EMBL pay settlement will cost millions

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A long-running labour dispute at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, was settled last week at a cost of at least DM4 million (US$2 million) to the organization's 16 member states.

EMBL's council agreed to implement a judgement of the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO), which had ruled that the lab was wrong to abandon in the mid-1990s its adherence to the salary recommendations of the Coordinated Organizations, a committee that sets salary scales for international organizations (see Nature 375, 442; 1995).

It remains unclear how seriously this compliance will affect EMBL. The council has asked for clarification of whether the ruling refers simply to the salary adjustment from 1995 — which would cost 2.1 per cent of the laboratory's budget in back pay and DM0.8 million per annum in future — or also to a backdated implementation of higher salary scales. This second option would cost considerably more — namely 8 per cent of the budget in back pay and DM3.5 million per annum.

Member states have agreed to find the money to support the first but not the second scenario, which would have to be financed from within the existing budget. Final decisions will be confirmed at a council meeting in March.

The settlement comes at a time when EMBL already faces the withdrawal of European Commission support for its outstation, the European Bioinformatics Institute (see page 450), and is expecting to seek from member states a substantial increase in its basic budget for its next five-year indicative scheme, beginning in 2001.

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Abbott, A. EMBL pay settlement will cost millions. Nature 402, 453 (1999) doi:10.1038/44927

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