Dear colleagues, on 25 January 2023 Union Syndicale turns 50 years. This day, 50 years ago, from the 2nd basement restaurant of the Berlaymont building, the first General Meeting convened by EU staff gave birth to USB.

USB was conceived during the enlargement of Europe. The founding fathers and mothers of USB were witnessing the process of building a European Union, the expansion of the European civil service, and the effect of that expansion on its social political landscape. USB took form during the Cold War and changes in the trade union movement. It progressed out of necessity and solidarity, based on general worker’s movement and the European trade unions influences, notably the Public Services International federation (PSI). USB grew up among the negotiations on the salaries of local staff, the expatriation allowance, but above all, to secure the recognition of trade union rights and fight against discrimination hitting female staff at that time.

50 years ago, Union Syndicale was born out of a merger of existing trade unions, in order to create a single, united, and powerful movement that would be able to negotiate effectively with the administrations of the various institutions. 50 years dedicated to the protection of the interest of staff and furthering the European integration.

During these 50 years Union Syndicale has been instrumental to achieve several important improvements for staff. The salary adaptation method being one of them. Union Syndicale also defended the rights of staff individually, helping colleagues to win hundreds of significant court cases as well as providing practical support and advice.

Let us not forget, the past 50 years, the European Union staff has changed considerably. Enlargements and more tasks have led to a vast increase in the number of staff. Agencies and bodies were created, as well as various missions. Consequently, the nature of our work changed. Starting with computers and mobile phones and going to telework and open-space offices.

We also witnessed an increase in the competences of the EU, requiring staff with an ever more diverse background. Justice and home affairs, monetary affairs, just to name a few important examples. And we should not overlook the changes in the trade union landscape, which after the unification 50 years ago has again been splintered and fragmented. These splits were often originating from within, but they were also externally instrumentalised by the administration during the times of “reforms”.

On the 25th January 2023, USB is celebrating its 50th year. But some fights are still going on, such as the building of trade-union unity or the recognition of trade-unions, particularly in the EU agencies. Union Syndicale is still fighting this 50-years-old battle. However, none of these changes nor recent crisis (COVID) has stopped Union Syndicale to defend, to the best of its abilities, the interest of all staff of the European Union. And we stand ready to continue to do so, for another 50 years !

Niels Bracke

The President of  Committee Executive USB