11.22.20

Mortality Rates Increase at the EPO and Christmases (or Holidays) During Corona Mean Fewer Days Off

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Among other factoids and findings from the latest GCC meeting report

Xmas tree

Summary: There’s still no sign (other than hand-waving and empty gestures/smiles) that the EPO’s management wishes to right the wrongs and undo the damage done over the past decade or so; in some ways, today’s management is worse than ever before (grossly incompetent and eager to break the law at every turn)

LAST month there was a rare(r) opportunity to “discuss directly” with António Campinos the “New Normal” 'survey' after he was absent/missing from the last meeting, citing health reasons.

“Battistelli’s ally or “plant” Bergot is claiming “lack of resources” while Battistelli blows EPO money away (on gambling) and speaking about “data protection issues” when the EPO violates data protection laws all the time.”Was the meeting productive? Apparently not, not even by EPO standards (which are appallingly low). After the meeting the Central Staff Committee said that “[o]nly two items were on the official agenda for consultation: the public holidays 2021 and the review of the death insurance.”

“The number of deceased colleagues increased,” it said, “but the low numbers are not statistically significant to show a trend.”

EPO changeThere used to be many suicides as well.

“Newly elected members of the CSC had for the first time the opportunity to discuss directly with Mr Campinos two other burning topics: the Education and Childcare allowance reform and the “New Normal”,” it was noted, telling staff they can “find our report together with the opinions we sent to the President after the meeting.”

The report is interesting. For a number of reasons….

They mention how Benoît Battistelli “removed some public holidays” and “Ms Bergot mentioned data protection issues and lack of resources as reasons for the delay.”

Amazing. Battistelli’s ally or “plant” Bergot is claiming “lack of resources” while Battistelli blows EPO money away (on gambling) and speaking about “data protection issues” when the EPO violates data protection laws all the time.

“The lack of involvement of the Staff Representation for the New Normal survey and the persistent lack of information lead us to believe that Mr Campinos had already unilaterally prepared his plans for the future of the Organisation,” says this report. It’s worth noting that while a meeting did in fact take place (meeting the dictator for the first time in months, or at least talking to him remotely), he’s not budging and there’s no sign that input from staff is taken into consideration at all. What sort of dialogue involves only listening?

Here’s the full report:

Munich 09.10.2020
sc20152cp – 0.2.1/6.2.1

Report on the GCC meeting on 1 October 2020

Only two items were on the agenda for consultation: the public holidays 2021 and the review of the death insurance. The newly elected staff representatives members of the CSC had for the first time the opportunity to discuss directly with Mr Campinos two other burning topics: the Education and Childcare allowance reform and the “New Normal”.

We expressed our pleasure to see Mr Campinos again after the non-meeting of 9 September. He tried to convince us that that social dialogue continued even though he was absent, but we insisted that “nothing could compare to a meeting with the President” and asked for further “catch-up” meetings.

On the agenda:

1. Public Holidays 2021 (GCC/DOC 13/2020)

The document confirms the return to the yearlong practice of calculating additional days of annual leave for all duty stations in reference to the duty station with the highest number of public holidays. The practice had been discontinued by Mr Battistelli who had also removed some public holidays. Unfortunately, for Vienna, Good Friday is once again omitted from the list.

The compulsory office closure during Christmas and New Year’s Eve amounts to four days this year. We argued that in Covid-19 times, with the extension of teleworking and possible travel restrictions, this practice no longer make [sic] sense and could at least be mitigated by granting part of the days from the balance of the Office, in line with the practice in other international organisations. Mr Campinos replied that the number of days of leave in the Office are at the upper end compared to EU agencies and other international organisations and saw no reason to change.


2. Death Insurance: Review of the period 2017-2019 and provisional rates for 2020-2022 (GCC/DOC 14/2020)

The topic was not controversial. The contribution rates proposed for the period 2020-2022 remain the same as for the period 2017-2019. The number of deceased colleagues increased, but the low numbers are not statistically significant to show a trend. The Administration added that the mortality rate was consistent with the rates used in the mortality tables for actuarial studies.

Any other business

3. Reward exercise & fixed-term contracts

We referred to our letter of 7 September asking for further data concerning the last reward exercise to make it more transparent and to be able to assess the current career system in preparation for the upcoming Working Group on career and performance. Ms Bergot mentioned data protection issues and lack of resources as reasons for the delay. She confirmed that data would be provided for the next meeting of the Working Group early October. The Administration also confirmed that a dedicated Working Group would be set up on the topic of fixed-term contracts.

4. Education and Childcare allowance reform

For the first time since the end of July, when the initial reform proposal was shared with staff, we were able to address directly Mr Campinos on this sensitive topic.

The Administration’s intention seems to be to remove the distinction between nationals and non-nationals as set out in current Article 71 ServRegs. We recalled that in the past the staff representation already advocated including nationals, so that they would also be eligible for the education allowance. The Office always opposed an extension to nationals, who thus had to file complaints1 supported by SUEPO. The cases were unfortunately lost before the Tribunal (Judgment 28702).

