09.07.21

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Nearly 3,000 Days of EPO Violating Fundamental Rights of EPO Staff, and Not Without Help From an Overwhelmingly Complicit Administrative Council

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: Expecting the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation to Actually Follow the Law…

epo-welcome-letter
Publication from yesterday; we reproduce it here

Summary: EPO lawlessness would not have been possible without active or passive participation of the Administrative Council, which is basically in the pockets of Office management owing to bribes and other forms of profound institutional corruption

AS we have only just mentioned, today marks "Two Months of ILO-AT Non-Compliance at the EPO" after almost a decade of Benoît Battistelli‘s unlawful [PDF] strike regulations. Turned out insiders had beaten us to it when it comes to noticing the “monthsary” (even a day in advance).

“Turned out insiders had beaten us to it when it comes to noticing the “monthsary” (even a day in advance).”As it turns out, António Campinos posted a meaningless blurb about it, but internal publications by staff suggest there is still no compliance. In fact, as recently as yesterday the
Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO published a message to staff, stating:

On 7 July 2021, the ILO Administrative Tribunal issued essential judgments condemning the EPO for violating workers’ fundamental rights when it adopted and implemented new strike regulations with CA/D 5/13 and Circular 347 since 1 July 2013. These strike regulations are now illegal. However, two months later, Mr Campinos has only reacted with a void statement and has given no sign whether and how he intends to mend this situation, putting the EPO once again negatively in the public spotlight.

Shortly after reforming the Internal Appeals System and the Disciplinary Committee, the strike regulations were one of the very first reforms in Mr Battistelli’s “HR Roadmap”, paving the way for more than eight years of violation of fundamental rights in a highly turbulent period of social unrest and conflict in the EPO’s history. Several highly controversial – and consistently detrimental – reforms have been shoved through while staff was facing highly contentious strike provisions and legal means of redress to show their discontent. This casts serious doubts on the lawfulness of these reforms introduced under duress. The full paper summarises these detrimental reforms:

• Social Democracy

• Sick leave and invalidity

• The New Career System

• Fixed-term contracts

• The Salary “Adjustment” Procedure

• The Childcare & Education allowance

The EPO seems not to be interested in conducting a staff survey, but the latest staff surveys, both internal and by SUEPO, give strong indicators of the lingering staff discontent, a tumour that has only been growing over the years. The EPO scores far worse than any benchmark – violating fundamental worker rights for 8 years & 68 days and counting isn’t going to help.

The full paper was sent to us as well. We hereby reproduce it below:

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel

Munich,06/09/2021
sc21109cp

Welcome to EPOnia1
2990 Days of Violation of Fundamental Rights and counting

On 7 July 2021, the ILO Administrative Tribunal issued essential judgments2 condemning the EPO for violating workers’ fundamental rights when it adopted and implemented new strike regulations with CA/D 5/13 and Circular 347 since 1 July 2013. These strike regulations are now illegal. However, almost two months later, Mr Campinos has only reacted with a void statement3 and has given no sign whether and how he intends to mend this situation, putting the EPO once again negatively in the public spotlight456.
The administration could (and actually should) have easily issued a reassuring statement to EPO staff that it would swiftly take action to apply the outcome of judgments to all those negatively affected, and that it would sit together with its social partners to repair the damage done. It did not do so, forcing hundreds of staff members to file applications to intervene in front of the Tribunal7.
Is the administration trying its best to maintain the EPO’s standing as the worst contributor to the Tribunal’s excessive workload8?
Shortly after reforming the Internal Appeals System and the Disciplinary Committee, the strike regulations were one of the very first reforms in Mr Battistelli’s “HR Roadmap”9 in July 2013, paving the way for eight years of violation of fundamental rights in a highly turbulent period of social unrest and conflict in the EPO’s history. Several highly controversial – and consistently detrimental – reforms have been shoved through while staff was facing highly contentious strike provisions and legal means of redress to show their discontent. This casts serious doubts on the lawfulness of these reforms introduced under duress.

_________
1 EPOnia is used by the press (e.g. arsTechnica and IPKat) to designate the EPO as a land outside the law.
2 ILOAT Judgments 4430, 4432, 4433, 4434, 4435
3 “132 nd session of the ILOAT” Communiqué of Mr Campinos, 6 August 2021
4 “EPO complaints procedure in needs of shake-up”, Managing IP post of 15-07-2021,
5 “Trade union to EPO president Campinos: Quash unlawful strike restrictions”, Kluwer Patent Blog post of 21-07-2021,
6 “ILO: EPO president Battistelli abused his power in restraining workers’ right to strike”, Kluwer Patent Blog post of 13-07-2021
7 “Applications to intervene on strike regulations pending cases”, SUEPO paper of 06-08-2021 (su21022cp)
8“Managing the ILO Administrative Tribunal’s workload – Current challenges and improvements”, SUEPO letter of 15-09-2015 (su15345cl)
9 See the “Achievements 2011-2014” in document CA/39/14.


