07.16.20

SUEPO (the EPO’s Staff Union): “EPO Will Let Highly Experienced Examiners and Formalities Officers Leave Without Any Possibility of Knowledge Transfer to New Recruits”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recruits? There are none. António Campinos and Benoît Battistelli have turned the EPO into an unscientific/antiscientific (against facts) “swamp” which routinely does unlawful things.

No diving

Summary: According to internal documents, the EPO is writing its own death knell behind closed doors; it’s going to become just a patents ‘factory’ (monopolies aplenty), not a patent examination centre

THE FOLLOWING text from SUEPO (private publication) was ‘leaked’ to us by an insider, who sought to highlight what’s going on. It’s associated with or related to this leak from the European Patent Office’s (EPO) management. The concerned insider said “herewith a recent publication from SUEPO.”

“The EPO is not stopping recruiting new staff, it is new staff who are not applying for a position in this miserable place.”
      –Anonymous EPO insider
SUEPO doesn’t say or write much in public anymore; the censorship is rather apparent, having been accomplished by intimidation tactics. “Indeed,” our source noted, “the EPO is an awful place to be. Examiners’ lives matter. But the little peasant doesn’t care as long as he gets his fix.”

Here is what SUEPO wrote, based on the EPO’s “Revised Operational Plan”:

Munich 14.07.2020
sc20114cp

The Medium-Term Business Plan (2021-2025)

Your Future, No Future

The Finance Department and DG1 management are currently finalizing, behind closed doors, the Medium-Term Business Plan (2021-2025) which will shape the future of the work in DG1. The news is far from positive.

A freeze in recruitment

600 examiners will be leaving the Office between now and 2024, with no replacement foreseen, since there will be a freeze on recruitment over the same period. Only afterwards will 100 new examiners be recruited, of course all holding five-year contracts. The fate of formalities officers is no better. The already permanent understaffing in this area will be aggravated even further, with a record low of only 561 formalities officers in 2024. Even if “the Talent Pipeline from the EUIPO 1” will not run dry, it will most probably only supply other (mainly managerial) areas outside DG 1.

Productivity increases

A further increase in productivity of +6,7 % over the same period compared to 2019 (page 5) is planned, although examiners have already been struggling for quite some time to meet their productivity objectives (1,84 days/product actual vs 1,79 planned). The reason that the current production objective has been met is only because staff have postponed their annual leave during the Covid-19 pandemic (-26% compared to plan)2.

The steep productivity increase foreseen of +5.1% from 2021 to 2022, is striking! The only possible explanation for such a sudden need to increase productivity even further is more made-up financial reasons. In the end, it is not rocket science to calculate that fewer staff producing more or less the same output can only result in an increase of productivity.

Wrong assumptions without benefits

In the MTBP, all productivity increases are justified by the 2019 Financial Study3 and are linked to “SP2023 benefits”.

Our analysis of the Office’s 2019 Financial Study was confirmed by the analysis of Ernst & Young: the EPO faces no financial gap and the basic assumptions were overconservative. Still, the President has cut staff’s purchasing power with the new salary adjustment procedure, and on top of it he continues to increase production pressure.

Regarding any alleged benefits from SP2023, no one knows what these should consist of. Given that examiners and formalities officers are still facing daily software updates of an ever-changing paperless workflow, future possible IT benefits will need to be offset with the time loss first.

Brain drain / “Attract Talent” programme for zero recruits

The orientation paper on recruitment (CA/100/19) and the Programme “Attract Talent” both state:

“In the next ten years it could potentially see the departure of around 2 000 staff members, of which 1 200 are expected to be examiners. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. With effective recruitment and an intense programme of knowledge transfer, the Office could use this staff turnover to capitalise on both in-house experience and new external skills.”

The freeze in recruitment until 2024 renders both documents almost meaningless. The EPO will let highly experienced examiners and formalities officers leave without any possibility of knowledge transfer to new recruits.

In addition, the upcoming reform of the education-related benefits and childcare allowance is actually creating a significant amount of unrest among staff, especially for expats with children, who still have to cope with home-schooling and teleworking in parallel during the Covid-19 pandemic in a foreign country. It will not only harm EPO staff again, it will further reduce the number of applications for future recruitments.

Conclusion

According to the plan, the remaining examiners and formalities officers will have to compensate for the work of those leaving the Office. Due to the lack of arguments, the steep productivity increase planned between 2021 and 2022 raises questions. Coincidentally, it corresponds to the time period in which the Administrative Council would decide on an extension of the mandate of the President of the EPO. But is it just a coincidence?

The Central Staff Committee

[...]

_____
1 SUEPO Munich & The Hague publication, su20006cp
2 DG1 Management Dashboard (8 July 2020)
3 “Financial Study” CA/46/19, pages 56-59, 70-72. By decreasing the number of examiners by 500, Mr Campinos goes way beyond the already overly conservative assumptions of the Base-2 scenario and actually uses the stress scenario for which he never sought mandate from the Administrative Council.

“They say they stop recruiting new staff,” our source noted. “Come on! This is a very modern view to consider things, very German actually. The EPO is not stopping recruiting new staff, it is new staff who are not applying for a position in this miserable place.”

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