ECB Staff Express Frustration over Concealment of Fire Risks at Glamorous Headquarters
European Central Bank (ECB) employees are outraged following revelations of longstanding, severe safety hazards at their prestigious Frankfurt headquarters. A 2018 report by an external company found over 1,800 fire safety issues, including malfunctioning sprinklers and smoke extractors, partially due to backup generator problems.
This information, disclosed via media based on internal documents accessible under European transparency regulations, indicates even a small fire could lead to disastrous effects like full power loss or computer center failure.
ECB staff learned about these risks from the press, according to a staff committee email released by POLITICO, stating the bank's representatives were uninformed.
Opened in 2014 and notably over-budget at €1.4 billion, the Frankfurt office's extensive issues are particularly troubling. Despite this, the ECB maintains the building's safety.
An ECB spokesperson claimed that after the 2018 electrical inspection, which discovered automatic backups might fail, immediate manual solutions were initiated to ensure uninterrupted operation of safety systems.
However, ECB employees express feeling misled about the building's safety, with the staff committee and union leader Carlos Bowles criticizing the lack of transparency as detrimental to trust in ECB leadership.
In response, the ECB launched an internal campaign reassuring staff of their safety, implying it took five years post-2018 check to resolve the issues fully. Repairs escalated amid the 2023 building closure, when staff were relocated for electricians to work on the backup systems.
The ECB's prior communication led employees to believe the temporary closure was for routine electrical maintenance, raising feelings of deception when they were later informed of the actual risks. Furthermore, the ECB's initial decision, later retracted, to deduct this period from the staff's annual remote work quota added to their discontent.
While acknowledging communication deficiencies, the ECB has pledged to improve dialogue with staff. It claims remaining fixes, to be completed next year, are minor and pose no risk to employees.