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12.18.15

Benoît Battistelli: “An Earthquake Would be Needed for the Administrative Council… Not to Support My Major Proposals.”

Posted in Europe, Meeting, Patents at 2:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Team Battistelli (high-level EPO management) is trying to shoot — metaphorically like a sniper — Elizabeth Hardon, a staff representative (apparently a “major proposal”)

Aim

Summary: Sessions of the Administrative Council dissected; Reports from the Office serve to show how grim things have become for all staff unions, not just SUEPO

FOR anyone still in doubt about Benoît Battistelli’s megalomania, we humbly suggest the first, second and third part of this ongoing series (together with the teaser) as preparatory reading. The EPO has become somewhat of a laughing stock because the President of the EPO not only stomps on the law but also brags about it. That’s the hallmark of sadistic tyrants — those who view themselves as kings of the universe (which nobody is allowed to disagree with, no matter how high up). Famous examples include Stalin, who made a habit of ‘vanishing’ his perceived opposition.

“Il faudrait un tremblement de terre pour que le conseil d’administration, où chacun des 35 États membres a une voix, n’accorde pas son soutien aux propositions majeures.”
      –Benoît Battistelli
Today’s situation report, which is circulating among EPO staff, reveals how atrocious things have become inside the EPO. It begins with a quote from the infamous Usine Nouvelle interview from 2012 where Battistelli bragged how free of any constraints he is. Or in other words, how totally unaccountable he is. To quote the original (in French): «Il faudrait un tremblement de terre pour que le conseil d’administration, où chacun des 35 États membres a une voix, n’accorde pas son soutien aux propositions majeures.»

That’s from Battistelli’s own mouth. Translation from French-speaking people (whom we have been in touch with) would be: “An earthquake would be needed for the Administrative Council, where each of the 35 member states has one vote, not to support my major proposals.”

Amazing, isn’t it? Until you consider what Battistelli’s character is like…

Based on some comments that we are seeing in IP Kat right now, Team Battistelli is fast-tracking the union-busting ahead of Christmas, even a week ahead of Christmas Eve.

One recent comment says: “Battistelli was told by the council to renew social dialogue and stop harassing the representatives of the personal and he was, apparently, told privately by the French and Dutch delegations to stop the ongoing disciplinary procedures but he is still in post. What will he do next?

“There are 3 members of the staff union who are attacked in Munich. I think that all 3 hearings have been rushed through this week, so that the president can publish his 3 decisions before the end of the year. From what has been published from the procedure, it is obvious that this is a mock trial. There are simply too many procedural violations for the procedure to be believable.

“Battistelli was told by the council to renew social dialogue and stop harassing the representatives of the personal and he was, apparently, told privately by the French and Dutch delegations to stop the ongoing disciplinary procedures but he is still in post.”
      –Anonymous
“Will the president do what he was told by the council, stop the disciplinary procedures and reintegrate the 3 representatives? Or will he show the council that they are powerless to stop him and fire all 3 nevertheless?

“He can stop the disciplinary procedures, the service regulations allow him to do so. The disciplinary committees can find all 3 guilty, the president is still allowed to ignore their findings and reintegrate the 3 representatives. This is what he was explicitly instructed to do so any other decision will be contrary to the instructions of the council.”

Battistelli has been trying to halt communications so that they can do mock trials in secret. As another commenter put it: “What a pity that Merkel has failed to report on a fifth “remarkable” letter:

“Battistelli has been trying to halt communications so that they can do mock trials in secret.”“Namely, the “warning letter” sent by the President of the EPO to the Chair of the Presidium (VP3) telling him to be careful about contacts between the Presidium and the AC which had not received prior authorisation from the President of the EPO.

“Now that’s a letter that would make interesting reading.”

Remember how politely the Presidium of the Boards put it. It has since then been cited by at least 3 formal complaint letters [1, 2, 3].

Based on the latest comments in IP Kat, some people are still not sure what happened in the meetings/sessions which started and ended this week. We have some yet-unverified claims (pertaining to boards and unions), but based on the following report, this is what actually happened and it’s similar to what commenters in IP Kat had predicted:

I- Earthquake?

Fact is that during this Session, the AC has unambiguously criticised and NOT “given its support” to no less than 3 “major proposals”:

1. …the opening speech gave the opportunity to delegations to express their disagreement with the analysis of the President on the situation in the Office

2. the Tax-adjustment was purely and simply rejected

3. the paper on Orientations for the structural reform of the EPO Boards of Appeal was purely removed overnight from the agenda (see point II)

4. even the review of the service regulation did not make it on the agenda and an overnight reworked revised version was only accepted after controversial discussions

It may not solve our urgent problems directly but the above seems to indicate that if not an earthquake, major tremors have emanated from the AC epicentre.

After 3 AC sessions during which delegations expressed subtle warnings though means of abstentions and critical remark, their message is now less diplomatic and this president has been stopped for the first time ever.

One can hope that clear instructions have also been issued by the AC regarding how to deal with the staff, the staff representation and the suspended colleagues, as some of the statements in plenum seem to indicate, but nothing is less than sure. And one can hope that the powerful will not vent their frustration on those the powerless staff they administer (see point IV below).

II- DG3 reforms: “Gimme that toy before you break it entirely…”

As mentioned above, after the Confidential session, the reform was removed from the agenda and replaced by an exchange of view in plenum. It essentially suggests that the B28 is put in charge of this dossier and comes, after another consultation, with a reviewed proposal.

