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01.20.16

The Next Phase of Union Busting: Battistelli Now Cutting Salaries of Yet More EPO Staff Representatives

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Eponian nightmare

“The statesman who would attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himeslf with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

Adam Smith

Summary: As expected, Battistelli’s war on staff that does not agree with him 100% on everything proceeds to the next phase, broadening the war front and picking on lower level representatives

THE EPO protest has just ended, so now is a good opportunity to revisit the motivations and the cause. Those who aren’t (yet) furious probably just don’t know what’s going on. Maybe they believe the EPO management’s lies, which the local media perpetuates (same author who did defamatory character assassination of an accused judge). Being fired from the EPO with pension cuts (i.e. future sanctions) is not the full story. Sanctions on future employment and heavy fines (in terms of legal fees) are more like the reality we’re dealing with here. SUEPO’s leaders are being punished for daring to reduce/eliminate legal costs, thus providing affordable access to justice (by joining SUEPO). The ILO has been far too slow for reprieves because of an overwhelming number of complaints. Abuses by EPO management against EPO staff are rampant.

Battistelli “and his gang,” according to this new comment, “assault another staff representative: Laurent Prunier. The latter is on sick leave. BB [Battistelli decided to simply cut Mr Prunier’s salary at the end of the month. That is once more in breach of the applicable law.

“So bash BB, bash! You’re above the law, for now.”

We mentioned Prunier by name here before [1, 2, 3], even in Spanish.

That’s not number 4 by our count. There are numerous other attacks on SUEPO representatives, but the public certainly doesn’t know about them (a lot of EPO staff doesn’t know about these attacks either). Remember that EPO management likes to (mis)use gag orders.

To quote SUEPO’s own message regarding today’s protest:

Ortssektion München . Local Section Munich . Section locale de Munich

18.01.2016
su16007mp – 0.2.1/0.3.2/0.2.2

ACTIONS CONTINUE

DEMONSTRATION

20 January 2016

Status quo
Last Friday all three of the suspended staff representatives in Munich received the decision in their disciplinary procedures. True to style, the punishments decided by Mr Battistelli were even harsher than what was recommended by the disciplinary committees. The dismissals are with immediate effect, with a “compensation corresponding to the statutory period of notice”, infringing Art. 53(3) ServRegs and depriving the colleagues concerned of 4.5 months of social security.

The decisions of Mr Battistelli were, for once, not marked as “confidential”. Instead they contained a reference to Arts. 19 and 20 ServRegs, i.e. an implicit threat with further disciplinary proceedings in case of any unauthorised publication about the cases. We are seeking legal advice about how to interpret this. For now we just mention that according to Mr Battistelli, Ion Brumme should have known that the contract used by SUEPO was illegal under German law, even though a highly
placed German judge certified that the contract is perfectly legal. In two out of three decisions furthermore a link was made to the DG3 member for whom the Enlarged Board of Appeal considered the allegations not proven. The decisions seem to show that Mr Battistelli has lost touch with reality and is seeing conspiracies everywhere.

As the news spread through the Office spontaneous demonstrations erupted in Munich, The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. Despite the short notice and the icy cold the demonstration in Munich was very well attended.

Protest

Next steps
Mr Battistelli’s decisions state that a request for review may be filed with the Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU). The CRU was created by Mr Battistelli, allegedly to resolve conflicts at an early stage. In practice it doesn’t, at least not for staff: of the 375 cases in 2013/2104 that were reviewed by the external auditors, only about 4% were “allowed” or “allowed in part”1. The final decision will again

__
1 See CA/21/15, point 46.


be by the President. The next step after the CRU is a complaint at ILO-AT. ILO-AT has a massive back-log for which it blames the EPO. It also has a very low success rate for staff complaints.

Union recognition, social study and more
At the same time the Battistelli administration continues to pretend that it seeks a social dialogue. One week before the decisions Ms Bergot invited SUEPO to Union recognition talks onJanuary, i.e. a day for which a demonstration had been announced. We wonder how the administration sees such talks with the Munich SUEPO chair dismissed and still banned from the premises.

The Administrative Council is the supervisory body for the President. Ms Hardon therefore informed Mr Kongstad, Chairman of the Administrative Council, of the repeated investigations against her that seemed to constitute institutional harassment, initiated at the highest level in the Office, i.e. by the President. She asked for an independent investigation into the accusations lodged against her. The reply of Mr Kongstad was: “I have decided to refer your request to the President as the competent appointing authority”.

We nevertheless have the impression that at least some of the delegations in the Administrative Council have realised that making martyrs is not the best way to make peace and insisted that Mr Battistelli avoid dismissals. If so then Mr Battistelli’s decisions are not only aimed at showing staff “who’s the boss here” but also at the Council.

It is difficult to see how the “Social Study” decided by the Administrative Council in its December meeting (to be done “in close cooperation with the President”) will solve our problems any time soon. SUEPO has repeatedly requested independent, external mediation as a possible means resolve the on-going conflict. We maintain our request for mediation and will repeat it at ministerial level. Withdrawal of the disciplinary measures against all staff representatives (five up to now, with more expected) will have to be part of any plan for restoring social peace.

The bigger picture
We want to stress again that the unjustified disciplinary measures against staff representatives, albeit very serious, are only a small part of the problems generated by the Battistelli administration. Under Mr Battistelli we have seen a constant weakening of the internal and external control mechanism on the Office (starting with the dissolution of the Audit Committee) and a strengthening of controls by the President (e.g. Investigative Unit; “loyal”, mostly French co-workers on key posts) as well as a serious degradation of almost all aspects of the working conditions of staff. SUEPOalso not blind to the impact that Mr Battistelli’s misguided efficiency drive is likely to have on the functioning of the EPO, and on the European patent system as a whole. We refer to an earlier SUEPO paper entitled “Brave new EPO”.

Our claims therefore remain:
- A return to a Rule of Law, i.e. respect for the EPO regulations and for European legal norms,
- Freedom of Association, and
- Appropriate, good faith negotiation of the staff work package, including the reporting system that necessarily has an impact on the quality of the work done.

Demonstrations will continue until the EPO is back on track: with its staff policies (respect for staff rights) and with its patent policies (quality).

Demonstration: 20 January 2016
Start: 12.30h in front of the Isar building,
For a march to the Bayerische Staatskanzlei

SUEPO Munich

We hope to find time to evening to write more about the EPO (there’s plenty more on the way or in the ‘backlog’, so to speak). In the mean time, can someone please send us English translation of this new article from newspress.fr? It says (in French): “J’ai appris avec stupeur la décision annoncée ce matin par le Président de l’Office Européen des Brevets (OEB), Benoît Battistelli, de sanctionner très durement 3 agents de l’OEB, dirigeants à Munich du syndicat SUEPO. J’en suis profondément choqué. Deux de ces agents, pour l’une présidente du syndicat sur le site de Munich, pour l’autre ancien président, sont licenciés. La présidente est même privée d’une part de ses droits à pension. Une lourde rétrogradation frappe le troisième agent.

“J’observe que le Président Battistelli a fixé ces sanctions bien au-delà des recommandations que lui avaient faites les commissions de discipline de l’OEB. La volonté de faire mal, de faire peur, d’éradiquer toute critique et tout pouvoir intermédiaire est donc caractérisée. Et assumée.”

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