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European Commission catering staff protest suspension of services

An aerial view of the Berlaymont building, the offices of the European Commission, Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO THIERRY ROGE)
10:59 26/11/2020

Around 50 workers from several catering companies formed a socially-distanced human chain around the Berlaymont in Brussels at on Wednesday morning to condemn the decision of the European Commission to suspend its catering activities on 1 January.

The aim of the action, which also included distributing flyers to motorists and cyclists on the Schuman roundabout, was to raise awareness among staff in the Berlaymont offices and public opinion about the fate of the 400 or so people who work in European Commission restaurants through catering companies such as Compass and Ciano.

The European Commission has informed catering companies by mail of the suspension of its catering activities from 1 January and at least until 1 September 2021. It announces that "no tender will be restarted until an in-depth reflection on future ways of working and catering has been carried out."

"The European Commission is claiming that there is a health crisis to claim force majeure so as not to pursue tenders, with the consequences being, we fear, that subcontractors will be forced to lay off workers," said Nic Gortz, permanent secretary of CCS Food. "The question arises as to whether there will be compensation... We are in a legal limbo here, which the Commission is exploiting and using against us."

The three trade unions CSC, FGTB and CGSLB fear a snowball effect, with institutions such as the European Parliament or the European Council following the Commission's lead. They are also concerned about the childcare and cleaning sector.

Written by Nick Amies