2020 News Items

30 December 2020 - Rein Warmels

The latest bulletin of the GAC-EPA,  Bulletin 59, is available at https://www.gac-epa.org/History/Bulletins/59/%2059-en.html (eng) or https://www.gac-epa.org/History/Bulletins/59/%2059-fr.html (fr).

20 December 2020 - Supporting the ESO Charity Group and the CERN Staff Association's Long-Term Collections

The Corona times are difficult for most people, but they are particularly difficult for some of our fellow citizens. With this in mind, at ESO the ESO Chile Solidarity Group and the ESO Charity Group are active supporting people in desperate need, especially during the Corona pandemic. With many generous donations from both sides of the Atlantic, the "Food boxes initiative" in Santiago of the Solidarity Group from Chile and the Charity Group from Garching helped many people in need, raising a total donation of CLP 24.365.177 / EUR 27.248,60 to the date. This sum also includes a donation of EUR 3.500 from the International Staff Committee Europe .

Of course, as the need is still very substantial this initiative is not over yet. Donations are still very welcome!  ​​​​​​In case you want to support the work of ESO's charity groups the following bank account can be used:

Kennwort: Food boxes for Santiago de Chile
IBAN: DE02 70020270 0651569184

A similar request originates from the CERN Staff Association's "Long Term Collections" group, who - just like ESO's own Charity Group - support several projects abroad. In the context of the current pandemic, the world's poorest populations are now even in higher needs than before. This is why the GAC-EPA committee in its December meeting decided to support this initiative, and this fund raising call was sent out to the GAC-EPA members as well. In any case, there is an agreement that these extra proceeds will be distributed pro rata between CERN's LTC group and ESO's Charity Group.

For more details please read the information on the GAC-EPA and the Cern Staff Association Web sites.

18 December 2020 - Garching Premises remains in Phase 2 until 31 January

In the context of the Garching ramp-up plan (ESO-364647), a Gate Review took place on 17 December 2020 to assess the projections of the pandemic for after the Year-end break. Given the current trends, the Review Board recommends and the Director General has approved that the Garching premises will remain in Phase 2 until 31 January. Phase 2 arrangements remain within the boundaries of the currently enforced restrictions in Bavaria.  

18 December 2020 - From the Personnel Department

We write with some late news for this last month of the year 2020!

The Director-General has made his first visit to Chile this year, and is currently visiting Paranal Observatory, where he is taking the chance to meet as many operational staff as possible.  Last Friday, he was able to present long-service awards in the grounds of Vitacura, to those reaching, 25, 30, 35 and even 40 years’ service, and as well to celebrate some retirements.  Even though the event was constrained by time and numbers limits, it was still considered a nice event and a small chance to catch-up with colleagues, and have a glass of champagne.

Otherwise, a small reminder that Garching HQ stays in Phase 2 of its working phases (which means very limited presence) until at least 10 January 2021, and the HQ will be closed from 24 December 2020 to 3 January 2021 inclusive. In Chile, Vitacura, the move to Phase 4/5 has been postponed due to an upturn in infection rates in the metropolitan area, and Phase 3 (voluntary attendance) is maintained until 24 January 2021.

On health matters, if you are based in Germany, you may have read that for December 2020, the German authorities now offer 3 FFp2 face masks to all people  above 60 or ‘at risk’ individuals. The masks can be collected at the pharmacy, with an identity card or self-disclosure form. In the New Year, the German authorities intend a scheme with vouchers distributed by local health insurers. ESO will not be participating in the voucher scheme because Cigna is not a private insurer in the sense of other private health insurers, and is not connected to the German “Krankenkasse” system with the authorities. Independently of your location, should you be struggling though to obtain a mask locally, e.g. if they are in short supply, please contact us and we will try to assist you.  FFp2 masks are still fully reimbursable for all, if you have a prescription, through our Cigna scheme.

If you have any questions on the above or related matters please do not hesitate to contact us.

We hope that our news updates have been useful for you in 2020,  and we take the opportunity to send our warmest wishes to you and your family for a peaceful Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2021!

4 December 2020 - From the Personnel Department

Dear colleagues,

I am happy to write to you with the background of better news on the horizon globally about exiting from the pandemic. There is a new update on ESO’s ramp-up plan as we are heading towards the end of the year. As recognised by the German Federal and State authorities, the second wave of the pandemic is being contained thanks to the measures adopted since 2 November. The incidence number is still very high though, and the fact that 0.4% of the population in the area is infected means that the virus is still widespread. Indeed the current restrictions will be extended to 10 January, but with a small break in measures over the holiday period.

