06.28.21

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EPO Treats Staff as Disposable, Hence More Reluctant to Defy Unlawful Guidelines and Policies

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fear makes people more supine and passive; insecurity leads to obedience

On fixed-term contracts: New draft Circular 405 provides neither further clarity nor more work stability
New publication

Summary: Team Campinos continues to attack staff of Europe’s second-largest institution; amid pandemic they’re just totally misusing the crisis for PR purposes (warning: epo.org link) and also to take away rights of their very own staff

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO has a new paper (shown above). In it, as one might expect, further erosions of staff’s protections are described.

This is bad news for everyone in Europe, not just EPO staff.

“This is bad news for everyone in Europe, not just EPO staff.”“Management has now tabled a draft Circular 405 (C405) on the conditions of conversion/extension of fixed-term contracts with the alleged intent to “give staff on fixed-term contracts greater clarity about their future prospect at the Office” (see Communiqué of 17-06-2021),” the CSC explains. “However, to us it is not apparent what in C405 could somehow help colleagues on fixed-term contracts to plan their future or could contribute to enhancing work stability.”

For those who have read this site long enough, maybe 3+ years, this ought to be familiar. Benoît Battistelli started this assault on the work security of staff and their families. António Campinos proves that he’s no better. It’s continuation of the very same agenda, including the attack on staff representatives.

The CSC adds: “Every decision appears to be at the discretion of the Office and the Office does not commit to anything regarding its employees. In addition, some points in draft C405 are unclear (e.g. on notice periods) and are likely to result in legal uncertainty. Read more in this paper.”

The letter was published and circulated yesterday, though it is dated 4 days ago. We reproduce it in full, below, as HTML:

Munich, 25.06.2021
sc21083mp

On fixed-term Contracts

New draft Circular 405 provides neither further clarity nor more work stability

Management has now tabled a draft Circular 405 (C405) on the conditions of conversion/extension of fixed-term contracts with the alleged intent to “give staff on fixed-term contracts greater clarity about their future prospect at the Office”.

However, to us it is not apparent what in C405 could somehow help colleagues on fixed-term contracts to plan their future or could contribute to enhancing work stability. Every decision appears to be at the discretion of the Office and the Office does not commit to anything regarding its employees. In addition, some points in draft C405 are unclear and are likely to result in legal uncertainty.

The future C405, once finalised, will have a tremendous impact on the life and families of the future generation of EPO staff. We will continue to bring forward our proposal and try to improve draft C405. We recognise the responsibility that lies with the working group members to ensure C405 is clear, comprehensive, and complete, and meets both the needs of the staff and of the Office.

A meeting of the working group on extensions/conversions of fixed-term contracts took place on Monday, June 14

The main topic of this working group meeting was a draft of the new Circular 405 (C405), which defines the procedures for the extension or conversion of fixed-term appointments. We expressed our disappointment with the draft. Indeed, none of our input seemed to have been considered. The meeting was closed after only 1.5hrs, and this was much too short for us to put forward all our concerns regarding the draft.

Arbitrary length of contracts, renewable an arbitrary number of times

The draft C405 confirms the model as initially presented based on 5 years + 5 years + conversion. However, it explicitly also permits the assignment of contracts which are shorter than 5 years. Furthermore, the initial idea of limiting the number of subsequent contracts to two contracts – one of the few aspects that was put forward by the administration which we had


welcomed – is now missing from the draft. This would allow the administration full discretion to re-new arbitrary-length contracts for an arbitrary number of times for a total duration of up to 10 years.

Notice period for conversion/extension of 6 or 12 months

The administration acknowledges that draft C405 needs to be clarified on this point, but the current draft provides for the following:

• A notice period of 6 months in case of extension
• A notice period of 12 months after 5 years of continuous service

We made a counter proposal which would provide a 12-month notice period for extension/conversion for all colleagues who would have served 5 years or more at the end date of the contract and 6 months for shorter periods of continuous service.

Conversion only after 10 years

Draft C405 states that conversion to a permanent contract should “as a matter of principle” only occur after 10 years. Although C405 does not exclude an earlier conversion in exceptional cases, it was made clear by the administration that there would be no mechanism for automatic conversion.

Possibility of internal competition for conversion

Draft C405 introduces the possibility to hold internal competitions for conversion of a contract based on qualifications, continuous years of service and/or tests. Final conversion would be subject to a set quota on conversion of fixed-term appointments to permanent employment. C405 lacks further information on how and when such a competition is organised – all seems to be at the discretion of the administration. We asked for further clarification on this point.

Conditions for extensions and conversion remain abstract

The Service Regulation states two conditions for extension/conversion: need of the service and individual performance. Draft C405 does not mention any commitment to offer alternative posts.

On needs of the service, draft C405 expands with the following:

• Continuation of the post: the post of a contract staff must continue to be relevant for the Office,
• Continued need for the specific set of knowledge, skills and competencies.

On individual performance of the employee, the draft C405 expands with the following:

• The employee’s ability, contribution and effectiveness, as well as the attitude to work and dealings with others,
• The employee’s development in knowledge, skills and competencies in respect to the
expectations as described in the performance goals.


Our preliminary view: Draft Circular 405 provides neither further clarity, nor more work stability

The intention of the administration on draft C405 was to “give staff on fixed-term contracts greater clarity about their future prospect at the Office”. However, it is not apparent to us what in C405 could somehow help colleagues on fixed-term contracts to plan their future or could contribute to enhancing work stability. Every decision appears to be at the discretion of the Office and the Office does not commit to anything regarding its employees, e.g. looking for alternative posts in case a job position is abolished. In addition, some points in draft C405 are unclear (e.g., on the notice periods), and are likely to result in legal uncertainty.

The future C405, once finalised, will have a tremendous impact on the life and families of the future generation of EPO staff. We recognise the responsibility that lies with the working group members to ensure the Circular is clear, comprehensive and complete and meets both, the needs of the staff and of the EPO.

C405 will also have an impact on the organisation as a whole. The EPO comes from a long tradition of facing future risks together as a community. In the past, a post at the EPO was a lifetime commitment, where new recruits gave up their careers to follow the mission of the Office. This created a strong feeling of belonging and pride for working at the EPO. This extraordinary “esprit de corps” was what differentiated the EPO from other patent offices, and which is the basis of its strengths that made the EPO the leading patent office in the world.

WIN-WIN counter-proposalWe will continue to bring forward our proposal and try to improve this draft C405 – for the better of our colleagues on fixed-term contracts and the Office.

Reminder: Past publications on fixed-term contracts

To raise awareness and to provide information on the issue of fixed-term contracts in the EPO, we have prepared a series of publications. We also produced a WIN-WIN counter-proposal which has been based on a principals paper.

[Redacted named and other stuff]

It’s important to fight for labour rights in general. The EPO is unaccountable and generally cash-rich; there’s no excuse for these relentless attacks on workers who not only relocated to another country for the job but also brought their family members with them (some are unable to speak the local language).

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