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Making the most of engineering jobs and empowering engineers

Ingénieurs
English version of the Charte des Ingénieurs, edited by UGICT CGT and targeting engineers in the workplace.
vendredi, 23 janvier 2015 | English

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Engineering jobs have always been seen as motivating. But globalised cost competitiveness targets have seriously disrupted an industry which should be one of the keys to economic recovery. Through the projects they conduct, increasing demands are being made on engineers in the current state of upheaval. Their jobs are the linchpin to giving new meaning to work by examining its purpose.

The loss of meaning affects us in both the private and the public sectors and goes hand in hand with the depreciation of our salaries, the deterioration of our working conditions, the weakening or negation of our enabling role, the non-recognition of our specific knowledge and expertise, and an increase in job insecurity. This is all the more unsettling as the present-day issues require a massive implementation of our competencies.

The extent of the challenges urgently requires a collective command of scientific and technological issues and intervention ahead of public debate (climate change, a totally digitalised society, nanotechnologies, doubts about the current implementation of technologies such as nuclear power and GMOs).

Networks of professional associations form the backbone of an engineer’s working life. Corporatism is all around us. But will this suffice to meet today’s challenges while cooperation and solidarity within the collaborative working group are more than ever necessary ?

The aim of this charter is to offer engineers the points of reference and demands they need to establish new rights, guaranteed individually and collectively, so that we can do our job fully and carry out our social responsibilities.

Recognition to be defended,
a job to be re-acknowledged

salaires

Salaries and careers

Engineering school diplomas are always highly rated: the starting wage of the young graduates depends on this and varies significantly with each industry. It is virtually standard practice to negotiate the starting wage. Differences appear between general engineers and those who specialise in a particular technology, and also between management and technical careers. Jobs involving a high level of technology are systematically under-valued. Women engineers are clearly in the minority and are victims of these inequalities. This emphasises the need to include engineers’ pay in a system of minimum group benefits, closely linked to the national occupation classifications.

L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
  • Automatically demand a permanent or statutory contract right from the first job.
  • Recognise diplomas and vocational training in a starting wage chart with thresholds corresponding to the various levels of qualification. For an engineer with no professional experience, introduce a minimum gross starting wage system set at twice the minimum wage demanded by the CGT (€1,700 gross per month), i.e. €3,400 gross per month (€40,800 gross per year).
  • Ensure fairness and transparency to prevent all forms of arbitrariness in career development with an appeal body on which worker representatives sit.
  • IEnforce equality at work between men and women. Ban all forms of discrimination: on pay, recognition of diplomas or qualifications, access to positions, career development, or any other element constituting occupational responsibility.
  • Establish a pay scale by classification that shows the progression of our qualifications.
  • Guarantee a fixed annual wage rise, to maintain purchasing power, at least equal to the upper limit on salary deduction for social security contributions.
  • Include the years spent at graduate school when calculating pension rights.
formation

Training

We need resources to allow equal access to the demanding training required to become an engineer. We need the means to promote sciences and techniques in schools and fight against insidious sexist prejudice and the elitist image of engineering jobs. We must fight more effectively against the social inequality that prevents fair access to these courses, which more often than not can’t be “paid for” by student or holiday jobs. We must give workers, and especially technicians, the means to become engineers.

The system of engineering degrees furthers the recognition of engineering qualifications and plays a pivotal role in the pay scale for qualifications. We must defend and promote this to protect general interest and the engineers’ interest and, when determining and maintaining the quality of the training courses, ensure that the whole of society can have access to them. The French Commission des Titres d’ingénieurs which awards accreditation is an original institution, in which trade union and managerial organisations and professional associations take part, under the leadership of the Higher Education Ministry.

L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
  • Allow all young people, girls and boys, to choose to become engineers.
  • Construct a forward-looking quantitative and qualitative management of job developments based on changing social needs.
  • Help people starting their first job or beginning a new one to enter the working world by providing special measures and/or vocational training.
  • Make ‘VAE’ (credits for acquired work experience) a means of recognition, an individual right enforceable against the employer, guaranteed by status or by collective agreement. This right must be applied in collective procedures in representative bodies.
  • Devote at least 10% of the hours worked to vocational training, to be taken during working hours.
     
    sante-travail

    Health at work

    By thwarting our aspiration to autonomy, current management has isolated us even further and increased competition. The relentless race for performance affects our physical and mental wellbeing. Pressure from work pace, targets to meet, constant restructuring plans, the lack of room for expression and free will, the risk of being shunted to one side can all cause suffering for managers and those under them. This phenomenon is spreading and has drastic consequences for workers. The remoteness of decision centres, unreachable managements, the lack of direct correspondents, denying the existence of conflicts or failing to resolve misunderstandings are all adding to the problem.

