11.03.21

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Working From Home When the Rich and Powerful Corporations (or Governments) Make All the Important Decisions and Rules

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 93a0419b4767b7f430378580a700f1b3

Summary: A video and further thoughts about the situation at the EPO, where working outside the Office became somewhat ‘normal’, albeit seemingly to the detriment of workers

LAST night I responded to a new publication from EPO staff representatives. I was a little apprehensive at first because it might come across as dissenting or combative. I was surprised to see (in my opinion or based on my interpretation) insufficient opposition or weak push-back. I speak from experience here, as one who has worked from home for nearly 15 years. They say that sometimes you need to be a “techie” to understand why lots of technology should be rejected (e.g. electronic voting) because “techies” better understand the downsides and the gory technical issues (paper trail is better and usually highly essential). In the case of home-working, by sheer coincidence only hours after last night's article my audio system broke down. It had wires all over the place (almost 10 wires in total); so it took hours to remove it (rearranging lots of things) after about an hour of investigation into what was going on (testing with instruments and spares to confirm its death; it seems impossible to repair), so there won’t be many articles today. It’s a really frustrating experience as I’d rather get work done than deal with defects, then clean up the place (lots of that remains to be done, still).

Working from home isn’t Disneyland. It’s not like “being on holiday while doing work on the side…” (I say this not as one who rejected it or never experienced it)

“Working from home isn’t Disneyland.”You inevitably begin to associate being at your own home with being at the workplace, which you cannot escape (you even literally sleep there). There’s extensive amount of text (articles) we’ve already published about this topic, especially in the middle of last year. We’d rather now repeat much of what was said back then. There’s also ample literature and punditry on this topic out there on the Web and in libraries.

Lowering of expenses associated with offices and maintenance (food, rent, travel, cleaning and so on) might lead one to think that the employers will raise the salary or improve working conditions, but that almost never happens because what the employer is compelled (by law) to do during a pandemic gets spun/framed as a gift or an act of generosity. António Campinos already did this last year; he reportedly claimed that staff was ever so lucky because workers elsewhere were worse off. Relativism of this kind should be condemned. He keeps pretending the Office is poor, but they could very well afford to let all the staff be on paid leave until the end of the year.

There may be a false perception of improvement, but it’s only veiled and temporary. Instead of privacy (and personal dignity) improving it typically gets a lot worse, digitally, albeit covertly (things like malicious “apps” being required; some run in a Web browser).

“There may be a false perception of improvement, but it’s only veiled and temporary.”Today I spent 2-3 hours (and I’m not even done yet) rearranging my ‘home office’ due to faulty hardware, which nobody will pay to replace (I’ll just use headphones instead). In the process I broke a few things and had extensive cleanup work to do. When you work for an employer in some office all that hassle is spared (delegated to other staff, specialised staff with proper equipment and experience); it’s out of one’s hands and head. In my ‘daytime’ job (it’s always nighttime, not daytime) I’ve received no pay increase for over a decade and last July we shut down our physical office due to the pandemic (that office was barely used anymore, so not much was lost). A similar scenario can easily be drafted at the EPO; the staff won’t be privy to or told all the details, but of course the managers will pretend that “spoiled” examiners just moan about their “holiday” (in some apartment in a country foreign to them, bought or rented without foresight of it becoming a de facto workplace some time in 2020).

We call ourselves “tech rights” because this is the kind of stuff we wish to speak about and many in what’s left of the media fail to speak of. Like cars that spy, home offices that send keystrokes to one’s boss, and Web ‘pages’ that run programs on the users’ machines as if it’s some bizarre exchange like, “I let you read one article, but in exchange I want to hijack your machine and use up your power for a bit…” (we recommend Gemini instead)

“The future of the EPO only looks grimmer if offices are being emptied while salaries decrease, head count goes down, and patent scope gets broadened like banks give out loads of mortgages until a debt crisis.”Spyware is only advancing and getting worse over time; it’s never letting go. What’s here today will get worse tomorrow. The only solution is to reject it outright from the get-go.

Home working might be a thing of the future, it might even be good for the environment (an upside, sure), but it’s not made to work for ‘low-level’ workers. Instead, it’s used as a pretext to take away many things workers fought for and have come to expect (like refectory/cafeteria/canteen/coffee machines at work). By perpetuating the narrative that this is all so great we devalue and diminish rights of workers. The decision makers don’t render themselves obsolete but instead pass the savings to themselves while depriving/robbing staff below them.

The future of the EPO only looks grimmer if offices are being emptied while salaries decrease, head count goes down, and patent scope gets broadened like banks give out loads of mortgages until a debt crisis.

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