The present reform proposal shows that when there is a will, there is a way for Mr Campinos to re-open cases which have the force of res judicata3. Unfortunately, in line with the current cost-reduction policy of Mr Campinos, the announced reform would reduce the benefits for most staff – both nationals and expats – and thus the overall

_____
1 “Education allowance for non-expat staff”, SUEPO paper of 21.01.2008, su0812mp
2 The argumentation of the EPO at the time can be found on page 6 of Judgement 2870:

“The EPO denies that it has breached the principle of equal treatment and submits that the different treatment
of nationals and non-nationals under Article 71 of the Service Regulations is justified in light of the purpose of
that article, which is to help expatriate employees provide their children with an education in their country of
origin or in an international school system in order to maintain contacts with the country of origin and to
facilitate their children’s subsequent return to their country of origin for the purposes of study or employment.
Furthermore, the education allowance is not intended to offer financial support to all employees for the
financing of their children’s education but rather to compensate employees who, as non-nationals, are
generally exposed to higher educational expenses for their children.”

3 In his Communiqué of 29.06.2020, Mr Campinos refused to re-open disciplinary cases of former members of the Appeals Committee on the basis that “court rulings have been issued on these cases, so they are considered res judicata”.


budget4. We warned that this would trigger more litigation among those who had legitimate expectations based on the current regulations.

We proposed that the Office should assess how staff would make use of the new scheme. We repeated again our request to commission an impact study which should also take into account the psychosocial impact that such a reform would have on the families concerned.

Site-specific solutions and late impact study
We pointed out that the information we received from the Administration was contradictory. On the one hand, Mr Campinos said that the current reform proposal was only a draft and he promised deeply concerned colleagues in team meetings that there would be site-specific solutions. On the other hand, we heard from the members of his Administration in the Working Group that the proposal was final and that only transitional measures were open for discussion.

Mr Campinos confirmed that he wanted to apply education and childcare benefits to all staff regardless of nationality and to use as much as possible “lump sums” in order to facilitate the management of the allowances. He acknowledged that childcare facilities were more expensive in The Hague and that the lump sums could be adjusted by duty station (“if there is a business case”). Mr Campinos complained about the excessive costs incurred by some schools. This statement confirms our suspicion that cost reduction was is of the driving principles of the reform.

The Staff Representation reiterated its request for impact studies (on financial and psychosocial risks) as soon as possible. Mr Campinos replied that a financial study would be only possible when the draft proposal would be in an advanced stage.

5. New Normal

The lack of involvement of the Staff Representation for the New Normal survey and the persistent lack of information lead us to believe that Mr Campinos had already unilaterally prepared his plans for the future of the Organisation.

Mr Campinos denied the existence of a master plan and the persistent rumours about a dismantling of the Office. However, he admitted that a document on the New Normal was ready and that the Administration was only waiting for the results of the survey. Mr Campinos expressed the hope that staff would ask for more flexibility.

The Central Staff Committee

Annexes: the opinions of the CSC members of the GCC on the two GCC documents for consultation as sent to the President after the meeting.

_____
4 Confidential documents show a reduction of €4,9m in the budget.


Opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on GCC/DOC 13/2020: Public Holidays 2021

The CSC members of the GCC give the following opinion on the proposal of the list of public holidays for 2021 including four compulsory closure days.

On the number of public holidays
In this year’s proposal, the Office acknowledged the year-long practice of adding days of annual leave for all duty stations in order to align with the duty station with the highest number of public holidays. This is appreciated. Unfortunately, for Vienna, Good Friday is once again omitted from the list.

On the compulsory closure days
The proposal comprises four compulsory closure days for 2021. This is a record in mandatory leave days to date. The Office had proposed three days in previous years, to which we had objected as well.

In view of the number of colleagues currently working from home and in view of the foreseeable extension of homeworking, the explanations given by the Administration to justify this measure is not any longer valid or seems even less convincing. Instead, the change in the situation, with a low office occupancy, should be taken into account – not only for the compulsory closure days in 2021, but even more urgently for the compulsory closure days in 2020.

We propose to discontinue this practice of compulsory office closure days and to leave the flexibility of planning their annual leave to our colleagues.

However, should the President decide to continue this practice, we are of the opinion that the Office should compensate for these compulsory leave days, at least in part. For instance half of the compulsory leave days could be borne by the staff and half by the Office. In our view, this would be a concrete gesture of appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of all our colleagues.

The CSC members of the GCC


Opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on GCC/DOC 14/2020: Circular 406; Death insurance (Article 84 ServRegs)

Review for the period 2017–2019 and provisional rates for 2020–2022

The document shows the number of colleagues who passed away in the years 2017–2019 and for whom EPO death insurance was paid. As CSC members of the GCC, we would like to emphasise that we are not only looking at the numbers, but that we do not forget the colleagues who all died too early.

Although the death numbers increased from 4 in 2017 and 6 in 2018 to 7 in 2019, the figures are not statistically significant and no conclusion should be drawn.

We are in favour of the proposal by the Administration to leave unchanged the contribution rate for death insurance, i.e. 0.3% with 0.1% borne by the staff and 0.2% borne by the Office.

The CSC members of the GCC

January 1st will be 2.5 years since Campinos ‘took office’ and halfway into his term. What has he actually accomplished? Social dialogue? No. Peace? No. Improved quality and lawfulness? No, only lies about both. Maybe the real goal isn’t to fix the EPO but to turn it into a printing machine, operating outside the rule of law and in clear defiance of the EPC, directly violating a number of terms and even internal service regulations.

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