ECB ignores EU law on physical security issues
A report on tagesschau.de on 25 November 2023 disclosed that there had been major problems with the electricity installation in the Main Building, which also impacted the life security systems.
The report was based on a TÜV report of 2018 and an ECB project report of 2022. The project was started in 2018 to remedy the detected failures. The documents are meanwhile disclosed via ECB’s public access documents register. The remedy project was also the cause for the MB closures in summer 2023. Since the initial publication, there has been further reporting on the story (Hessenschau, tagesschau.de, politico).
The ECB was aware since 2018 of the safety risks identified by TÜV, but nevertheless took the conscious choice of retaining this information from its staff. Neither the members of the Occupational Health & Safety Committee nor the Staff Committee or IPSO, as the recognized trade union, were informed – in breach of the EU Directive on Health & Safety (89/391/EEC).
IPSO’s issues go beyond the current status of the electric system at the ECB – as the remedies have been completed during the building closure this summer. How can it be that the ECB knew about such information and intentionally hide it from its staff? Why did staff had to learn about such important risks from the press?
ECB Governance flaw as the root cause of information retention
In our view, this failure confirms and illustrates a fundamental governance flaw at the ECB. The ECB is (ab)using its independence (intended to keep monetary policy free of undue influence) to deviate from the standard social framework applicable in the European Union and its institutions. This concentration of power, unfortunately, often results in unbalanced decisions, especially at the top of the decision-making chains. We asked the ECB Executive Board to reconsider their approach and align our internal framework with European standards – the German “Mitbestimmung” being a very good model in that regard.
ECB’s denial of the problem
The ECB denies that there was ever any danger to the life of ECB employees. It offers to hold a meeting with technical experts to share with us the relevant information now. This proposal is not addressing the questions that are in ECB staff minds. Rather, we expect explanations as regards the reason why the ECB decided to retain this information from staff and its representatives.
IPSO’s so far unanswered questions
- What in detail was the threat to health and safety of staff during the time between 2014 and 2018?
- Which of these risks were mitigated by which measures?
- To what extent was there a possibility of risks to the health and safety of staff in the period between 2018 and 2023 beyond the mitigation measures?
- Are there still outstanding issues to be solved?
- Why were the Staff Committee, the OHSC and IPSO not informed in 2018?
- Why did none of this get mentioned in the discussions around the summer closure of the MB?
- Who decided not to follow the obligations of the EU OHS Directive (89/391/EEC)?
- Who made the decision on whether risks to the health and safety is adequately mitigated. What checks and balances are there to ensure staff safety?
- Was the EB at all times fully informed and involved in the decision-making on possible risks to the health and security of staff?
- How can we ensure this lack of transparency is not repeated in the future?
- How does the ECB plan to regain the trust that has been lost due to this issue and more generally?
- Is the ECB willing to change the rules to involve staff representatives in the future and give them clear rights to ensure the rights and safety of staff?