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EPO Vice-President Željko Topić Formally Weakens the Right to Strike, Threatens Financial Retaliation

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Martial Law imminent in Eponia? It’s definitely getting there, gradually…

Robert Koehler painting
La Grève au pays de Charleroi by Robert Koehler

Summary: Attacks on the right of workers to assemble, to protest, and increasingly the freedom of association as well (more to come, in relation to staff representatives being crushed)

Željko Topić’s dark history and union-busting practices at the EPO are not really news. He seemingly likes to play the role of the bad cop. Attacks on the right to strike are a bad cop’s task, especially in the public sector (see some historical background). Here is a recent Circular, apparently resent with updates as means of deterrence ahead of many of the recent protests (now a weekly thing with high staff presence and growing recurrence in Munich):

ServRegs – Circular No. 347

Circular No. 347 (27 June 2013)

1. No. 347 Circular on Strikes
The President of the European Patent Office;
Having regard to the European Patent Convention, and in particular Article 10 thereof;
Having regard to the Service Regulations for permanent employees of the European Patent Office, and notably Articles 30, 30a, 63 and 65 thereof;
Having consulted the General Advisory Committee;
Recognising the right to strike, whilst having regard to the need for specific terms and conditions for its exercise in order to ensure a proper functioning of the Office;
Considering that a strike should be a proportionate action of last resort;
Has decided as follows:
Guidelines applicable in the event of strike
2. A. Definition
3. 1. Strike
4. A strike is defined in Article 30a(2) of the Service Regulations.
5. Industrial actions which are not a collective and concerted work stoppage, such as go-slow or work-to-rule actions, shall not be considered as a strike.
6. The protection granted by the right to strike does not apply to employees participating in industrial actions other than a strike.
7. B. Exercising the right to strike
8. 2. Call for a strike
9. A Staff Committee (Central Staff Committee or a local section), an association of employees, or a group of employees representing at least 10% of all EPO employees may decide to call for a strike.
10. 3. Decision to start a strike
11. The start of a strike shall be the result of a vote by the employees entitled to vote.
12. Entitled to vote are the active employees either office-wide or at sites concerned by the strike which has been called for.
13. The voting process shall be organised and completed by the Office within a maximum of one month following the decision to call for strike. The voters’ confidentiality shall be guaranteed. Employees not able to vote personally October 2015 180
14. shall have the possibility to vote by proxy. An employee can be given only one proxy vote.
15. The voting process shall be supervised by a committee composed of two employees designated by the President and two employees designated by the Central Staff Committee on an ad hoc basis.
16. To be valid, at least 40% of the employees entitled to vote shall participate in the ballot. The decision to start the strike has to be approved by a majority of more than 50% of the voters.
17. 4. Prior notice
18. Pursuant to Article 30a(5) of the Service Regulations, prior notice of a strike shall be given to the President at least five working days before the commencement of the strike action.
19. As regards the scope of the strike, the notice shall indicate which sites of the Office are concerned.
20. The duration of the strike shall not exceed one month starting from the date indicated in the prior notice as the beginning of the strike. Beyond this maximum duration, any new strike shall be organised in compliance with Article 30a of the Service Regulations.
21. 5. Declaration of participation in a strike
22. Employees participating in a strike shall inform their immediate superior and shall register via an electronic self-registration tool made available by the Office. The immediate superior will have access to the self-registration tool.
23. The registration shall occur before or, at the latest, on the day of the strike.
24. Employees may be considered on unauthorised absence within the meaning of Article 63 of the Service Regulations if they were not at their workplace during a strike action, did not register and did not inform their immediate superior of their absence from work.
25. 6. Deduction of remuneration
26. For each working day during which an employee participated in a strike, the Office will apply a deduction of the monthly remuneration, in accordance with Article 65(1)(c) of the Service Regulations.
27. For participation in a strike for more than four hours in a single working day, the Office will apply a deduction of 1/20th of the monthly remuneration.
28. For participation in a strike for four hours or less in a single working day, the Office will apply a deduction of 1/40th of the monthly remuneration.
29. For staff working part-time, the deduction will be adjusted proportionally.
ServRegs – Circular No. 347 October 2015
30. The basis for calculating the deduction is the remuneration defined in Article 64(2) of the Service Regulations.
31. A strike participant remains covered by the social security scheme during strike and therefore continues to contribute in full to the scheme.
32. C. Entry into force
33. This decision shall enter into force on 1 July 2013.

Željko Topić
Vice-President DG 4

October 2015

This was sent around the same time the EPO was attacking bloggers, apparently defaming a judge in the media, and shortly thereafter preparing a simultaneous attack on at least three staff representatives. This is part of the ongoing escalation, echoing what we see governments do when there is a perpetual “war on terror”, taking its toll on law-abiding citizens, supposedly for the greater good. EPO management can feel the imminent “emergency” and is adjusting the rules accordingly, in order to protect the management, not the rights of workers.

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