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12.19.15

Watch Out for ‘Divide and Rule’ Tactics From the Control Risks- and FTI Consulting-Steered EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Playing favourites” and other fracturing strategies seem quite likely in the mix

Control Risks et al.

Summary: Unions of the EPO are being busted and even played off against one another as part of a strategy which appears to resemble a union busters’ classic

THINGS at Benoît Battistelli’s EPO are quite grim. They are getting only worse over time, never any better. The French media has just written about this and we wait for people who can translate the article.

Now that the EPO’s tyrant in chief (Battistelli) is trying to portray SUEPO as some kind of radical fringe (calling it “Mafia” even though a massive and ever-growing number of EPO staff are members) we are starting to suspect it’s a strategy we saw and covered here before, in relation to software. For those who are not familiar with it, in the political (and sometimes commercial) world you can weaken some party by introducing or propping up more ‘moderate’ elements, however small these may be, then induce dilution (by fracturing or superficial division a la sectarian violence, mastered by the British empire). Defection isn’t imperative if one can simply incite people against the original party. Some people call this strategy “Controlled Opposition”. It’s a difficult one to tackle because whether one joins or attacks such perceived (newly-introduced) opposition, the only party destined to benefit is the ‘puppet master’ of this whole show. It always serves to weaken the majority. It’s a form of art and people like those whom Team Battistelli contracted probably know such a spiel.

“It’s a form of art and people like those whom Team Battistelli contracted probably know such a spiel.”Comments in IP Kat are once again driven towards distraction and infighting (familiar trolling tactics which are used across the Internet to discredit the commenters in forums critical of companies*), reducing the signal-to-noise ratio and thus discouraging constructive participation. Every now and then there are comments that actually add new information rather than feed the trolls. For instance, this comment about FFPE-EPO says that “FFPE-EPO is about to sign a MoU with the office, which will include a passage about the strike regulations needing to be amended.

“That will be a huge victory for the management, even though FFPE-EPO is only local in The Hague, and based on the last election results published, have only about 90 members. But the election details were from 2009, the 2011 results did not include numbers of eligible votes, and apparently there have been no elections since.”

What we generally found is, the management is trying to divide (as in “divide and rule”) the staff and some say that FFPE-EPO is even ‘in bed’ with Bergot (there are many more rumours out there about FFPE-EPO). One comment from exactly one month ago said:

Of course they are management friendly: they were created and sponsored internally with the one belgian colleague close to VP1 who recently has become PD (and also with the support of the then head of personnel in TH (a Dutch national now in DG3) and PD HR at the time (another Belgian now in Alicante).

Recently their officials in The Hague travelled with Ms Bergot to have an official meeting in Brussel with the head office of FFPE.

FFPE is a yellow union.

Prior to this one person wrote:

Among the increasingly bizarre pronouncements of the President is the one that says he is about to sign an agreement with the unions in a matter of days. How can this be when SUEPO has long declined any further discussions as long as its representatives are under threat?

The answer is possibly that the President intends to enter into an agreement with FFPE. This is a management-sponsored union set up some years before the arrival of Battistelli, as an opponent of SUEPO. It was accorded privileges never allowed to SUEPO, such as its own office in The Hague. Now there is nothing wrong with any alternative union with different views appealing to staff – that is simple democracy. However, its candidates failed at the time to win election to the staff committee. That is also democracy.

Up until recently little was heard of it, but it was a party to the talks on Union recognition held earlier this year. I am prepared to bet that Battystelli intends to sign an agreement with it to show how Union-friendly he is. It is normal for such agreements to set a minimum requirement for the percentage of staff belonging to any Union before it is recognized as a negotiation partner. SUEPO membership is around 40-50% of staff. FFPE membership was secret last time I asked, but it was roughly estimated to be around 40 (members, not percentages) in its heyday. This would represent about 0.57% of staff. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on these figures, but the orders of magnitude are correct. It will be interesting to see if Batty ignores these facts.

In defence of FFPE-EPO one person wrote:

FFPE-EPO is not management friendly, but they lack capacity and experience, furthermore they are limited to The Hague only.
They split from SUEPO due to the overactivity of SUEPO, and because SUEPO did nothing to get the same rights for Dutch employees in The Hague as the “expats” in The Hague enjoy.
Therefore nearly all FFPE-EPO members are of Dutch nationality, which actually severely limits FFPE-EPO.