The Director General has decided in the light of this that Garching HQ will stay in Phase 2 (of our 1-6 phases) until 10 January 2021. This phase foresees the total amount of people on-site shall not exceed 20% of the full capacity of the HQ. Science visitors, other long-term non-operationally critical visitors, and other ESO badge holders such as retirees, are still unfortunately not allowed on site. The ESO Supernova is closed as well to the public during this period.

In Chile, Vitacura, there will be a move from Phase 3 (voluntary attendance for staff without restrictions & risks, part-time) to Phase 4/5 as from 9 December(meaning expected attendance in the office for those without restrictions). Science visitors, other long-term non-operationally critical visitors, and other ESO badge holders such as retirees will not be admitted unless there is a special reason, in which case a health declaration will be necessary. If you are invited on site, you will be informed of the specific requirements. Ramp-up activities continue safely at Paranal. The next shifts until end of the year will be at the capacity of 60 people designed for the restricted operations.

As you know, COVID-19 has greatly impacted the way we travel and we are experiencing that travel restrictions and requirements to cross borders are changing almost on a daily basis. In some countries it has become a standard requirement to present a proof of health insurance. In order for you to meet this requirement and reflect the COVID-19 related health coverageCigna has updated their insurance certificate. The insurance certificate is available on your CIGNA homepage, under MY PLAN. You can simply download your insurance certificate whenever you need it. The certificate is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch. The following text has been added to the insurance certificate, description of coverage“Cigna will cover medically necessary testing for COVID-19 in line with the policy’s coverage terms for diagnostics for other illnesses, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. For any members diagnosed with COVID-19, Cigna covers treatment for illnesses designated as a pandemic in line with policy coverage terms and in the same way as any other illness.” For more details see your personal email from Cigna, dated 3 November.

Please note that work on the CERN premises has been resuming with caution and with the implementation of specific COVID-19-related health and safety measures. However retirees may not come on-site except for exceptional access to on-site facilities, such as bank safes. The Benefits Service of the CERN Pension Fund (pension.benetifs@cern.ch) is available for any questions you might have. 

Finally, I would like to let you know the good news that the small number of colleagues who have been affected by COVID-19 in recent weeks— in Garching and Chile — are either recovered or recovering well at home. 

If you have any questions on the above or related matters please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,

8 November  2020 - Rein Warmels

The December 2020 issue of the Newsletter of the International Staff Association is now available.

30 October  2020 - Rein Warmels

In the context of the Garching ramp-up plan a Review Board meeting took place on 29 October 2020 to assess the situation in view of the outcome of the agreements between the Federal and State Governments of Germany, calling for urgent and stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Concurring with the recommendation of the Review Board, the Director-Genertal has decided that Garching HQ will move to Phase 2 for the period from 2 to 30 November. This phase foresees the total amount of people on-site shall not exceed 20% of the full capacity of the HQ. All staff who can keep working in mobile work mode will be working from home now. On-site work will continue for those staff who can do their work only on-site (laboratories, logistics, etc.).

Science visitors, other long-term non-operationally critical visitors, and other ESO badge holders such as retirees, are unfortunately not allowed on site. The ESO Supernova will be closed as well to the public during this period. 

24 October  2020 - Rein Warmels

The Director-General Xavier Barcons has decided that, in view of the Covid-19 developments, ESO will temporarily step back to an enhanced Phase 3 with immediate effect, the goal being to reach the target staff presence numbers (40% on-site maximum) by the beginning of the week starting 2 November. 

23 October  2020 - Rein Warmels

Due to COVID-19, the CERN Pension Fund Annual Information Meeting will take place on 20 November 2020 at 15:00 CEST / 10:00 CLST by webcast only. You can attend this meeting in the following link: 


The Pension Fund CEO, Matthew Eyton-Jones will present the usual annual update on the pension fund, which will include background information, an overview of the 2019 annual report and financial statements as well as an update on the investment strategy and performance. 

The PFGB Chair, Ossi Malmberg, and Chief Executive Officer of the Fund would also like to answer any questions you may have. Since they will unfortunately not be unable to take questions live, they invite the Members and Beneficiaries to send questions in advance of the meeting either via email to pension-fund@cern.ch or by post to:

Mr Matthew Eyton-Jones
“Annual Information Meeting” 
Chief Executive Officer CERN Pension Fund 
Office 5-5-012, Postbox C23800 
CH- 1211 Geneva 23 – Switzerland 

This year, we cannot offer the possibility of one to one face meetings with Emilie Clerc and Pilar Herguedas Muños from the Benefits Service of the CERN Pension Fund to discuss individual cases. They remain  however available during regular office hours under pension.benefits@cern.ch

23 October  2020 - Rein Warmels

In a recent ESO-internal message to the staff the Director-General Xavier Barcons has announced that considering the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic for Europe and Chile and the uncertainties in its development during the next months for both countries, the traditional Year-end Parties in Garching and Chile will unfortunately not take place this year. 

