Summary: Details about the latest developments in the union-busting campaign of Battistelli at The Hague, where Laurent Prunier and colleagues who are staff representatives face “demonstrably fabricated accusations,” according to Prunier
The disciplinary case of Laurent Prunier became more public a few months ago and we saw some details about it (both before and after). The atmosphere of sheer fear limits communication about these cases (there are threats being made to prevent/limit communications), but without any outside access to information the thugs who manage the EPO after a de facto coup can do just about anything without facing scrutiny, judgment, sometimes even backlash. That’s just what they want and to help them maintain this secrecy isn’t necessarily helpful (they eventually do whatever they please, experiences in Munich show). The significance of the attack on Prunier is that attacks on unions became apparent not just in Munich but also in The Hague (maybe Berlin too is somehow affected). Already, bearing in mind what we wrote about Mr. van der Eijk (the name indicates which country he is from) in past years, there were allegedly attacks on his independence at the boards. The latest message from AMBA says: “The present situation seems to be that the Boards of Appeal are now constituted within the BoAU, that the post of President of the Boards of Appeal is not yet occupied, that Mr van der Eijk is acting President of the Boards of Appeal, but that no power has been delegated to him. Thus, the President of the European Patent Office can be seen as exercising direct control over the Boards of Appeal.”
Feedback from Laurent Prunier, a SUEPO Secretary, was sent to us yesterday. Recipients were, as expected, colleagues from The Hague. Some of them deemed it worthwhile passing it on and after thinking about it for longer than a day I decided that portions of the message deserve to be publicly available, for Prunier’s protection (as when the public/press is aware of the situation there’s less leeway for this charade to carry on). We are aware of at least one more case which is similar to that of Prunier, culminating in a letter of dismissal. It’s often disguised as “health reasons” to hide the real motivations, such as union-busting endeavors.
Here are some selected bits (DG4 is Željko Topić, who apparently plays a big role in this attack, having done similar things in Croatia):
The Netherlands, 01-09-2016
Dear colleagues, Chers tous,
I hope this letter finds you well. This report is a little longer than usual because there have been new developments; it covers the months of June to August included. Once more UN GRAND MERCI for your solidarity, which allowed me to stay afloat [...] DG4 did not want to recognize my sick leave, in spite of valid medical certificates. They put me on unauthorized absence1 and cut 100% my remuneration as from January 2016. The Office has now changed tactics. At the end of June2, I have been suspended with immediate effect “awaiting trial” for alleged misconduct.
The letter of suspension was another punch in the stomach that left me knocked out for several days (by the way, thanks to those of you who sent me messages). As you may imagine getting back a stable health condition in such circumstances is a real Sisyphean task. Each new punch wastes the forces recovered from the previous one. But I will continue to defend my rights by all legitimate means: what is done to me may be tomorrow done to you; all this happened in the course of and because of my activities as staff/union representative. I thus sense it is my duty not to throw in the towel.
The Codex does not allow me to share the insights with you but:
• I firmly deny any wrongdoings.
• The whole is a genuine insult to anyone’s intelligence. The file against me contains so many demonstrably fabricated accusations that I have little doubt I can defend myself – or, rather I would be able to if, our internal system were not what it is currently, a kangaroo court.
The terms of the suspension
No date for the “trial” has been set, but I am “forbidden to enter any EPO premises as well as ordered not to travel away from The Hague without permission of the Office and to remain available for delivery of further correspondence and contact with the Office in (my) official address”. Basically, I am assigned to home arrest without any indication of the duration. The alleged legal basis for this restriction is Article 23 ServRegs – which does not concern suspensions. Just to illustrate the creativity of DG4 when it comes to use and misuse legal provisions to serve their ends.
1 In the meantime (on 26.07.2016), I received a letter from the Chairman of the Administrative Council concerning my Request for Review addressed to the Administrative Council (AC) on this matter. On 4th April 2016 my lawyer asked them to review my placement on unauthorized absence in spite of valid medical certificates. My lawyer asked the AC to review the matter since the President and his associates have an obvious conflict of interest, having expressed publicly and repeatedly their aversion to me. Well, Mr Kongstad informed me that since I wasn’t nominated by the AC, the AC does not see itself in charge of reviewing my RfR, and considers that the Office should deal with the RfR. My RfR will thus be examined by those who are causing my troubles, and who in fine, will take the decision on my internal appeal. So much for impartiality, conflict of interests and independence of judiciary vs. executive.
2 Also worth being noted, my suspension occurred only a few days after SUEPO filed a Kort Geding with the Court of Justice in The Hague to challenge its harassment by the Office. I can already hear VP1 muttering “pure coincidence”…
I was also ordered to hand back my EPO badge, my offices keys, laptop, mobile etc. This had to be done urgently but I was informed that my badge had been de-activated and the lock of my office had been changed in my absence (!) These orders had thus no purpose other than humiliation.
According to the Codex the suspension can last for a maximum four months (in my case this means up to end October 2016), but there too I remain prudent since the way DG4 interprets the Codex may deviate from its literal wording.
The suspension letter further states: “You shall receive your full salary; however the Office reserves its right to impose a deduction thereof under Art. 95(2) ServRegs if grounds for that arise”.
Again DG4 cannot help itself to systematically formulate the perspective of even more sanctions, always in unclear circumstances, so as to maintain a constant psycho-threat on those they target.
The consequences of the suspension
In July my “full salary” actually amounted to 1***EUR (!) only since… the EPO levied 3*** EUR as contributions for health and pension, retroactively from the date of my placement in unauthorized absence at the beginning of 2016. Another 1*** EUR for “arrears in June” was also retained (the explanations provided so far are cryptic to me). In August however my salary was finally paid in full for the first time since 01.01.2016. [redacted].
And other emergencies there will be. In March the Administrative Council adopted the resolution CA/26/16, urging the President to take concrete steps to de-escalate the social tensions. We all expected them to follow-up on this matter. They did not: in the June council, they only had time to try and fix the President’s attempts to extend his claws on DG3. Legitimate as that concern was, it is disappointing that they did not have time to tackle social issues. Given the fate of Staff and Union representatives, unjustly accused and punished [redacted]
Thus, not only your donation will have helped me to stay afloat, but if justice is done, it will also help others.
Again MANY THANKS for your support. Without you I would have faced harsh problems on the top of the “special treatment” by DG4/Mr Battistelli. This proves again that solidarity is the only way to move forward in our present work environment.
It looks as though Battistelli and his goons may be preparing to do in The Hague what they already did in Munich, having made it abundantly clear/explicit that they don’t give a damn about what Dutch courts say. How can anyone step aside at this sight of gross injustice? What has Battistelli turned the EPO into? █