Another person wrote:

While I would welcome a second point of view in the on-going discussions, and a second report of how the meetings regarding the rcognition of the unions is proceedings, and thus a second union could be advantageous, I have a few problems with the way the current second union handles current “reforms to ensure the independency of the EPO for the future”. My major point of deficiency FFPE-EPO has in my views, that they do not communicate how they see the current discussions.
Once a year a blue page in the inbox of the emploees doesn’t tell us much about what they are doing to address the current topics, nor where they see a possible solution, nor if an how they are in cntct with the administration/other unions/….
To me it seems a lot like the FFPE-EPO officials “gave up” and do not care about FFPE-EPO anymore, and several of their members I know will leave FFPE-EPO due to their silence…

Here is the part about Bergot again:

well if you wish to know the FFPE position read management communication my friend ;o)

Again FFPE-EPO officials travelled WITH Mrs Bergot to meet their head office in Brussel. How can this be a trustworthy union.

Say no more

We previously covered FFPE-EPO’s statement or stance, but there are sceptical voices there which ask them, “tell us something FFPE-EPO: how many members do you have of how many nationality?” Another says: “SUEPO is not only an organization under Dutch law, If I am not mistaken. SUEPO also represents staff in Munich, Berlin and Vienna. FFPE-EPO does not seem to be an option for staff at those locations, which is the majority. If I am wrong, please put me right.”

Cynic said: “As a Suepo member, Ffpe is a union for primarily Dutch colleagues who do face distinct issues unrelated to their non-Dutch colleagues which do not get a large look in with Suepo. This is almost inevitable and I appreciate that the solution is either to have a dedicated romp within Suepo or a separate parallel union. Ideally they would find a place within Suepo but I don’t see them as ‘opposition’ although they have been played off against Suepo at times for mgt games.

“With regard to mgt fighting blog games, the actions of mgt are barely credible and the PR battle is going against them. For a long time they kept a lofty disregard but as the battles became uncomfortable they have signed up with agencies for tidy sums who are clearly trying for reputation mgt using a different tactic. It looks like a last stand with backs to the wall but maybe that’s wishful thinking. ”

That’s where we suspect there may be efforts to divide and rule (the above is clearly some kind of infighting). One person even pulled me into this and wrote: “Dr. Schestowitz has often expressed misgivings about the UPC. Presumably management at the EPO have concluded that he must be part of the anti-UPC conspiracy and must be crushed using all resources available.”

“Enemy in the own body” is what one reader of ours called this strategy. “Regarding what Battistelli says about the union,” referring to SUEPO, “(or as he called elsewhere, “minority of staff” – this is fully ridiculous) – he used the term “mafia”.

“I wonder,” the reader said, “why he did not use “cancer”, the enemy in the own body. It is he and his inner circle, not the staff, who is the enemy (cancer) in the own body. Reforms of the European Patent Organisation are needed, especially law (which is available) must be applicable and the waive of immunity (for all non-patent-related matters). Democracy and Human rights are ignored, I regard this as illegal, and the public must fight against the unlawful behaviour.”

The curious thing we find as we glance at comments in IP Kat is the effort to distract and to turn the debate into a combative argument between defenders of the EPO (or sceptics of the regulars), not the sharing of information among staff with the cloak of anonymity (offered with very clear caveats by Google).

Based on what we have learned, even money is being used in an effort to appease critics (not just delegates). We wrote about this a week ago. Bonus as an incentive goes a long way, no matter how miniscule. We have learned that among patent examiners, for example, a “vast majority” denied and even appealed against this form of “corruption”.

“In other words,” we were told, “since Brimelow, Pompidou and Battistelli, they did not want to become accomplices of the management. I know of some who donated their bonus, or a major part, to charity organisations, because they did not want this stinky euros.”

Appeasing or discouraging dissent by paying people more (than colleagues in the same pay grade) is one way to buy people’s silence. “My personal view,” our source told us, is that “this is money from applicants, public, and should not be fed back to public servants. Like the millions which are spent for the (cui bono?) “Inventors of the year” events.”

A similarly-obscene amount of money (nearly a million dollars) is being wasted because Team Battistelli is now paying a US-based PR firm for reputation laundering or disaster management. Considering the fact that this money is sucked up through patent tax (tax on European citizens, collected by the EPO's 'special' friends which it calls “major applicants”), that’s really something, isn’t it? A tax paid by the public is now being used for deceiving that same public so that the public keeps paying up. What a scam. And the EPO still enjoys a monopoly in Europe (and hopes to make it more so with the UPC).

To our reader it seems like “no one of the examiners wants a bonus in these times. It is internal corruption.”
__________
* Not sure if the the EPO meddles to achieve this or maybe FTI Consulting, to some degree. We wrote about this before.

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