07.27.20

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EPO Management Wants to Introduce ‘Code of Conduct’ With Which to Impose Censorship of Staff Representatives’ Communications With Staff

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yet more censorship at the EPO (the term “Code of Conduct” is used), where Techrights is still blocked for providing accurate information to EPO staff

António the unsteady

Summary: António is still “unready” for real dialogue (more than two years later!) and he’s still exploring new ways to keep EPO staff misinformed

“Dialogue with a drug addict” is what our source called the following publication from the Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO (not SUEPO), echoing the nickname “powder nose”. The other day an EPO insider spoke of “[a] “riffle man” Battistelli and “powder nose” Campinos.”

Certainly not alluding to drug use, albeit considering this rumour about an incident on a plane last summer there might be a drinking problem. The term “drug addict” refers to the behaviour rather than anything that staff representatives saw and here’s what they circulated a few days ago, having met António Streisand-Campinos 12 days ago (Streisand as in ‘Streisand Effect’):

Report on the meeting with the President

of 16 July 2020

“Social dialogue is when you listen to me.”

Mr Campinos invited the newly elected Staff representatives of the central (CSC) and local Staff committees (LSCs) for an inaugural meeting which took place by video-conference. Mr Campinos set the tone of his presidency for the next 3 years to come by stating his readiness to push his coming reforms concerning the Education and Childcare allowances, the Appeals Committee (ApC) and the New Normal.

“Social dialogue is when you listen to me”
Mr Campinos initiated the meeting by explaining the “rules of engagement” of his model of “social democracy”. According to him, social dialogue is not co-decision and it is the Office which has the power of making proposals. These proposals will be sent to “Working Groups” and the GCC, where the Staff representation can give its opinion, and may in the end be amended or not amended: “If we all understand these rules, then we can have social dialogue”. Although the Staff representation didn’t ask for it, Mr Campinos added that in his view co-decision cannot work, and the “Staff representation has the right to listen, to think and to give comments”.

We explained that we request early involvement in the preparation of reforms and that we never asked for co-decision, but Mr Campinos did not acknowledge the difference.

Education allowance – A consultation as short as the summer holidays
Mr Campinos explained that the topic of the Education Allowance is “an important and a sensitive one to be handled with care”. However, the consultation had not even started, yet the final GCC meeting had already been scheduled for the 1st of October. This fast timeline clearly aims at putting the negatively affected parents in front of a fait-accompli once they are back from their summer vacation. Mr Campinos’ intention to define a flat rate on the reimbursements will definitely impact the International Schools (mostly in The Hague) and the (private) crèches, and is anything but fair.

Career system and PhD recognition
Mr Campinos plans to standardise a “catch-up measure” for those deprived of pensionable rewards and to recognise PhD experience. As a prerequisite, Mr Campinos puts forward his principle of “affordability”. As the analysis of Ernst & Young has proven, this principle is based on a Financial Study which distorts the EPO finances with the purpose to reduce Staff benefits.

Travel budget
All meetings must continue to take place via video-conference. Until end of 2020 travels will remain extremely exceptional and the 2021 travel budget will be dramatically reduced.

Appeals Committee – Still room for improvement
Mr Campinos intends to address the question of a potential conflict of interest of the nominees sitting in the Appeals Committee (ApC). The proposal would allow that the nominees of the Staff representation may be chosen among all Staff, and not only among elected Staff representatives. This was a long standing request of the Staff representation.

However, the proposal he puts forward also prescribes that members of the ApC may not have pending appeals during their term. This would put our nominees in the following dilemma: either they will have no pending internal appeal or their term of office in the ApC will end. In our opinion, this requirement could make it very easy for the Office to get rid of nominees and could endanger their independence. We acknowledge the problem of a potential conflict of interest but believe that a better solution must and can be found.

Mass-emails for Staff representatives – A proposal devoid of any real effect
Since 2013 both the Staff representation and SUEPO have been deprived of free access to mass-emails, a unique situation in the world of international organisations. Mr Campinos declared that he is ready to make a proposal for Staff committees but set out three conditions: 1) No access to push emails, only pull access requiring explicit request from individual Staff members and the possibility to opt-out anytime, 2) A “supervisory committee” will check compliance with the EPO code of conduct – and be ready to enforce them, and 3) Establishment of a code of conduct on how to write mass emails. These conditions, if implemented as stated, actually make the proposal devoid of any real effect. Staff already has access to pulled information via the RSS feeds and our publication requests are already routinely checked and may eventually be censored.

Five year contracts – To be or not to be permanent
By the end of 2021, Mr Campinos plans to establish “clear and transparent” guidelines for the renewal of 5-year contracts, and their conversion to permanent contracts. We hope that Mr Campinos and his administration take this topic serious and for once provide guidelines that are clear and supportive to our colleagues with the aim of having a committed work force for the future of the EPO.

New Normal – Staff is the last stakeholder
A first draft on the New Normal is already available but won’t be presented to Staff or Staff representation until after Mr Campinos has reviewed the result of a Staff survey planned in September and consulted all external stakeholders and the Member States. This should be interpreted as Mr Campinos’ clear answer to our request for early involvement.

Conclusion
To conclude, Mr Campinos declared that social dialogue will be successful if everyone sticks to his role. He considers himself as being the one in charge of social dialogue. The site managers and the Vice-Presidents shall be met for local issues only, and “not to be addressed on the same issues again and again”. Despite some efforts on our part during the meeting to restart social dialogue, the President still does not clearly acknowledge the full meaning of genuine social dialogue.

In any case, we will continue to work for Staff’s rights and the mission of the EPO during the next three years. We are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with the President and we would like to assure you that we will tirelessly insist upon transparency, honesty, integrity and professionalism. We will keep an eye on Office decisions and policies. We will shed light on changes, question in detail the actions of the administration and inform Staff accordingly, for the best of the Staff and the Office.

The Central Staff Committee

In short, not much has changed more than two years since Streisand-Campinos replaced Benoît Battistelli. SUEPO said “we are back to Battistelli’s times” and an upcoming survey shows that Streisand-Campinos is even less popular/trustworthy than Battistelli (after two years in charge of the Office). No wonder internal sources of ours say that EPO insiders already explore careers outside the EPO, seeing impending layoffs and institutional collapse. This can really hurt Europe. The conspicuous lack of media coverage and absence of oversight led to it.

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