    L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
    • Give engineers the role of re-establishing the collaborative working group, which is itself geared towards shared experience and meaning.
    • Set up areas for occupational discussion to talk about and resolve difficulties encountered in order to work to high quality standards, complying with good engineering practice.
    • Appeal to a third party (CHSCT – the French health and safety committees – or another representative institution) in the event of conflict, in order to escape insoluble face-to-face meetings between managers and those who work under them.
    • Give the CHSCT greater power of intervention with the trade union organisations and occupational health services, to lighten workloads at the first signs of stress.
      rythmes-travail

      Work pace

      BWe frequently work more than forty hours a week but these extra hours are not taken into account in our salaries. Pressure from pace, ever-shorter deadlines and increasingly ambitious targets force our engineers to work longer and longer hours. More common use of flat rates aggravates the problem, which adds to the depreciation of our technical expertise, our competencies and our responsibilities.

       

      L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
      • Respect the work/life balance by supervising time slots for meetings and limiting the use of ICT outside group working hours.
      • For those working from home: comply with or improve – through sectorial or company agreements – clauses in the cross-sectorial agreement of 19 July 2005 stipulating in particular that mobile workers should not be excluded.
      • Lighten the workloads and assess them collectively.
      • Count up all the hours worked, no matter how they are compensated (or possibly paid) to comply with the legal number of working hours and preserve everyone’s health.
      • Encourage phased retirement systems for workers over 50 and with no job discrimination.
       

      Negotiate the targets and the
      resources for the responsibility

      rse

      Social responsibility

      Although engineering degrees are fairly well protected, there is some cause for concern, for example the under-compensation paid to engineers, especially in public administration and in some sectors of activity or some positions. The tendency to extend the insecurity that comes with a first job to young engineers, and the insecurity of research jobs are part of the phenomenon. Engineers’ salaries are under pressure from the economic situation. The evident shortage of engineers can lead to the employment of unqualified engineers and of technicians in the English interpretation of ‘engineers’, at lower pay.

      Careers in management and financial administration are always given preference: in contradiction with the talk of revaluing specialist posts.

      Shareholders’ interests and demands for profitability are increasing impediments to sustainable development, and to social and economic effective- ness. Gone are the promises about the essential role and place of managers, about progress in science, technology, in human relations, the company and their environment.

      Although the goal should be to meet environmental, energy, economic and social challenges, the obsession with productivity and financial accumulation sabotage the meaning of work by quashing ethical values. The capacity for self-regulation flaunted by management commitments is evidently limited.

      When companies talk of “loyalty”, we question its foundation: what are the objectives – to satisfy the shareholders, the client-users or the workers? Aggravated by the crisis, the results show that mollifying speeches are not enough. The meaning and organisation of the work must be guided by a search for sustainable economic and social effectiveness, as opposed to short-term financial profitability. We need to anticipate beyond employers’ strategies and the financial sphere.

      It is essential to refuse commands based on “values”, by demanding in all work contexts a precise analysis of what this principle involves, and what means and room for manoeuvre we have to implement it properly.

      L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
      • Guarantee freedom of expression, particularly in work meetings. Group discussions on work organisation and how the company operates should allow everyone to express their potential for creation.
      • Recognise the enabling role of managers, which is to make sure that the work is not so much a factor of suffering and isolation but rather a means of humanising, a form of fulfilment for men and for women, in which everyone has a degree of liberty, through individual and collective creation.
      • Open specific talks on professional gender equality. These talks will be based on the compulsory annual report on the comparative status to identify any inequalities and determine what must be done to further gender equality in the company.
      • Introduce a technological right to whistle-blow similar to the right of withdrawal stipulated in the Labour Code with protection for the whistle- blower.
      eval

      Objectives and assessment

      How can we optimise engineers’ commitment? What quality and safety standards should we guarantee? How far should inspections go? Who should make the decisions?

      Because of their work, involving a combination of scientific knowledge, technology, work organisation, economic and social dimensions, invention and innovation, engineers play a particular and essential role in the collaborative working groups.

      At the same time, there is greater legal risk: increasingly, design engineers can be legally liable in the event of a technological accident, even a long time afterwards.

