on:
30 September 2017
Like last time, in order to give some news at our next GAC meeting on the progress of the Terrier file, I would like to know if there is anything new.
30 September 2017
I called the Registry about ten days ago: they are processing the 2015 files...
I will not fail to keep you informed of any new developments.
Please accept my sincere regards.”
These are the exchanges with our lawyer and the situation to date. Our case was submitted late in 2016 !...
On the other hand, the Staff Association has hired a lawyer from the Paris region to defend the case of certain assets (CSG - CRDS on wealth). Joel Lahaye, in charge of following this case, offered to join us in their initiative and we will give him our documents for study by this lawyer. (CSG - CRDS on CERN pensions). The GAC has accepted this proposal and the fees will be shared.
It goes without saying that future fees may be unrelated to those of our lawyer in Annemasse, but it's better to say so now. If we were to continue with the Staff Association, a contribution would certainly be requested from the people concerned. I am currently waiting for information from Joel who has an appointment with this lawyer on October 19th.
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.
Micro Club, Also for retirees…
Each of us, at the time when we were active at CERN, has one time or another made use of the Micro Club to buy equipment, software, to take a course, or to have their machine repaired.
Once we are retired it can happen that we forget about this club, as well as others besides. This is why I would like to present this association to you, and to invite you to make contact again with it
as necessary. The Committee members will be pleased to welcome you and to guide you.
The Computing Micro Club was created in 1984 by some volunteers interested in obtaining better prices for computers for CERN staff via grouped order from an Apple supplier based in neighbouring France. With a good reputation at the time, and in great demand from CERN staff, the range of material available was extended over the years, and today there are available a variety of machines, software, peripherals…. as far as robotics!
Initially it was a group, two years later it was transformed into a Club, under the auspices of the Staff Association, and its activity developed very rapidly, the number of members being at one time as high as 2600. Today there are still around 1000 active members.
The Club's offer was extended progressively to computers running with Windows and/or Linux, and into such technologies as photo, video, and now robotics. Sections for each of these activities were created and today give advice and train any one interested, notably retirees.
The Committee consists of sixteen members, many of whom lead sections with flair. For further information consult our website.
We note that there is now a new activity which is very successful, namely robotics, which is aimed mainly at enthusiasts and young people. But the Micro Club also offers training in connectivity, and the use of iPhones and iPads, domestic networks, home automation, and protection.
Permanences are held for solving software and hardware problems. It is now possible to obtain help at a distance via TeamViewer — further information via the secretariat.
Enrolment costs 50 CHF, and the annual subscription is 50 CHF. The AGM of the Club is held each year towards the end of March, subscriptions being due in February. There is a regular newsletter, and I invite you to enrol and to refer to it.