Rethinking the public service bargain the changing legal position of civil servants in europe
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Rethinking the Public Service Bargain: The Changing (Legal) Position of Civil Servants in Europe. Astana Economic Forum May 22, 2013. Dr. Caspar Van Den Berg. Introduction.

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Rethinking the Public Service Bargain: The Changing (Legal) Position of Civil Servants in Europe

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Rethinking the Public Service Bargain: The Changing (Legal) Position of Civil Servants in Europe

Astana Economic Forum

May 22, 2013

Dr. Caspar Van Den Berg


Point of departure: perceived pressure on the so-called ‘traditional’ public law formulation of the position of CS in various European countries.

How does this play out in 12+ European countries?

How do countries reconcile 2 opposing sets of demands:

  • Managerial: effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, managerial discretion

  • Weberian: integrity, non-discrimination, rule-based conduct, risk-avoidance and frugality

Crossroads of CS employment

  • Left turn: reinforcing the distinct nature approach: there is a specific character to working for the gvt vis-à-vis working in the private sector

  • Right turn: reinforcing the harmonization approach: there is (or should be) no fundamental difference between a job performed for the gvt and a job performed for a private corporation.

Public Sector Bargains (Hood, 2001; Hood and Lodge, 2006)

  • SystemicBargains

    • Consociationalbargain

    • Hegelianbargain

  • PragmaticBargains

    • Schafferianbargain

    • Hybridbargain

    • Managerial bargain

      Hood: A shift is occurringfromSchafferianbargainsto Managerial bargains

Crucial points for comparative research

  • Within each country, there is a terminological challenge when it comes to the definition of gvt personnel, civil servants, and civil servants status.

  • This challenge multiplies when cross-national comparison is concerned: Civil servant, Beamte, Fonctionnaire, Ambtenaar.

  • The Civil Servant does not exist: CS as public officials; specify their type of appointment and relation to the state and state power.

The Turn to the Right

  • NL, DK, SV, IT, CH

  • NL: public law status under pressure because of desire to flexibilise appointments and deprivilege CS.

  • Social security arrangements have been equalized with the private sector, but:

  • No actual abolition of the civil service states, rather a revival of attention for the Weberian principles of bureaucracy.

Maintaining the Bargain

  • DE, BE, FR

  • BE: Vast majority of gvt personnel has a statutory appointment under public law.

  • Others work on contract basis. This proportion grew until 2005, but is now stable at 27% at federal level.

  • Labour conditions have been harmonized, but the values such as ethics, impartiality and civil service professionalism have progressively become part to the discussion.

The Turn to the Left

  • East European countries, UK

  • UK: Traditionally a state without statutory civil service provisions.

  • Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, inspired by lack of clarity how roles and responsibilities should be fulfilled after NPM-style reforms.

  • Core values of the civil service are now codified in law.

  • Contrary to privatizing reforms in IT, SV, DK.

Discussion I: Trends in rethinking the Bargain

  • The discussion about the (legal) position of CS may seem a national debate, but is part of a general debate all across Europe.

  • No one-directional trend away from the Schafferian and towards the managerial bargain, it’s more complicated!

  • Cross-national convergence to the middle: distinct nature and harmonization approaches combine.

Discussion II

  • The two sets of demands (material labour conditions AND the values of bureaucracy) have become increasingly independent from one other.

  • To what extent are Weberian-style labour conditions conditional for high levels of Weberian values of bureaucracy?

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