      Engineers are executives, managers, experts and more, but they are mainly positioned in industry, in technical jobs, using their scientific knowledge. They are also project leaders, designers, process managers and maintainers... and none of that is incompatible in an engineer’s identity.

      There is certainly much debate about the connection between the technical aspect and the strategy of the company, the State or the group. How much influence do engineers have today? Do people listen to what they say? What connections do they have with the priorities of company shareholders or of reduced costs and staff numbers in the administrations?

      It is urgent to set up a real debate on the targets and on work organisations. These questions need to be discussed, with alternative proposals, interventions and by mobilising the workers.

       

      At the same time, should not the role of engineers, as managers or designers, improve as knowledge and qualifications improve for all the worker categories and with each remodelling of collaborative working groups?

       

      L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
      • Reassert the value of the engineer’s role by ensuring that they can fully exercise their technical skills and their social responsibility.
      • Set targets collectively. These targets must include discussions about the predictable consequences and the necessary resources. All performance reviews must include guarantees (transparency, means of appeal, etc.) and take into account the collaborative dimension of the work and its organisation (or changes in organisation).
      • Prepare the performance review in the collaborative working group. Resources provided by the employer must be discussed. Performance should not be assessed without a set of basic objective and transparent criteria.
      • Take into account the collaborative nature of the work in the reviews and recognise the individual contribution in this context.
      • In the event of disagreement with the targets set, allow for appeal to a professional body, based on the collaborative working group, in the presence of worker representatives.
       

      Give meaning
      to our work

      sens-du-travail

      Give meaning

      A company’s goal is not exclusively economic and financial, but rather human and social. Management decisions must take into account the human, social and environmental consequences.

      Careers in management or finance are particularly valued and attract engineers from the most prestigious graduate schools. A small number of engineers become senior executives in Wall Street Management.

      An engineer’s work is projected over the medium term and is not compatible with a day-to-day approach. An industrial project, be it a nuclear power station, a plane, a car or a development project, is built up over many years and concerns products with a long lifespan.

      Engineers know the difficulty of management jobs: excessive work loads, loss of meaning because of financial demands, engineering tasks made ‘robot-like’ because development projects are divided into so many individual operations, management by project reducing work to mere indicators and markers, staff members considered as resources to be used optimally, endless electronic communication to the detriment of human relationships, etc.

      UGICT recommends an alternative management method that does not replace collective social dialogue and aims at redirecting the role of managers to:

      • Restore and lead collaborative working groups that are geared to solving any problems collectively and enabling workers to share experience and meaning.
      • Strengthen support for people and for collaborative working groups (de- veloping cooperation with other teams in different departments), innovation, etc.
      • Provide individual guidance and assessment
      L’UGICT-CGT proposes taking action to :
      • Obtain the right of workers to speak and vote at management meetings and a right to suspend in the major concerns of employment in the company.
      • Improve transparency in decision making by emphasising information and consultation with the workers and their representatives, including those of out-sourcing companies.
      • Promote whistle-blowing, alternative proposals to strategic decisions, consolidating jobs, better recognition of qualifications, civic responsibility within the company and the exercise of trade union rights, including in out-sourcing companies.
      • Define action plans on priority issues of Corporate Social Responsibility, with follow-up and indicators, based on agreements negotiated with trade union organisations.

       

       

       

      What is UGICT ?

      UGICT-CGT is the principal trade union for Engineers, Managerial staff and Technicians. Over 80,000 members of the CGT are affiliated, in all industry sectors and all over France.

      As engineers, managerial staff and technicians, we take action so that our aspirations and our day-to-day experience of work can be turned into majority trade union demands.

      By assimilating the fact that we have a specific relationship to work because of our jobs, our level of responsibility, our expertise and our role in the organisation of our work, we also actively choose solidarity with all workers, for we share the same interests.

      Professionally engaged and socially responsible

      We take action to :

      • Obtain the recognition of diplomas and qualifications in wages and responsibilities
      • Obtain individual and collective rights to enforce our enabling role and our professional ethics, take action together towards properly reduced working time and workload.
      • Defend contributory pensions and the AGIRC complementary pension for P&MS. We demand that years spent in higher education should be taken into account when calculating pension rights.
      • Win professional equality between women and men.
      • Put an end to Wall Street Management and develop an alternative management approach.

      UGICT is a member of Eurocadres, an organisation related to the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation), to work for real social rights in Europe. UGICT has signed the “managerial social responsibility manifesto”. At world level, UGICT is a member of Union Networks International, to develop the convergence of demands in the service sector.

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