07.08.21

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ILOAT Finally Overturns Battistelli’s Vichyite Strike Regulations

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Law, Patents at 1:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ILO screenshot
The Judgments of the ILOAT’s 132nd Session were announced in Geneva on 7 July 2021

Summary: An explanation of the blow suffered by António Campinos and the person who gave him the job; ILOAT (or ILO-AT) belatedly — or eight years late! — assessed Battistelli’s Vichyite strike regulations

There was some good news for EPO staff from Geneva on Wednesday when the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO announced its judgments from the recent 132nd Session, held between 24 May and 28 June 2021.

A significant number of the judgments related to Benoît Battistelli‘s notorious “Strike Regulations” which were adopted eight years ago in June 2013.

“But despite such clearly expressed reservations, the Administrative Council turned a blind eye to the palpable defects in the proposals tabled by Team Battistelli and – like a bunch of headless chickens – voted to adopt these manifestly flawed measures whose illegality has now been exposed for all to see.”On 27 June 2013, following a proposal by the President of the Office [PDF], the Administrative Council adopted decision CA/D 5/13 [PDF] amending the EPO Service Regulations (which entered into force on 1 July 2013).

Amongst other things, CA/D 5/13 created a new Article 30a of the Service Regulations concerning the right to strike.

Article 30a sets out some basic rules concerning strikes, defining what is meant by a “strike” and indicating, amongst other things, that a call for a strike can be initiated by a staff committee, an association of employees, or a group of employees, and that the decision to start a strike must be the result of a vote by the employees. Paragraph 10 of Article 30a authorises the President of the Office to lay down further terms and conditions for the application of Article 30a.

Relying on that provision, on 28 June 2013 the former Vice-President of DG4, Mr Željko Topić – acting on behalf of the President – issued Circular No. 347 containing “Guidelines applicable in the event of strike”, which likewise entered into effect on 1 July 2013.

At the time of their adoption in 2013, Battistelli’s Strike Regulations were strongly criticised by EPO staff representatives and the staff union SUEPO. This criticism was shared by outside observers of the social conflict at the EPO which was being escalated to new heights by Battistelli’s authoritarian management style à la France Telecom.

An article entitled “The President Repeals A Fundamental Right?” authored by Sylvie Jacobs, the Chairperson of the EU staff union, Union Syndicale Fédérale, which appeared in the January 2014 issue of the USF Newsletter [PDF], Agora, described Battistelli’s régime at the EPO in the following terms:

“EPO President Battistelli’s HR policy reveals a serious lack of understanding of fundamental rights of workers, in particular their right of association in the form of a trade-union.”

Later that year, in November 2014 [PDF], a position paper issued by the staff union SUEPO entitled “Social Conflict at the European Patent Office” noted that “such measures are unprecedented in Europe, apart from Italy’s Carta del Lavoro (B. Mussolini, 1927) and Spain’s Fuero del Trabajo (F. Franco, 1938).”

In drawing comparisons between Battistelli’s oppressive Strike Regulations and those of fascist-corporatist régimes that flourished in Europe during the inter-war period of the 20th century, SUEPO forgot to mention the example which was probably closest to Battistelli’s heart: the Labour Code or “Charte du Travail” adopted in 1941 by Philippe Pétain‘s Vichy State. The repressive labour and social policies of Pétain’s État Français were closely modelled on those of Fascist Italy.

Vichy Battistelli
Did Maréchal Pétain’s Vichy State provide the role model for Battistelli’s repressive regime at the EPO?

With Judgment no. 4430 [PDF], the ILOAT delivered on 7 July 2021, the ILOAT belatedly hammered another long overdue nail into the coffin of “le Système Battistelli” at the EPO, by striking down Circular No. 347 as manifestly unlawful.

This long-awaited judgment is good news for all those who opposed the tyrannical regime of Team Battistelli over the last decade.

While this significant legal victory is a cause for celebration, it should not be allowed to obscure the precarious legal situation of the staff of the EPO and other international organisations who are dependent on Tribunals like the ILOAT to defend their rights.

Notwithstanding the fact that Circular No. 347 has been found to breach the fundamental rights of EPO staff, it remained in force for eight years!

During this time it was used repeatedly to underpin the Corsican despot’s managerialist “Reign of Terror” and impede any kind of internal dissent and collective action on the part of EPO staff against the excesses of the Office Administration.

Even more outrageous is the fact that at the time of the adoption of the Strike Regulations in 2013, the small number of delegations on the Administrative Council that made any attempt to evaluate the proposed measures had grave doubts about their compliance with international conventions.

An internal memorandum from the Norwegian Department of Labour dated 26 June 2013 [PDF] expressed the following opinion:

“The Department of Labour is therefore skeptical about a solution with an administrative regulation and about the content that, at a quick glance, seems extremely dubious in respect of its compliance with applicable international conventions.”

But despite such clearly expressed reservations, the Administrative Council turned a blind eye to the palpable defects in the proposals tabled by Team Battistelli and – like a bunch of headless chickens – voted to adopt these manifestly flawed measures whose illegality has now been exposed for all to see.

Will any lessons be learned from this débâcle?

One would like to think so, but unfortunately the track record of the Administrative Council and the senior management of the Office over the last decade doesn’t provide much reason for optimism on this front.

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