Surprisingly, it is the Swiss delegation by the voice of Mr. Grossenbacher, that seems to have taken the lead* in reformulating the reform proposal. As a side note, it is remarkable, since the present administration is the very product of this powerful man sitting a AC president for years and who has initially suggested the whole HR reforms and what many call and “autocratic” management style rolled out by the present administration: a “Brutus-situation” the other way around?

In essence, the proposal seemingly should be refocused on the following elements (to paraphrase the Swiss delegate):

1. “The seat issue is less important. It appears to us irrelevant. The Boards of Appeal can stay where they are, in the Isar building. This costs nothing and does not harm the independence.“

2. They suggest “to exclude The Cooling-Off Period”, preventing employment after EPO life.

3. For the appointment and reappointment of DG3 members, the right of appointment must be transferred to the President of the Board of Appeal.

4. The Rules of Procedure should not be proposed by the Office President.

5. The budget should be prepared to be then submitted to the Council as in CA/16/15

6. The Board of Appeal Committee should be established by the Council alone. The Committee serves to foster dialogue. The decisions should be taken by the Council. Six members should have the Committee, three by the Council and three from the Boards of Appeal. No observer, but the President of the Boards of Appeal and others can be invited.

7. The wage system should be committed to performance however, the modalities of which should be worked on later however, handling should remain solely with the President of the Boards of Appeal.

8. The timeframe: new proposal by March 2016.

It is too early to comment on the new direction but so much seems clear: it seems to have changed towards insuring truly more independence. However, in the light on the complexity of the issue we can simply wish them good luck with this challenging timetable.

III- Suspense and suspension: ad vitam eternam is removed but…

The original reform proposal regulating the suspension of staff (Art.95, planned by Mr. Battistelli to be without limitation in time) was replaced overnight. The revised version tabled lead to somewhat confused or confusing discussions in plenum as the new wording was discovered by many during the session. The final document can be found now on MICADO.

In essence, the delegations recognised the problem with having a 4 months time-limit for employees nominated by the AC, which seems incompatible with the rhythm of 3 to 4 planned plenary sessions per year but seem to have understood that the removal of any maximum time limit is abusive. It is thus suggested to keep the 4 months for all staff and as a compromise change it to up to 24 months for appointees of the AC. In how far, such a legal uncertainty for a judge is seen as adequate by the delegations seems well above my pay-grade…

On the retroactivity on running cases – which leads this reform to be dubbed by some outside observers as a special rule exclusively targeting the suspended DG3 judge – the debate was heated: some delegations considered the legality of such a proposal “questionable” and in fine, it led to DE and NL to vote against the proposal. All considered, the proposal found a large majority with 32 in favour, 2 against (DE, NL) and 4 abstentions (GR, SK, SE, FR).

IV- Lost in suspension: “and the winner is…”

Wednesday and Thursday the Member States representatives made certainly a remarkable step towards taking concrete actions. Today is Friday and “real-life” goes on with its train of bad news… The dust has not settled yet and the Disciplinary Committees are taking the next steps on very practical cases, touching the lives of colleagues who should be focusing on Christmas and their families or friends instead.

The bad news is that the Disciplinary committees seem to work as if nothing happened. In the first concrete case of Ms. Elizabeth Hardon the recommendation has fallen and is unambiguous. We can unfortunately expect her dismissal at short notice. Under these conditions, little hope remains for the other two colleagues who are still expecting terrific news.

The next week will tell us if the president has been given clear instructions or only polite indications during the Administrative Council.

But honestly, hope is slim that these colleagues are given a chance to a fair trial given the procedure so far.

V- Personal comments: it can’t go on like this, this is not a life!

[...] the staff representation office-wide has been decimated and many of its actors are getting at a point where they are either sick, suspended, resigned or Els(e)… This cannot go on.

Statistically spoken, as can be seen from the paper “Social Democracy: Staff Representation dismantling is on track!” we used to have ca. 200 staff members working on behalf of Staff representation in the past with an average of ca. 40 men years. It represented in 2012 a total of 8900 days, e.g. a yearly 1,2 day per staff member. Now the December Dashboard shows EXCATLY 3281 days, e.g. less than 0,46 day per staff member. Such statistics mean preciously little when you live it but they can be a pale indication to an outsider.

The EPO makes no secret of the fact that it not interested in the Staff opinion and even less its staff representation but everybody knows that already.

That fact per se is dangerous enough for any institution. Evolution has shown that an organism without feedback loops is bound to fail.

My opinion is to let people work under these conditions is grossly negligent.

And, as in the above mentioned cases, attacking them at the same me is purely and simply criminal. (if not legally than at least morally)

In short, it seems likely that the EPO will officially fire a staff representative for allegedly speaking to a blogger (not me), allegedly speaking to a judge, and something about "sniper" (just a cheap personal attack on the accused). This serves as a warning shot or — pardon the pun — sniping of a staff representative to scare all others. If this doesn’t constitute union-busting, what is?

“Battistelli was trouble for the EPO all along.”Battistelli must be furious that his power over the delegates is rapidly eroding, so he looks for a scapegoat and tries to demonstrate his alleged superpower in order to restore his old reign of terror. History teaches that moves such as these are short-lived and doomed to fail. But who are the sacrificial lambs to be martyred?

Battistelli was trouble for the EPO all along. It’s him and his new high-level recruits that need to go, not the decades-long representatives of staff, whose endorsement/popularity among staff was very much evident in recent public protests.

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