01.25.21

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EPO Staff Representation Complains That EPO Management Exploits Pandemic and ‘House Arrests’ to Overwork Staff, Lower Quality

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: The EPO keeps breaking its promises to workers; not only are key employees seeing their net salary cut (inflation factored in) but pensioners too are being robbed and in the meantime the total time spent on work is increasing

THE Central Staff Committee of the EPO bemoans the state of things, and rightly so! Benoît Battistelli left a mess at the Office and António Campinos isn’t tidying things up. He makes things yet more messy and senior staff leaves (usually early retirement) as quality collapses.

“Last week the representatives circulated a document about exploitation of the pandemic to lower the time spent on each application (or “product”), compelling examiners to work from home from dusk till dawn.”Office insiders have already demonstrated the nosedive; but the management suppresses such insiders, wrongly assuming the problem will magically go away by making the messengers go away.

Last week the representatives circulated a document about exploitation of the pandemic to lower the time spent on each application (or “product”), compelling examiners to work from home from dusk till dawn. We’ve decided to reproduce this document with slight redaction/s:

Munich, 22.01.2021
sc21004cp – 0.2.1/1.3.3

Target setting in DG1 for 2021

Even more business than usual during a pandemic

Dear Colleagues,

The target setting exercise for 2021 will be completed by 31 January. Many colleagues have had increased individual targets compared to 2020 with unreachable objectives imposed on them. This comes in sharp contrast with the promises made by Mr Campinos.

A “holistic” approach?

In his Communiqué of 2 December 2020, Mr Campinos promised a “holistic approach for goal setting”. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, holistic means “dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part”. The exercise in DG1 is actually “reductionist”. Examiners are merely imposed a productivity objective decided by the Administration and without any justification apart from the usual untenable principle that one should continuously at least be more productive than the year before. The timeliness objectives are as far-reaching as no late priority 2 or 3 files by the end of the year with no regard as to whether it is attainable or meaningful. The behaviour objectives mention that examiners are expected to learn to accept diverging opinions in contradiction with the top-down process of the current goal setting.

More business than usual during a pandemic?

In his Communiqué of 8 January 2021, Mr Campinos announced that a review of the (individual) targets would take place in order to take the effects of the pandemic into account1. Nevertheless, the prevailing principle is still “do more”. This trend is sustained by a still competition-based rewarding exercise which disregards completely the circumstances of each individual during the pandemic.

Unattainable Objectives vs Performance Assessment

The Guide to Performance Development 2020/2021 published on 10 December 2020 states that the goals must be SMART and attainable. This guide was published after the first round of discussion of objective setting in June/July 2020. Obviously, now

____
1 “Any colleague affected by the pandemic in a way that might necessitate a review of their targets should speak to their line manager.”


management hides behind the outcome of this first round of discussion in order not to change anything.

The Guidelines on performance development (Circular 366)2 state that performance assessment is absolute, i.e. specific levels of performance are expected. However, management does not disclose what these levels are and carefully hides the ranges of performance allowed around these levels. Section IV sets out the roles and the responsibilities: “[t]he employees are responsible for meeting the expectations discussed with their manager (….) and are expected to contribute proactively to the goal setting”. It is clear that unattainable objectives should not be set and that there will be consequences at the time of assessment.

Our advice: Be very cautious

For the above reasons, we recommend that you be conservative and realistic when estimating your performance for 2021 and do not commit to unattainable objectives for which you alone will be responsible and will have to bear the consequences.

In order to avoid a negative performance assessment at the end of the year, we suggest that you carefully estimate the impact of the pandemic on your daily work and any other personal circumstances that you can already foresee for this year and set yourself a reasonable target (this is also in line with the Communiqué of 8 January 2021). Bear in mind that the agreement you will reach with your line manager will be regarded as a common approach, and not as a managerial request.

In fact, in uncertain times like in the current pandemic, nobody can predict the likelihood of achieving a particular outcome. Discussing objectives seems reasonable, but committing to a target is not. [Redacted]

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Your staff representation

____
2 https://extra2019.internal.epo.org/sites/codex/documents/english.pdf


[Redacted]

Speaking for myself, as a home worker (for about 14 years now), I’ve not seen any increases in expectation/demands of “productivity”. Employers have no right whatsoever to exploit this pandemic to increase an expectation of time spent on work-related tasks/’remote working’ (e.g. converting time previous spent commuting into time spent on toil/work). We saw some complaints from inside Microsoft which said this was done there; imagine being paid for a 9-5 job when in fact working 8-6 (adding up the time of travel, but putting additional work strain on people). I heard from people inside Microsoft who wake up at 4AM or 5AM to start working.

Life is about much more than work and making money. A life spent just working is a life without time to actually use or enjoy that money. By the time people retire from work they’re very much limited in what they can physically do.

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