Social Democracy
Social dialogue never deteriorated as fast as it did when the “social democracy” reform was imposed (CA/D 2/14 & CA/4/14). The time allocated to staff representation activities was trimmed down, staff committees and statutory bodies disbanded, and the former General Advisory Committee (GAC) replaced by the General Consultation Committee (GCC) which has now proven to be the scene of a rubber-stamping exercise for pushing through further detrimental reforms. The disbanding of secretarial support for staff representation10 in 2021 is yet again an attack against the functioning of the EPO staff representation (and against freedom of association).

Sick leave and invalidity
Mistrust towards sick staff was institutionalized with the “sick leave and invalidity” reform (CA/D 2/15) imposing house arrests11 and the obligation to stay around the place of employment for those in incapacity. By abolishing the lump-sum invalidity insurance12 without any transitional period, the EPO additionally breached its duty of care and infringed the legitimate expectations of those who paid their contributions for many years. Regrettably, the President recently decided not to follow the majority recommendation of the Appeals Committee to implement transitional measures13, thereby again forcing colleagues to file complaints with the Tribunal.

The New Career System14
Our truly merit-based, cooperation-facilitating and transparent career system was replaced with a competition-fostering winner-takes-all setup (CA/D 10/14). The NCS proved beneficial for a small minority, whilst essentially grinding the career progress of the vast majority to a (near-)halt. It stifles cooperation, makes people shy away from any activity that costs time but is not accounted for and creates friction, year after year, at a level where there shouldn’t be any. It is a major source of continuous conflict.

_________
10 “Disbanding secretarial support for staff representation”, CSC paper of 12-07-2021 (sc21088cp)
11 House arrests for sick leave verification were only abolished in 2021 after litigation succeeded (see VP4 Communiqué of 23.12.2020)
12 “Another severe attack on both dignity and fundamental rights of EPO staff” SUEPO paper (su15203cp) of 19-05-2015
13 “Challenging (…) the abolition of the invalidity lump sum”, SUEPO paper (su21009cp) of 16-04-2021
14 “Report on the GCC meeting of 24 March 2021: Guidelines for rewards”, CSC paper of 26-03-2021 (sc21042cp)


Fixed-term contracts15
Since 1 April 2018, all recruits ‘enjoy’ fixed-term contracts with a variable contract- length up to 5 years and a total time on contracts of up to 10 years as a result of a “Modernization of the EPO’s employment framework” (CA/D 2/18). The net effect is that the EPO cannot be seen as an attractive employer by far, illustrated by the rather dramatic drop of incoming job applications for examiners. Soon a dwindling working population (because of retirement) will need to be replaced. We know that the EPO already today is struggling to recruit experienced specialists in many technical fields. The pool in which we the EPO can search for talent has all but evaporated, thanks to the actions of our administration.

The Salary “Adjustment” Procedure16
For the first time in history, the EPO threw the main principles (CA/D 4/20), common to the salary methods of all other International Organisations, overboard. The new method was based upon a heavily criticized – and fundamentally flawed – financial study and adopted an utterly unrealistic scenario. Today, we are in a situation where, despite the unforeseeable pandemic, we are still faring far, far better than that scenario, yet the administration continues to remain deaf and blind to any argumentation.

The Childcare & Education allowance17
Under the pretext of simplification and fairness, a scheme which is heavily disadvantageous for The Hague and Vienna is being implemented (CA/D 4/21), by omitting to take the actual circumstances of the sites into account. The new scheme indeed negatively discriminates the colleagues in the places of employment where the education costs are higher and raises a plethora of legal concerns.

The EPO seems not to be interested in conducting a staff survey, but the latest staff surveys, both internal and by SUEPO18, give strong indicators of the lingering staff discontent, a tumour that has only been growing over the years. The EPO scores far worse than any benchmark – violating fundamental worker rights for

8 years & 68 days

and counting isn’t going to help.

Your CSC

_________
15 “On Fixed-term contracts (Part A): A short history on fixed-term contracts at the EPO”, CSC paper of 30-10-
2020 (sc20163cp)
16 Salary “adjustment” procedure for 2020 – Loss of purchasing power for all staff (and pensioners), CSC paper
of 13-11-2020 (sc20171cp)
17 “Education and childcare allowance reform: A summary”, CSC paper of 07-05-2021 (sc21060cp)
18 “Survey: EPO working conditions continue to deteriorate”, Kluwer Patent Blog post of 12-02-2021

The above is a self-explanatory overview of so much more than the strike regulations. In fact, as we shall see in a moment, it wasn’t the only such publication this week.

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