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03.18.16

Translation of Article Highlights Bavarian Political Motion, Protest Scale and Severity in Munich

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protest article

Summary: Protests in Munich covered by the media, including pertinent details about them and the new intervention from the Bavarian Parliament

A lot happened yesterday at the EPO. Aside from reports about the outcome of the Administrative Council's meeting there was Bavarian Parliament intervention. “The party that brought this motion is well-respected,” Florian Müller told me this morning “and, as your article notes, centrist. More center-right than center-left.” Details about the staff protest can be found in German media. An original article in German (reasonably long compared to some) is now behind a paywall, but the English translation is below with highlights:

2000 against one

Munich (DK) in the crisis-ridden European Patent Office (EPO), the President has to deal with the crumbling support of the Member States. At the same time outside, 2000 employees claim his resignation.

Again and again must Ion Brumme interrupt his speech. Again and again, the about 2000 people who gathered in front of the European Patent Office at the Isar in Munich, loudly shout. “Démission! Démission!” it reverberates towards the EPO, one of the most important offices for the European economy, which for months threatens to sink into chaos.

The demand for resignation has been deliberately kept in French. Since the addressee is the French EPO President Benoît Battistelli, who has fallen out with many employees and who is fighting a bitter power struggle with the union SUEPO. Battistelli has become accustomed to office staff gathering in front of his Office to demonstrate against him – that has happened regularly for about one and a half years. Yesterday, however, the demonstration was of particular importance.

Because simultaneously with the protests, which were attended by more than half of the about 4000 EPO staff working in Munich, the patent organisation’s Administrative Council had a meeting inside the building. The meeting had been eagerly expected since inconsistencies between Battistelli and the Administrative Council had become public in advance. The backing for the controversial president in the control panel, in which the 38 member states of the international organization are represented, had evidently shrunk in the recent months. There have even been speculations about a vote of no confidence against Battistelli. Official statements on the results of the Administrative Council meeting, which continues today, are expected only after its end.

For Ion Brumme there is only one solution: “Battistelli can no longer be tolerated!” and “Battistelli! It is time to go!” he calls out to the crowd and reaps cheers and applause. Brumme is one of two leading trade unionists and staff representatives that had recently been thrown out by Battistelli. The reversal of the dismissals and an independent audit of the bullying allegations the sackings were based on, are just one of the demands of the demonstrators. Among other things, they also expect: end the surveillance, internal investigations in line with the principles of the rule-of-law and no nagging of sick employees.

Elizabeth Hardon, the other dismissed unionist, reproaches Battistelli for wanting to split SUEPO. Staff representatives from other EPO sites report that the Administrative Council would increase the pressure on Battistelli. At the same time figures are read, which shall express the displeasure of the staff. According to a staff survey, the proportion of employees with mental health problems has increased within the last three years from two to eleven percent, due to the high working pressure in the office.

Meanwhile, this issue has also reached Bavarian politics. Yesterday, the party ‘Freie Wähler’ [FW] brought an urgent motion with the title “Secure the Bavarian level of worker protection in the whole of Bavaria: remind the European Patent Office of its duty” into the Bavarian parliament. In this motion they complain that in the EPO “there are obviously significant deficiencies” with respect to the labour law status of the employees. Worker protection at Bavarian level should apply to the whole territory of the Free State [of Bavaria], even if the Patent Office is a non-Bavarian institution.

“Bayern must not stand idly by when human rights violations occur in the European Patent Office – based in Munich”, said the spokesperson for social politics of the FW party, Gabi Schmidt . Above all the internal investigations in the EPO, where defendants have no right to remain silent, are an eyesore for the FW.

The Patent Office by the way keeps calm about the demonstrations. That they were permitted and declared as a fundamental right, would show that social dialogue is possible, told us the communication department. The president’s offer to talk to the unions would still be valid, and SUEPO was called to return to the negotiating table. But when simultaneously 2000 employees shout “Démission!” the dialogue can be expected to be difficult.

By Daniel Wenisch

Later today, if and when new information arrives, we shall publish it as soon as possible. We already have some stories on the way, but they are not so urgent or emergent.

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