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12.17.15

Ahead of Administrative Council Meeting, General Consultative Committee Warned of “Witch Hunt in Pursuit of SUEPO Officials” (Union Busting)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Social study” — like “investigation” — a convenient façade for painting dissent as armed “Nazi” “Mafia” “snipers”

SUEPO support

Summary: “Social study” is the new euphemism for a process of crushing unions and punishing whistleblowers based not on their legitimate and important activities but some made up/sexed up ‘scandals’ (like in the Julian Assange case)

THE General Consultative Committee, or GCC for short (not to be mistaken for the GNU compiler), has been getting increasingly involved recently in an effort to save SUEPO officials, i.e. staff representatives. An attack on SUEPO is rightly perceived as an attack — by extension — on all other EPO unions. Benoît Battistelli’s EPO does not tolerate different views and the Administrative Council, which has been little more than “yes men” (or women) of Battistelli, is said to be letting down the unions.

Here is what GCC wrote two days ago, with our emphasis in larger fonts:

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité central du Personnel

16 December 2015
sc12915cp – 0.2.1/0.3.2/4.6/6.2.1

Social Study document (CA/101/15) submitted to the GCC

Following the second meeting of the Board 281 in just two weeks, a document entitled “Social study” was sent to all the members of the General Consultative Committee (GCC) less than 39 hours before the meeting took place on 9 December 2015. At the same time, all were informed that both Mr Kongstad as Chairman of the Administrative Council (AC) and Mr Ernst as head of the German delegation (and currently Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee), would also participate in the meeting.

“What credibility could any kind of “social study” have if it is to be carried out at the very moment that staff representatives and union officials are suspended, investigated, made sick and perhaps eventually sacked by the EPO in the coming weeks or months?”Considering the importance of the subject matter, we of course accepted to include the document on the agenda for information and to provide our comments on it in spite of the very late submission. The GCC meeting started under the chairmanship by Mr Battistelli (for that agenda point only) in the presence of Mr Kongstad and Mr Ernst. All three gentlemen left the meeting room at the end of the discussion on the social study, i.e. about two hours later.

Although we remain always ready to contribute to this “social study”, we have already made some preliminary comments along the following lines:

  • What credibility could any kind of “social study” have if it is to be carried out at the very moment that staff representatives and union officials are suspended, investigated, made sick and perhaps eventually sacked by the EPO in the coming weeks or months? If the AC is serious about entering into discussions with staff representatives, then the AC must start first by protecting them. That protection need not exceed the protection that staff representatives normally enjoy under national legislation, e.g. in Germany, but should certainly not be less as is currently the case.
  • We reminded Mr Ernst that investigating / threatening / suspending / dismissing staff representatives in the EPO could not take place without the implicit consent of Germany2 and that it was one of the prime duties of the AC to protect staff representatives from EPO management. We further reminded Mr Ernst that Germany is – by far – the most influential country in the AC, and that he had a specific responsibility as head of the German delegation to put an end to this unacceptable state of affairs in the EPO.
  • We stated that under the current circumstances, giving more (punitive) power to the President would send a very wrong signal to staff, and we urged the AC delegations to reject all the changes tabled for the December AC meeting relating to Articles 2 and 95 ServRegs3 .
  • When combined with the lifting of all current suspensions and the termination of all ongoing investigations against staff representatives and union officials, this would be a first signal that the AC does really care about staff and wishes to regain their confidence.

___________
1 Board 28 is a sub-body of the AC named after the Article 28 EPC, comprising members including the President and the chairmen of the AC and BFC, i.e. Mr Kongstad and Mr Ernst. Its role is normally to prepare for upcoming AC and BFC meetings.
2 The three latest suspensions all take place on German territory, in Munich.
3 The CSC will soon publish an opinion paper on this topic.


  • Genuine discussions on all recent reforms and their corresponding Presidential decisions should urgently take place with a view to correcting their excesses. Recovery should start with fixing the dysfunction within the Appeals Committee, in particular re-allowing the Staff Representation to appoint its own members rather than ceding the President additional powers to continue to do so instead. This could then be followed by a revision of several other reforms, including the long overdue (and promised) revision of the Investigation Guidelines, to make them more acceptable to staff and workable in the interests of all. All reforms, whether current or planned, should then be reviewed with the active involvement of the Staff Representation and the Staff Union (SUEPO), thereby reintroducing genuine consultation into the AC approval process.
  • In its March 2015 meeting, the AC already stated that the social situation in the Office was causing great concern and needed to be addressed urgently. We are now in December 2015, and the social situation has further deteriorated. The process of “union recognition” has turned into a witch hunt in pursuit of SUEPO officials. Contrary to what is stated in the “social study” document, in our opinion the calendar for the study is anything but ambitious, since the final results are planned to be discussed only in the AC meeting in October 2016 (!), i.e. in almost a year from now. Yet while procrastination continues and no action is taken, the Staff Representation is further decimated and staff health continues to deteriorate. If the member states are to respect their responsibilities, then the AC must act quickly.
  • For the CSC, the most important and relevant objective of the “social study” is to quickly complete an impartial and independent staff survey. There is a very quick, efficient, professional and successfully proven way to run such a survey4: to authorise the CSC to re-launch the Technologia5 Staff Survey, as was done in 2010 and 2013. This would have the distinct advantage of providing an internal benchmark allowing clear comparisons of the current situation with the previous social climate, the new survey’s questions being almost identical to the previous ones. It could be run in January 2016 and at least a preliminary analysis of the results made available in February, early enough for the AC to discuss them in its March meeting. If the AC is serious about claiming urgency of action and wishes to regain some credibility with staff, then they should convince EPO management to “give the green light” to the CSC to run the Technologia survey6 in early 2016.
  • Finally, we must not overlook the fact that the CSC is presently not involved at all with the running of the “social study”: it will (soon) be launched by the Council, but apparently only in “close cooperation with the President”. Staff representation stated that it would welcome as a trust building measure an invitation to collaborate in the running of that study. We shall see if the Council and management are ready to seize such a golden opportunity to start rebuilding that trust.

The Central Staff Committee

___________
4 The EPO administration keeps refusing repeated requests from the CSC to that effect, the first dating back to July 2015.
5 Technologia is a world-renowned company specialising in identifying, assessing, preventing and/or reducing professional risks in all types of organisations. Technologia is certified by the French Ministry of Labour.
6 Sadly enough this proposal was turned down by Mr Kongstad who has proven once more to be one of Mr Battistelli’s staunchest supporters. Although he presented this refusal as being that of the AC, one has serious, legitimate doubts that the AC were consulted on the matter: firstly, the “social study” paper was drafted a few days before by the Board 28; secondly, the CSC proposal to run the Technologia survey in the framework of the “social study” was expressed for the very first time only during the GCC meeting.

Notice the disingenuous ways in which union busting at the EPO is being framed as “investigation” or “study”. How dumb do managers think staff might be?

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