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02.06.16

The ‘Offenses’ of EPO Staff Representatives Boil Down to Truth-Telling

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NOSSummary: Dutch television examined the documents of the mock ‘trials’ against SUEPO leaders and concluded that whistle-blowing (i.e. exposing abuses by EPO management), not misconduct, is the reason for overzealous dismissals

Benoît Battistelli’s harassment of staff representatives may some day culminate in his own dismissal (just a rumour for now). He has caused tremendous damage to the EPO and he is personally connected to a lot of people in management — people who are also among the biggest culprits.

Battistelli, who has a long habit (or addiction, or paranoia) of walking around with private bodyguards, compares his critics to something like 'snipers' or 'Mafia' (the ‘sniper’ remarks are clearly taken out of context). Battistelli deluded himself into thinking he's fighting some kind of war on terror, but the only threat he has faced so far is embarrassing information coming out to the media. The crushing of the unions and the pretexts for it are all about confidentiality, as if secrecy — as judged by management (to protect it from criticism/scrutiny) — is the most important thing. Truth itself is now an enemy of Team Battistelli, which is basically a self-guarding clique.

The following recent article (from the Dutch Broadcast Foundation), which SUEPO provided a translation of with images included [PDF], remarks on the nature of the allegations, which we highlight in yellow below:

Protest against ‘intimidation’ at European Patent Office

The European Patent Office in Rijswijk Marc Hamer / NOS

By:

Hugo van der Parre
Research Editor

Bas de Vries
NOS Net Editor

Employees of the European Patent Office (EPO) in Rijswijk are taking to the streets today. The employees are protesting the dismissal of two colleagues and the demotion of a third. Among the employees is the Dutch chair of the union, Elizabeth Hardon.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld representing the union speaks of “outright intimidation”. The location in Rijswijk is the largest international organisation in the Netherlands, with 2,700 employees.

The punished employees all work for the European Patent Office union from its headquarters in Munich. According to the protestors, they are facing the consequences of the fact that they dared to criticise the “tyrannical” head of EPO, Frenchman Benoît Battistelli.

Head of the organisation Battistelli has an entirely different interpretation. According to him, he was forced to strike hard as the three employees did not follow internal rules in various ways and discredited their own organisation.

Lawyer Zegveld: ‘They are protesting against a culture of intimidation’

Tensions within the European Patent Office have been there for quite some time, but the issue now appears to be escalating. “It seems that constitutional rights just don’t apply here,” one of the employees said, who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear for reprisals. “We even have a kind of secret service that monitors the employees.”

The only supervisory entity at the top is the so-called Management Board, which consists almost entirely of the directors of the national patent offices of the 38 EPO countries. But they have yet to take a stand, according to the Suepo union. When Hardon appealed to the Management Board for help leading up to her dismissal, they just referred her back to Battistelli. He then not only kicked her out, but also cut her accumulated pension rights as an extra sanction.

We even have a kind of secret service that monitors the employees.

European Patent Office employee

A representative of the French parliament for French citizens abroad, Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, called the sanctions imposed on the employees “a disgrace and highly unjust”. Member of the Dutch House of Representatives John Kerstens (of the Labour Party) wants “the Dutch cabinet to do everything in its power to ensure normal work relationships”. Kerstens: “Employee rights that are seen as completely normal cannot be infringed upon to such a degree that employees feel threatened and intimidated.”

Today’s protest march in The Hague will go from the French to the German embassy. The disgruntled employees hope to get the governments of both countries to intervene, and hope the Dutch government will do the same.

Rutte

The Dutch cabinet has yet to make a clear statement on the issue. In response to questions from the House of Representatives, Minister Asscher previously underlined that part of the problem is that the board of management of the European Patent Office has legal immunity. That means, among other things, that the Dutch Inspectorate (I-SZW) cannot be granted access to the offices in Rijswijk as long as Battistelli does not allow it.

The European Patent Office is currently building a new office near the current building in Rijswijk, costing €205 million. Prime Minister Rutte helped Battistelli lay the first stone in the summer of 2014. On its website, the city of Rijswijk states that the EPO “makes an important contribution to the Dutch economy by providing jobs to tens of thousands of people in The Hague area”.

Yesterday, the NOS asked the European Patent Office for a response to the criticism surrounding head of the organisation Battistelli. But as of last night, they had yet to respond.

The ‘charge’: slander campaign or constructed?

According to Benoît Battistelli, he is the victim of a targeted action led by his own staff. “We can now openly say that over the past two or three years, we have been the victim of an orchestrated campaign of which the goal was to destabilise and discredit the organisation,” the EPO president said last October in an interview with Financieele Dagblad.

The dismissed Dutch chair of the office’s own union in Munich is suspected of things including helping another colleague in that campaign. She is also said to have threatened colleagues and expressed that an internal procedure was being carried out against her. The latter is prohibited at the EPO as well.

According to union lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, this is clearly a constructed charge against union chair Hardon. For example, documents examined by the NOS show that the ‘threat’ entailed no more than warning a colleague that they would be criticised if they accepted a certain position.

Nevertheless, Battistelli is cracking down hard on Elizabeth Hardon. She is not only being fired; she is also losing 20% of her accumulated pension rights. The latter is stricter than the advice the president received from an internal ‘disciplinary committee’ that examined her case.

That applies even more strongly to the case against the ex-chair of the Suepo union. His disciplinary committee recommended leaving most charges against him alone, but in his case Battistelli also opted for dismissal. The union treasurer’s salary went down by eight pay scales.

This is clearly not justice. It’s very gross injustice. We decided to make more of the information publicly available because only by accessing the claims can one see how truly ridiculous they are. The above says that “documents examined by the NOS show that the ‘threat’ entailed no more than warning a colleague that they would be criticised if they accepted a certain position.”

The EPO does not have a President; it has a ruthless emperor. It doesn’t matter what the law says and what people below him may say, he and only he will have the last word. Appointments at the EPO’s management follow the standards of third world countries and so does the behaviour of this management. Where is the German media, which is suspiciously reluctant to shed light on any of this?

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