12.01.20

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Staff Representation of the EPO Explains to EPO Management That It’s Breaking the Law, Robbing the Staff, and Lying to Staff

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 9:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Breaking the law is not OK. Or is it now?

Breaking glass

Summary: Human rights, basic dignity and labour protections of EPO staff are routinely violated and the staff is also being robbed based on false pretenses; the staff representatives write to refute “[t]he Office’s report [which] has been made available on the Intranet”

AS MANY of our readers must know or be aware of by now, last week EPO staff started mass-mailing EPO management, including António Campinos. Collective action is intensifying and this morning an insider passed to us the latest report from staff representation regarding a meeting that predated by one week this collective action (and is partly published in response to white-washing lies from Office management).

“They also mention the EPO’s violation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) somewhere along the lines. The EPO gets away with violating just about any law it wishes to.”We’d like to share it here because the EPO’s staff representation is routinely gagged by the management (later this month we’ll publish suppressed documents that the EPO’s managers prevented representatives from disseminating to the very people they represent).

The Central Staff Committee wrote to staff:

Report on the CSC meeting with the President of 18 November 2020: “Living in a bubble and the reality check”

The President invited the Central Staff Committee (CSC) and the chairpersons of the Local Staff Committees (LSCs) to another exchange meeting within the frame of the social dialogue.

The Office’s report has been made available on the Intranet, our report of the same meeting might address the same topics, but definitely from a different perspective.

Here’s the full content of the publication:

Munich 30.11.2020
sc20177cp – 0.2.1/4.2.2/4.3

Report on the CSC meeting with the President1 on 18 November 2020

Living in a bubble and the reality check

The meeting (by video-conference) addressed issues of particular interest for staff. It lasted one hour more than scheduled. The present report does not intend to repeat the feedback already given by the Office in its report in the Intranet. It merely addresses a few points from a possibly different perspective, i.e. that of staff representatives.

Salary Adjustment Procedure (SAP) and its implementation

The Administration explained that the adjustment had been correctly calculated to yield 0.50% for NL and DE and 0.36% for AT respectively.

We stressed that staff was being furious about such a low adjustment, which violated the principles of parallelism with the evolution of salaries for civil servants and parity of purchasing power. It is below inflation in NL (–1.20%), AT (–0.74%) and DE (–0.30%), even when housing costs were not taken into account. As to the alleged predictability, it seems that management itself is surprised by the savings already achieved in the first year of the new SAP. As a last attempt to limit litigation, we asked the President to consider our last-minute three proposals, which would prevent punitive savings at the detriment of staff (and pensioners).

The President did not agree and explained that he met much more staff members than we did and that he did not feel that staff would be furious. He recalled that we still have no nominal decrease, which is already a reason for satisfaction in the present times. Therefore the new method was there for six years and that was it. He suggested to “go to Geneva”, i.e. to litigate, if we so wished.

________
1 The chairs of the four Local Staff Committees were also invited.


Career reform

The President announced that a new Circular 364 would be proposed next year but that the career system would remain essentially untouched. As a one-off measure for the current exercise, an additional budget would be spent for automatically granting a step to staff left behind. He had made a similar exercise in January 20202. We expressed that we were not enthusiastic with the low frequency of 1 step every 5 years which is far below the EU regulations for instance. On the PhD recognition, the Office is proposing a new flat-rate approach of 3 years to recognising PhD experience in cases where it does not fulfil the current criteria. It is our common concern that staff is treated with equity. We hope that such provisions will also be applied retroactively to all colleagues under the same circumstances.

Education Allowance

The President sketched again the main lines of the reform and stressed his will to obtain a better childcare and educational system for all staff which is also easier to administrate. However, we stressed again that there are “site specific” differences which must be taken into account to maintain the attractiveness of all sites. There are still no credible alternatives proposed for The Hague, Berlin and Vienna, and staff in these places of employment are thus not ready to embark in the reform as it stands. The President acknowledged that he is aware of these site specific constraints, structure of costs, and expressed his wish to address the matter in the coming months.

Production target setting 2021

The President pointed to the fact that staff should be satisfied to receive a monthly salary for fulfilling an official mission (providing services to the users, generating Gross Domestic Product and employment in Europe…). This was the reality. For DG1, he pointed at a reduction of the global target to 400.000 products and efficiency gains. We argued that the pandemic put a lot of pressure on staff and that the global reduction did not reflect on an individual basis3. VP1 suggested that examiners could discuss their targets on an individual basis with their team managers.

Data protection

We raised the issue of data protection: some tasks and services would be outsourced to companies or workers outside Europe, thus outside the realm of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the EPO-internal Data Protection Guidelines4. The President replied that the Office was being cautious but that the cloud services the Office intended to use increasingly in the future were mostly controlled by Chinese or US American

________
2 See his announcement: “One-off measure – Pensionable reward for eligible colleagues”
3 Inter alia because of the reduction in the number of examiners.
4 German Data Protection Offices have published an Orientation guide on video-conferencing systems
“Orientierungshilfe Videokonferenzsysteme”


companies. However, in his view, there was presently no alternative and he asked us once again to be more realistic.

Reaching staff by email

The President expressed willingness to allow the distribution of mass-emails by staff committees for other purposes than General Assemblies. However, the President insisted on the possibility for staff members to opt-out. We have no objection against providing such an option. We are now looking forward to seeing the promises of the President materialize.

Verification of sick leave / “house arrest”

As a reaction to our open letter requesting an urgent remedy, PD43 announced that Circular 367 would be reviewed. We stressed again that the Appeals Committee has unanimously declared “house arrest” incompatible with the fundamental right to privacy.

Conclusion

We explained in the past why the new SAP was based on unrealistic assumptions. The adjustment figure of 0.50% and 0.36% respectively is now clearly also disconnected from the real life of staff members, the real evolution of purchasing power in the host states and the real adjustment of salaries of civil servants5. In view of this, we wonder why the President accuses us of living in a bubble outside any reality.

Already now, staff has contributed about €1bn to its €2bn alleged additional liabilities until 2038. It remains to be seen which share the member states are ready to shoulder. They discussed document CA/F 27/20 in the latest meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee in October 2020. This document deals with changes in the fee structure but contains no concrete recommendation about fee adjustment following real inflation.

The President is technically right in saying that the adjustment in January 2021 has nothing to do with the performance in 20206 since it relies on data from 2019. Actually, the SAP has always been disconnected from the performance of staff, which is supposed to be rewarded in the career system. However, the President still refuses to rework the career system, which creates frustration every year.

When is enough enough?

The Central Staff Committee

________
5 1,51% in DE, 2,75% in NL and 1,45% in AT
6 The Chief of Staff mentioned that the performance in 2020 would be below target.

They also mention the EPO’s violation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) somewhere along the lines. The EPO gets away with violating just about any law it wishes to. Consequences are none. This is wrong. This needs to stop. They also note that “Appeals Committee has unanimously declared “house arrest” incompatible with the fundamental right to privacy.”

Later this month we’re planning to publish more documents that explain why the grievances of EPO staff are very much justified and deserve the interest/sympathy of Europeans across every sector (except perhaps patent litigation/trolling). People’s families, living abroad, are besieged by a corrupt regime that lies to them and represses them. We’re supposed to think it’s done in the name of science, yet almost nobody in the EPO’s management is an actual scientist and they rarely ever meet scientists. They don’t care about innovation, all they care about is printing as many patents as possible and as fast as possible to collect fees and then illegally gamble this money away. The European Commission is informally fine with that.

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