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10.16.17

The Systematic Erosion of Workers’ Rights and Holidays at the EPO Goes Years Back

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And Christoph Ernst ought to restore and recognise Reformation Day 2017 at the EPO

EPO letter regarding holidays

Summary: The legitimacy of the staff’s concerns at the EPO, having seen basic labour safeguards being shredded to pieces by Battistelli for a number of years (predating even the escalation of the conflict)

THE legacy of Battistelli as President of the EPO isn’t just brain drain, poor quality of EPs, and serious damage to reputation.

The erosion in pay and career paths, combined with depression and sometimes suicides, will continue to haunt the Office. SUEPO warned about this years ago [PDF], but that fell on deaf ears and the only outcome was the sacking of SUEPO leaders. Recently, Battistelli had yet more holidays called off simply because that suits him (and his right-hand bulldog said it would increase “productivity”).

“Will the rule of law be enforced and will it be recognised that Battistelli cannot simply ‘rob’ the staff (their rights, their rest days) for the sake of “productivity”?”Well now, with a German at the helm, will any of this change? Will the rule of law be enforced and will it be recognised that Battistelli cannot simply ‘rob’ the staff (their rights, their rest days) for the sake of “productivity”? Ernst has an opportunity to intervene before it’s too late, at the very least as a goodwill gesture to staff in Germany (Munich, Berlin).

Earlier this morning someone posted/approved this comment at IP Kat

Now that the EPO has a German chairman, will there be a different (even If only temporary ) approach to being so UP promoting??

As we wrote a very long time ago, Ernst has a hand in the UPC too, so we doubt he’ll just unilaterally walk away from it, the constitutional challenge notwithstanding.

If he is truly toothless a Chairman, who is as subservient to Battistelli as Kongstad was, he’ll probably neither say nor do anything.

The bizarre situation of Battistelli controlling the Council isn’t new. It’s like the overseer of Battistelli became his lapdog, sometimes because Battistelli showered some nations (typically smaller ones) with Office money.

The situation was never this bad. Staff representatives already pointed this out to the Council 3 years ago ahead of its quarterly meeting, chaired by Kongstad. To quote the letter in full:

Zentraler Vorstand . Central Executive Committee . Bureau Central

su14216cl
8 October 2014

To the members of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation

Increased legal uncertainty surrounding decisions of the Administrative Council of the EPO

Dear Sir, Madam,

In our letter of 3 March 2014, we have informed you1 about the legal risks taken by the Organisation when introducing unilaterally – and against the reasoned opinion of the Staff Representation – substantial changes to the Service Regulations.

It is our responsibility to draw your attention to new facts that further question the legal validity of many decisions taken by the Administrative Council in the recent past.

Since 2012 Mr Battistelli has been appointing the Vice-Presidents of the Office (VPs) to the General Advisory Committee (GAC). The Staff Representation warned the Office that this was probably unlawful, to no avail. GAC members filed Internal Appeals against this decision. The Internal Appeals Committee (IAC) recently decided on the matter and unanimously considered that appointing VPs to the GAC in 2012 and 2013 was against the Service Regulations in force. The IAC further discussed the legal consequences, i.e. whether all decisions following GAC consultations in 2012 and 2013 should be quashed or not, and had a split opinion in this respect.

The President, who took the challenged decision in the first place, disagreed with the opinion of the IAC and rejected the appeal. The matter will thus be referred to the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation (ILO-AT) that will issue its judgement in a few years’ time.

________

1 Letter to AC Delegations ref. su14037cl dated 3 March 2014 concerning the reform “Social Democracy”.


Should the Tribunal, as we deem likely, concur with the unanimous opinion of the IAC, it could decide to quash all decisions of the AC that followed GAC consultations since 20122, including CA/D 2/14 that led to the creation of the new framework for social dialogue labelled “social democracy”, and to the body which replaces the GAC in that new framework, namely, the General Consultative Committee (GCC), to which the President has again appointed VPs.

After the doubts cast in 2010 on the legal validity of Ms Brimelow’s pension reform 3, you may have hoped of not being confronted with even larger legal issues created by the Office. Not only several past decisions of the AC (since 2012) are now put into question, but also future ones.

The reputation of the Organisation is at stake. Solutions can be found before the Tribunal rules on the matter. Be assured that SUEPO is – as ever – willing to develop them together with management.

Yours faithfully,

SUEPO Central

________
2 It is likely that the appeal against the 2014 appointments of VPs to the GAC will receive the same opinion from the IAC.
3 Cf. Opinion of the Internal Appeals Committee on CA/D 17/08. The case is now pending in front of the ILO-AT.

Who runs today’s Organisation? Does the Organisation manage the Office or does the ‘king’ of the Office manage the Organisation still?

How can Battistelli just deny staff’s rights? He’s likely doing this unlawfully, probably without any consultation with — or authorisation from — the Council, having nonchalantly decided to call off public holidays.

Reformation Day 2017 is at the end of this month, but Battistelli decided to call it off. Will Ernst intervene? Will he signal to staff that Battistelli is no longer a ‘king’ (in his own mind)? What we have seen so far isn't reassuring. Ernst is too weak.

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