11.24.20

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EPO’s Central Staff Committee on Latest Meeting With Office Dictator: “No Meaningful Discussion Could Take Place.”

Posted in Europe, Finance, Patents at 6:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EUIPO outsourcing

Summary: Whilst allegedly preparing legal action the staff representatives at the EPO report on the lack of progress after so-called ‘dialogues’ (merely a false impression of consultation)

TWO days ago we shared here a publication informally entitled “16 for me and 1 for you” (it’s about grossly imbalanced wealth distribution by EPO President António Campinos, referred to as “16:1 ratio” below; remember Campinos sent EUIPO jobs abroad).

Is Campinos a president or a demolition man with suit and tie?

“…remember Campinos sent EUIPO jobs abroad…”As recently as early November the Central Staff Committee wrote about its ‘meeting’ with Campinos — a ‘meeting’ in which he continued to merely fake a “dialogue”.

In Central Staff Committee’s own words:

We welcome the transfers of funds in the RFPSS and in the Salary Savings Plan (SSP). However, we stressed that the distribution key for the SSP was even more unfair than in previous years. The Administration acknowledged that the 16:1 ratio between the injections for a G17.1 colleague vs a G7.1 colleague was correct.

When we objected to the lack of discussion on the content of the “emergency” teleworking measures, the President replied that we were merely being formalistic. No meaningful discussion could take place. The meeting confirmed our impression that the President intends to make the transition from emergency measures to “New Normal” gradual, putting Staff and its Representation before “faits accomplis”.

When we point at weaknesses of the current conditions of employment or suggest improvements, we regret that the President often reacts by announcing that the conditions could in fact be worse. We would expect a more staff-oriented approach.

Here is the full publication, regarding a ‘meeting’ that was basically a webchat:

Munich, 06.11.2020
sc20169cp – 0.2.1/6.2.1

Report on the GCC meeting on 27 October 2020

The GCC met again by videoconference.

Transfer of Funds from the Office’s Treasury to the RFPSS and Salary Savings Plan (CA/56/20)

The document on the transfer of funds into the pension schemes was the single item on the agenda for consultation. We emphasised that we appreciate the transfers in the RFPSS and in the Salary Savings Plan (SSP). However, we stressed that the distribution key for the SSP was even more unfair than in previous years1. The administration acknowledged that the 16:1 ratio between the injections for a G17.1 colleague vs a G7.1 colleague was correct. It argued that it was also “technically fair”.

The President and his administration further argued that the distribution key could only be changed when the entire pension system was reviewed, adding that the present contribution share of staff (one third by staff vs two thirds by the Office) was in fact too low. On a more positive note, he added that the Office would also work towards making the SSP lump sum payment as safe as possible from taxation by national tax authorities.

Extension of Emergency Teleworking Guidelines

The President’s intention was only to inform us, with a one-pager, of his decision to continue with the “measures currently in force” and his intention to extend the temporary guidelines on telework until 15 September 20212.

Although we support the general idea of giving staff the possibility to telework during the pandemic, we objected that the topic of the teleworking guidelines was on the agenda for information only. We had already protested in June about unclarities in the measures in force at the time, which were scattered over the Intranet and constantly evolving3. The actual situation has evolved further and it is not clear what forms part of the teleworking guidelines

___
1 See our publication “16 for me and 1 for you”.
2 The document actually ascribes the decision and the intention to “the Office”. We wonder whether the President is reluctant to take responsibility.
3 See our Report on the GCC meeting of 4 June 2020


which are being extended. Instead of being “informed” of an extension date, we should rather discuss the content of the concrete measures.

The President was not impressed: he replied that we were just being formalistic about documents “for information” and documents “for consultation”. No meaningful discussion could take place.

Any other business

The meeting lasted one hour and we only had a few minutes to address further topics. In order to improve the perception of their respective roles, we asked for some re-organisations in the Office structure4, in particular transferring the Conflict Resolution Unit to DG0 under the future Ombudsperson Office (PD08) as announced already one year ago5, moving employment law away from PD43 back to DG5, as well as strengthening the status of OHS. The President assured that something would be done about the Ombudsperson Office in 2021.

As regards the “Patent Workbench” we explained that team managers had access to information which in our view should remain within the divisions entrusted with the procedure under Article 15 EPC6. The President agreed to disagree and maintained that granting access was one of his prerogatives under Article 10 EPC.

Conclusion

When we point at weaknesses of the current conditions of employment or suggest improvements, we regret that the President often reacts by announcing that the conditions could in fact be worse. We would expect a more staff-oriented approach.

As regards teleworking, the meeting confirmed our impression that the President intends to make the transition from emergency measures to “New Normal” gradual, preferably dispensing with any meaningful exchange with the Staff Representation before “faits accomplis” are put in place.

The Central Staff Committee

Annex: the opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on the document for consultation as sent to the President after the meeting.

____
4 See also the new EPO organigramme.
5 See President’s announcement “Reorganisation implementation” on 8 October 2019.
6 See our open letter: “Patent Workbench: confidentiality of deliberations”.


Opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on GCC/DOC 15/2020: Transfer of funds from the Office’s Treasury to the RFPSS and to the Salary Savings Plan

The CSC members of the GCC give the following opinion on the proposal of transfer of funds from the Office’s Treasury to the RFPSS and to the Salary Savings Plan (SSP).

On the transfer of funds to the RFPSS and to the SSP
As in the previous years the CSC appreciates the transfer of surpluses into both the RFPSS and the SSP, especially because a) these surpluses are the result of staff’s hard work and b) pension and salaries are by far the main expenses and liabilities the Office has.

Furthermore, the CSC supports the transfer of funds since it ensures the long-term stability of the pension schemes for the benefit of the staff and the pensioners as well as the long-term financial sustainability of the Organisation.

On the transferred amounts according to document CA/56/20

RFPSS
The Office forecasts an annual cash surplus amounting to EUR 310m, resulting in EUR 124m to be transferred into the RFPSS. Furthermore, the administration proposes also to transfer EUR 1m unspent from the budget for the rewards 2020 in the RFPSS. The total amount therefore to be transferred in the RFPSS amounts to EUR 125m.

This year, the total amount of the transfer to RFPSS for 2020 is proposed to be allocated solely to the Pension Reserve Fund (PRF) thereby contributing to improving the coverage of the pension liabilities.

The CSC appreciates the transfer in the RFPSS, however wonders about the EUR 1m unspent reward budget and why it wasn’t spent during the reward exercise. EUR 1m could have been used to reward staff who worked hard despite the difficulties under the current circumstances (an average step amounts to EUR 217).

SSP
The Office also proposes a cash transfer into the SSP on the basis that the SSP assets (EUR 129.6m) represent 1.54% of the PRF assets (EUR 8 431m) on 31 August 2020. The proposed cash transfer to the SSP would be equal to EUR 1.925m, i.e. an amount proportional to the suggested PRF cash transfer (1.54% x EUR 125m).

The CSC also appreciates the transfer into the SSP. However, it cannot support the administration’s proposal on the distribution key. As in the previous years, the administration proposes an amount paid into each individual salary savings account proportional to the amount of contributions paid into that account in 2020 (see CA/56/20, paragraph 16).

This method creates significant distribution spreads amongst employees in the lower and higher grades of the salary scale, leading to a distribution ratio of 16:1 between a colleague in G17.1 and one in G7.1. This means that if a G7.1 colleague gets 600 Euros whereas a G17.1 colleague will get 9.600 Euros. This distribution ratio is perceived as being completely unfair by staff.

The CSC proposes that the distribution should reflect the benefits provided by the injection into the RFPSS. Cash injections into the RFPSS protect members of staff against potential future rises in global contribution rates. Those global contribution rates are proportional to salary. This calculation method results in a distribution ratio of 3:1, which maintains a


difference between the lower and higher grades. This proposal would provide a fair distribution, such that the growing unfairness could be overcome1.

Broken promises on the cash injections into the SSP
The CSC has made similar proposals to the administration in previous years. The President announced in the AC/158 meeting (see CA/PV 158, paragraph 112) that he would have a discussion on the topic so that there would be a positive outlook. He mentioned in the GCC on 22 November 2018 that it was important to start the discussion as soon as possible (see GCC 4/2018, paragraph 48). So far, this promise has not materialised.

Legal aspects of the consultation procedure
Furthermore, the consultation process foreseen this year appears to lack proper procedure. The document CA/56/20 is already present in MICADO, but it is presented to the GCC for opinion on 27 October 2020, one day before the meeting of the BFC on 28 October 2020. This timeline renders the consultation of the GCC a mere formal hurdle, but not a truthfully meant consultation procedure.

The CSC requests the administration to include the CSC’s proposal for the distribution key in section VI. ALTERNATIVES of a revised version of CA/56/20.

Transfer ratio into RFPSS and EPOTIF
Following the orientation provided in CA/18/20 (“Long-term Sustainability – Bundle of measures for the period 2020 – 2038”), it is proposed to inject 40% of the annual surpluses in the RFPSS and 60% in the EPOTIF. The reasons being “that the EPOTIF is less exposed to market fluctuations than the RFPSS, due to the asset allocation. Moreover, the cash injected in the EPOTIF has no specific attribution and can always be redirected to cover other needs while the transfers to the RFPSS are definitive.”

The CSC doubts that the transfer into the EPOTIF of 60% is a safer option than the transfer into the RFPSS, since the EPOTIF has no supervisory body comprising all stakeholders, namely the AC, the staff representatives and the pensioners’ representatives. Moreover, the RFPSS is geared towards long-term sustainability, which the EPOTIF is not.

The CSC requests that in future the transfer of funds shall be weighted such to be transferred mainly into the RFPSS and SSP.

The CSC members of the GCC

___
1 See also our publication “16 for me and 1 for you – Fairness as defined by the administration”

In the next post we’ll show the staff representatives elaborating on financial hardships (in relative terms) caused by a corrupt regime that gambles the EPO's money away.

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