6 October  2020 - Eric Allaert

I've received the following message from the ESO person responsible for the distribution of the ESO calendars (quote):

I would like to inform you that the COMMS department is looking to optimise the distribution of the ESO calendar and reduce costs. ESO is currently paying ~30k euro for the production and external distribution of this product. For a new production & distribution contract COMMS are putting out soon, we have decided to reduce the numbers by 50%, namely from 3000 copies sent out to 1500.

We would like to invite you to join us in the effort of optimising this distribution, aiming to keep only the essential recipients.

In the past you likely have received by default the ESO calendar, also recently for 2021, at least if your postal address was known to the ESO Pensioners' Association. In view of the request quoted above, could the ones who want to keep on receiving the ESO calendar per mail please indicate that by replying to this email? No reply will be interpreted as "not needed / not interested / not essential". Deadline is 15 November 2020.

For clarity's sake: this new calendar distribution list will be effective starting with the 2022 calendar - the 2021 calendar is already on its way. And if/when you reply to this email, please avoid the "reply all" button :-P ...development during the next months for both countries, the traditional Year-end Parties in Garching and Chile will unfortunately not take place this year. 

21 Juli  2020 - Erik Allaert

The list with the names of the ESO retirees and their email adresses (Version July 2020) has been updated and is now available via the Documents and Presentations page.

13 April 2020 - Rein Warmels

The slides from the All-Hands meeting given by the DG on 08 April 2020 about the coronavirus situation at ESO, are now available from the Pensioners' Document repository.

13 April 2020 - Message from the GAC-EPA secretary ofice

Dear members of the GAC-EPA / Chers membres du GAC-EPA,
PLEASE take note of the various CERN and Swiss documents about the COVID-19 virus: follow the links from the site's welcome pagehttps://www.gac-epa.org
Especially the FAQ.

Wishing you happy Spring time,

3 April 2020 - Erik Allaert

The list with the names of the ESO retirees and their email adresses (Version March 2020) has been updated and is now available via the Documents and Presentations page.

3 April 2020 - Rein Warmels
Information about the coronavirus pandemic

Last week ESO moved for providing coronavirus information to the staff from the a single document format to Microsoft Sharepoint based Web pages. The ESO pensioners (including emiriti and those doing voluntary work) had full access to the original information. With the new format this will be difficult, if not impossible, without a regular ESO email address and password. 

We have asked ESO (IT) if a technical solution is be available so that also the pensioners would have access to the coronavirus Web pages and to so to have the up-to-date information, as before.

23 March January 2020 - Fiona Brizil, Head of Human Resources
COVID-19 measures at ESO: information to retirees

Dear All, 

No doubt you are following the rapid developments of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
We recognise that many of you might be concerned and worried. It is important that we inform you, as a former ESO staff member or widows, of ESO’s response and any implications this may have for you.

ESO is actively monitoring the situation and taking measures to ensure the safety of its staff and the public. These measures are being taken out of precaution: no COVID-19 case has been confirmed at any of the ESO sites.

The access to the ESO sites in Garching and in Chile is suspended until further notice for all visitors including those with access cards such as retirees. Please note that the CERN Headquarters are closed as well.

ESO’s observatory sites transitioned into a restricted operation mode, reducing the number of staff on site while maintaining basic science operations. We have moved towards remote working for as many staff as possible in Garching, Germany and Santiago, Chile. Those measures apply until at least 19 April 2020 and reviewed by the COVID-19 crisis management team of ESO.

This is a difficult time for all of us. However, please be assured that your usual contact person in Human Resources continues to be available during regular office hours, primarily by e-mail (*). Human Resources works in close contact with Cigna (*) and the Benefits Service of the CERN Pension Fund (*) who remain as well available for any questions you might have. 

We encourage you to keep abreast of the developments on the dedicated announcement available on the ESO public website: https://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann20010/ This announcement is updated as things develop.

Best wishes,

Fiona Brazil
Head of Human Resources

(*) the corresponding e-mail addresses are contained in the original message distributed on 23 March 2020.

30 January 2020 - Sandro D'Odorico
Changes in Health Insurance benefits as of 1.1. 2020

As 1 January 2020 new reimbursement rates and ceilings apply for the following health insurance benifits: pharmaceutical costs, dental care, and orthodontic treatment. For further details please refer to the Cigna document.