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01.24.16

Dismissal of EPO Staff Representatives Does Not Eliminate Them as EPO Staff Sticks Together, Shares the Burden, the Pain

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hornets’ nest phenomenon clearly not understood by EPO management

Hornets' nest

Summary: Despite dismissals and rather severe punishments (which were over-zealously applied by Battistelli in spite of advice from the disciplinary committees), the staff unions at the EPO continue to show signs of strength and take further actions (some even more effective than before, e.g. strikes)

THE thing which EPO management does not seem to ‘get’, just as it’s still failing to understand the Streisand Effect, is that the harder it crushes the unions, the more ‘aggressive’ or combative (in a reactionary fashion) union members will become and the worse things will get for EPO management. They’re poking a hornets’ nest.

After repeated attacks on the unions, culminating in dismissals, some staff decided to go on strike. The common/shared pain, moreover, may help support those who were dismissed. The overstressed staff views representatives as martyrs or as people who cannot be left to perish, helping the EPO management make an example of them (to scare others).

Financial support is now being offered to dismissed union leaders. To quote correspondence that we saw, “answering the most urgent matter, several initiatives have started here and there. However, in the light of the complex local situations in Holland and Germany, different models are being investigated. It can be assumed that staff will be informed as soon as something concrete is suggested. Here is what SUEPO Munich writes on the subject: “Of the five (!) staff representatives who have thus far been unduly sanctioned by Mr Battistelli, Ion Brumme is the hardest hit. Ion will need help. We are working on this. We are studying how best to arrange this from a legal and taxation on point of view.”

There are also indications that severe punishment did not prevent Weaver from being involved in union activities. “On a more personal note,” says the correspondence, “after months of absence, today, Malika Weaver was in the Office and again active in the CSC. While the marks of her ordeal were visible, it was nonetheless good to see her again. We can only sincerely hope that, one day, Ion Brumme and Els Hardon can also be seen again on the EPO premises. In the mean me it looks like all are doing their utmost to make it happen eventually.”

Brumme was not supposed to be sacked, but Battistelli vainly ignored the disciplinary committees. Sun King listens to nobody; Battistelli runs an autocracy masquerading as something else. This in itself is a good cause for a strike. Based on this new comment, “I cannot see where the examiners are DOING something as sign of protest. Obviously, demonstrating in public is not as effective as expected, the people “outside” EPO are not sensitive when workers earning 10k are not happy. If the AC can only be influenced by results, well, logically, it only remains one thing: producing less. I wonder when they will realize this. Of course, this would mean that they should say “bye-bye” to their bonuses…”

Months ago we complained about EPO examination done in a rush (i.e. a sloppy job) in order to meet some superficial targets. Well, as this comment puts it, “anyone is being pressurised to produce at least 10% more than average. Otherwise you’re threatened with …. I foresee a breakdown.

“Besides putting down work, all other industrial actions are considered to violate your contract and WILL lead to disciplinary procedures. “go slow” (producing less than average) is considered s.th. warranting dismissal now. “rechecking applicable procedures”, “going by the book” and other quality actions where you take the time and recheck whether you missed s.th. according to the guidelines are not allowed industrial actions. together with the scrapped training budget, we examiners are given no chance to read what the changed regulations are. Except in our private time. Yeah, facing dismissal because you want to do it right the first time is not a sign of trust.”

One comment says: “Again this year approx. 50 warning letters for under-performance will be issued or a voucher for a stiff session of institutional harassment …thereby securing some clientele for EB’s HR Conflict Resolution Department!”

Producing less is the road to dismissal in a performance-driven organisation,” says another comment. “Early Serenity from Search is such a success that many directorates start working on search files of priority group 4 and tackle the examination backlog by grant/refusal procedures not evolving from the tedious case law of the boards, but from on-demand just-in-time efficiency requirements. Those will be implemented preferably by five-year contractor examinators that can then be disposed of in a more flexible and legally solid manner, thereby also reducing the CO2-emmissions drastically. All these improvements are coming at no extra cost to the user! Check your parachutes, gentleman. We’ll soon reach our jumping altitude. And the light went green…”

It’s becoming easier to see by now why many workers see the need for reform, and why they’re willing to go to protests or even go on strike. A newer comment which we found this morning says:

The problem is that the experience you gain as an EPO examiner is of limited use outside the EPO. Once you have been there a decade or so, you’re effectively stuck there for life. You don’t discover this until you actually start applying for jobs. Then you quickly realise that you will have to take a a real-terms pay cut of 50% or so if you really want to leave. I’ve been there, so I know what I’m talking about.

This is why I think that Battistelli is so cruel and vindictive. The man basically has you guys by the short and curlies, and he knows it. In the absence of any effective restraint from the Administrative Council, he can squeeze your pips as hard as he likes, and you will still dance obediently to his tune.

A few years ago, I would still have recommended the job of EPO examiner as a responsible and intellectually fulfilling job, albeit with the caveat that it’s difficult to make the transition back to the real world. These days, I would urge any prospective candidate to think very carefully indeed before selling their soul to such an organisation.

One person then asks: “What about everyone calling in sick? In these circumstances I think most doctors would support that having to work under such unbearable pressure and threats is sickening and causing massive burn outs. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops if BB declares the sick people not sick, against the doctors’ advises. Which he may, according to the new rules, unbelievably.”

If the EPO is led to understanding that crushing unions backfires this badly, maybe it will give up trying.

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