12.06.21

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EPO Gradually Reduced to ‘Fee Collection Agency’ Which Eliminates Its Very Own Staff

Posted in Deception, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 8:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“[T]hey start to bring in more money through gambling than through the normal work activities. At that point the normal work activities become a charade at best, so they can pretend that they are active in a particular field of endeavor. More often the normal work activities just get in the way of the gambling so in response any staff still involved in normal work activities get fired in one way or another.”Techrights associate

Layoffs? Well Yes, But Actually No
The ‘cull’ of the EPO has already begun; in spite of more money being amassed (fewer expenses during the pandemic) staff is being eliminated

Summary: Mr. Redundancies [1, 2] and Mr. Cloud are outsourcing EPO jobs to Microsoft and Serco [1, 2] as if the EPO is an American corporation, providing no comfort to long-serving EPO staff

LAST week the Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO circulated a message of concern about staff’s future, with focus on “Job Groups 5/6 matters”. So it published a long and detailed document about the current situation, entitled “Topics and issues of interest for Formalities Officers”.

The target audience of that publication is EPO insiders (ordinary staff), and Team Battistelli/Campinos is politely criticised (remember this is CSC folks, not SUEPO, i.e. not the union).

“They’re not even supposed to hoard money; they violate the EPC.”Over the weekend we published in Daily Links a number of articles about invalid European Patents being granted (or being tossed out by courts); some of these are European software patents, which should never even be granted in the first place.

What does the EPO do? Just grant as many patents as possible.

Here’s the text of the publication, dated last Friday:

Munich, 03/12/2021
sc21145cp

Topics and issues of interest for Formalities Officers

A new DG1 restructuration, the second in five years, is announced and Formalities Officers are feeling very tired and unsure about the future of their work.
Staff representation wants to be involved in this process and intends to channel their concerns and views to the management.
Our goal is that this time the restructuration will bring a real improvement and provide the appropriate framework for the colleagues.

Dear Colleagues,

Introduction
The work of Formalities officers is going through a lot of changes: since the 2018 restructuration, the Formalities Officers (FO) work environment continued to go through multiple changes, many of which created unnecessary additional stress and work pressure. Even during the COVID-pandemic with near-obligatory teleworking, the pace of changes did not slow down, rather to the contrary, and there hasn’t been any time for a breathing pause to catch up and adapt. The message from the administration indicates that the times ahead are going to bring many more changes to the already exhausted FO with a new restructuration of DG1.

Status report
Staff Representation had a meeting with Steve Rowan (VP1) on 15 September 2021, during which he emphasized that the Formalities Officers were “his priority”.

In order to have a clear picture of the current FO population, we requested FOs demographic data, not only to know how many would retire in the coming years, but also to get statistics on the distribution of grades and steps and the number of transfers in recent years.

Below is a summary of the statements we have made and those received from VP1 so far (which doesn’t imply that we agree with them):

On the skill assessment tool
Its proclaimed role is to find out where training needs are, initially for present and future jobs. In the next step, it ought to allow the mapping of staff skills, connect them with vacancy notices to offer these jobs to those most suitable (without being obliged to accept them).

At the time of the meeting, some 80% of FO had already completed the self-assessment. According to VP1, staff is expected to be pro-active and take responsibility for their own training. VP1 noted that there were lots of new tools and it was important to avoid people “falling off the ladder”. This skill assessment tool is initially targeted at FO staff, but it is intended to be rolled out across the Office. VP1 would like to see a change in mentality across staff: thinking in skills for the future rather than focusing on functional competencies for the present.

We were assured that the self-assessment tool is only meant to assist staff and should be decoupled from the rewards.

On job mobility
Identifying one’s skills is meant to enable job mobility across the Office. The administration aims at stimulating internal job mobility from Q4 2021 – Q1 2022 onwards.

We mentioned being aware of some staff members who were prevented from applying for jobs for the only reason that they were “in a different job group”. This appears to be contrary to the idea of the “single spine” structure that was promoted with the New Career System. We consider that staff with the right skills and experience, should be able to apply for any job and the most suitable candidate being chosen.

VP1 noted that although some jobs were open to all job groups, staff seems not to understand that they are free to apply in any case. He stated to be willing to see if jobs could be advertised openly.

