11.19.21

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New Ways of Working for António Campinos, Even From One’s Own Home During a Crisis

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 2c262586c7d77d6801a59b7498527bf3

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) is taking advantage of a pandemic to take away basic rights of staff; in the video above, which is based on the document below, I give my personal views/thoughts

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO wrote to António Campinos about his proposal for the pandemic, seeing that Europe is again the “epicenter” of the COVID-19 health crisis, with Germany on exceptionally high alert at the moment.

On “New ways of working,” the CSC wrote (alluding to something published by Team Battistelli/Campinos), much needs to be said. They were preparing for a meeting when they wrote it. “Proposal in preparation of the GCC meeting” was the title circulated with this open letter. “In a meeting with the President on 16 November,” they noted, “the Central Staff Committee (CSC) addressed some problematic aspects of “New ways of working”. We are now making concrete proposals in order to address the issues of core time and flexi-hours.”

That was 3 days ago. I’ve converted the letter into HTML and decided to record a quick video, seeing that this is a very “tech rights” issue, especially at times of significance change and when self-serving management exploits the pandemic the tilt the systems in their own favour at workers’ expense, often discarding basic rights, e.g. extensively spying on employees. A week ago the EPO’s President was promoting European software patents under the guise of “Hey Hi” (in relation to JPO), but today’s issue is less technical and more to do with human rights.

Here’s the open letter in full:

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

By email

OPEN LETTER

Reference: sc21133cl
Date: 18/11/2021

Preparation of the consultation on GCC/DOC 24/2021 (CA/77/21): “New ways of working”

Dear Mr President,

The topic of “New ways of working” is of interest to all staff and is essential for the performance and future of our Organisation. The Central Staff Committee believes that a jointly agreed text should be possible. Compared to the current applicable statutory regulations (especially on Part-Time Home Working), we appreciate your intention to extend geographical flexibility for all staff.

First, we take note that the period of notice according to Article 7(5) will be aligned with the current Part-Time Home Working provision and set at two months. Second, we welcome your willingness to extend the transitional provisions (Article 17) to children under the age of 4. Third, we understand that the entry into force (and presumably the period of the transitional measures) will be extended in accordance with the development of the pandemic.

There are however still some issues which need to be resolved and reflected in an amended version of the Circular for consultation in the General Consultative Committee (GCC). Our proposals are the following:

1. Core-time and flexi-hours

Current proposal:

Article 15(1): “All provisions of the Guidelines on arrangements for working hours concerning the accrual of flexi-hours and the establishment of core time are suspended by the Circular.”

Argument:
Flexi-hours (as they are called) are a means for flexibility in managing one’s working time/schedule, when working on the Office premises. Teleworking is actually a means for flexibility in working location. Hence, the two concepts are entirely different. Creating one and removing the other does not mean increasing flexibility, rather it removes one form of flexibility and introduces another, where the beneficiaries are not the same.

A group of at least 25% of staff declared that they are not interested in geographical flexibility and others might not be allowed to make use of it due to the nature of their tasks. This group would be negatively affected by the reform as well as all others planning to work partly in the Office’s buildings.

In the current proposal, the Working time framework (Article 3 of the guidelines on arrangement for working hours, PART 4j CODEX) still sets the working day at a minimum of six hours (maximum ten hours) and the minimum working week at 35 hours (maximum 48 hours). The abolition of accrual of flexi-hours would remove any possibility for staff to deviate from this framework. In addition, flexi-hours accrual is very simple to administrate and gives visibility and predictability for management, while helping staff to manage their work-life balance.

The New Normal staff survey results show that 82% of staff want flexibility in working times and 73% are interested in the removal of core-hours. We understand that, for the Human Resources Department, both are linked. In order to meet both ends, we propose to abolish accrual of flexi-hours only on days of teleworking and to change the purpose of core-hours to define them as a preferred timeslot for joint meetings, thus also for strengthening the “sense of belonging”.

Our proposal:
Article 15(1): “All provisions of the Guidelines on arrangements for working hours concerning the accrual of flexi-hours on days of teleworking and the establishment of core time are suspended by the Circular. Core-time as set out in the Guidelines on arrangements for working hours should be the preferred timeslot for the purpose of Article 7(1)(b) and Article 8(1)(d).

2. Fast joint conflict resolution panel

Argument:
The Circular does not define clear procedures and steps for negative decisions on teleworking, and the criteria remain vague. Teleworking has a significant impact on personal and family planning which cannot be reconciled with long delays incurred by the management review and internal appeal systems, let alone the AT-ILO as the ultimate end of any dispute.

We understand that the administration is currently reluctant to set up a fast joint conflict resolution panel.

In order to move forward, we propose that this topic be revisited at the time of the review. We also understand that in the meantime the staff and Office will try to solve arising conflicts expeditiously, using the existing internal means of redress.

Our proposal:
An addition in Article 16(1): “The review shall involve the monitoring of cases of conflict arising from the implementation of the Circular and an evaluation of the suitability of the existing means of redress on this topic.“

3. Health & Safety

We are still waiting for the opinion of the COHSEC with respect to Health & Safety matters on the document.

We are looking forward to a fruitful discussion in the GCC. We would appreciate receiving an amended text reflecting our proposals above and would of course agree to waive our right to the deadline for submission to the GCC.

Yours sincerely,

Alain Dumont
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

The short story is, there is an ongoing inquiry (survey) about how staff feels after more than a year working from home, at least part of the time. Expect more of this in light of the Austrian news.

As we’ve seen many times before, ILO-AT (or AT-ILO, same thing) is clearly too slow to react to abuses against staff, especially a new modality of abuse (off-site labour). Working from home isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s not like being “on holiday”; there are health implications, lack of access to various facilities that are expected in an organised and centralised workplace, and no access to supportive supervisors (yes, some do exist and a good supervisor can provide help and comfort, not fear).

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