We pointed out that some of these open jobs were in fact time-limited (and often part-time) projects and not real jobs. Furthermore, we stressed that anyone requesting for a transfer should be seen positively, and that the choice of the colleague should be accepted without being unnecessarily questioned: all too often, we learn about colleagues seeking for a transfer, but being looked at negatively. Besides, before applying for a job, colleagues have reflected thoroughly, and management should demonstrate an a priori trust in the colleague’s choice.

The administration further stated that, in line with the one-office-structure, transfers across sectors will be allowed.

On digitalisation
Due to the pandemic, digitalisation impacted the FO work harder than expected. Whilst management sees opportunities, it also foresees that future digital transformation will have an even stronger effect on FO work, with changes in the patent grant process, the introduction of the unitary patent, and more.

We estimate that there will be a strong need to ensure sufficient training and support through all these continued changes.

The administration expects the unitary patent to go live by July 2022, with extra work and possibly new units. This may entail a (further) reorganisation, possibly also (external) FO recruitment. Their mid-term recruitment plan (5 years) is focused on needs based on digitalisation, new roles, unitary patent, and transferring CDR work to Munich. They stated that they are consulting all FO Team Managers in this project.

On the future of FO work
We noted the demographic evolution of the FO population: more and more FO are nearing their retirement age. SR is also contacted by a growing group of colleagues that are having difficulty coping with the constant changes. We inquired on how the administration intends to cater for this.

The administration seems to realise that not necessarily everyone wants to study for the “Formalities Officers’ Development Programme” (EPAC) or become a paralegal. Their stated idea is based on flexibility and providing something for everyone. Staff members will however have to show adaptability. It was understood that colleagues that are near retirement will be given the possibility to go on with their FO work as they currently do.

However, VP1 expressed the hope that also older staff, also those close to retirement, would at least have the possibility to retrain. Training is seen as a life-long process and therefore it is to be expected that someone aged 30 will not have the same job when they are 60. VP1 considered that the age pyramid was actually helpful because it gives the Office the possibility to control the way it recruits.

On career opportunities

Six new SCAPEs have been recruited meanwhile. LPS equivalent expert FO roles are about to be created. The EPAC, which was announced in 2018, will likely start to take place soon.

On knowledge resources
There are currently more than 100 different sources of knowledge and information channels for FO. These resources are expected to be used in order to remain up to date in all work-related aspects.

we pointed out that there are simply too many different and seemingly unrelated information and communication resources, making it very time consuming, even counterproductive, to keep up. There should be an effort to regroup and consolidate these many different resources into a coherent single overview.

VP1 reassured us that the administration will look into this.

On rewards
There is a perception that FO are not being fairly considered when rewards are distributed, and that they are in competition with JG4 staff for these rewards.

VP1’s view is that this should not happen; he finds it important to reward all staff in DG1 fairly.

Conclusion
During the meeting with VP1, we heard a lot of positive statements and good intentions – we are now looking forward to seeing concrete actions. A first indicator to concrete actions can be seen from the “Orientation Paper on Recruitment for 2022”1, where we learn that no external recruitment of FO is foreseen for 2022, and consequently the headcount will continue to decrease.

Management, as usual, comes with the mantra that digitalisation and better tools will counter-balance the recruitment freeze and compensate for the declining numbers. The number of formalities officer posts will go further down from 620 in the 2021 to 585 in the 2022 budget. By strongly pushing the introduction of PWB and DFR, FO and their work are more and more replaced by automation. We have the feeling that’s not the message an ageing and tired of constant changes FO population was waiting for.

In any case, we continue to request to be properly involved in the administration’s concrete plans for the future of the FO work.

Only then would we be in a position to properly channel the Formalities Officers’ views and to try to nudge the ongoing reforms in the right direction.

Your Central Staff Committee

____
1 CA/100/21 – See § 33

It says: “The number of formalities officer posts will go further down from 620 in the 2021 to 585 in the 2022 budget.” As we showed before, based on leaks from the inside, the number of workers is generally decreasing and this is planned. This is what they want. But meanwhile they expect more patents to be “produced” (misnomer) while insisting quality would not be negatively affected. Let’s face it — they just don’t care about the “products”, they only care about hoarding money. They’re not even supposed to hoard money; they violate the EPC.

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