05.12.22

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Formalities Officers Team Managers at the European Patent Office Consider Stepping Down

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 6e979641b3a369005c2fcfed8ef8db1e
No Way to Run the EPO
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: Formalities Officers Team Managers at Europe’s second-largest institution face a growing list of issues; some are even “considering stepping down,” according to internal documents

THE Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO recently expressed and sent its concerns to Vice-President DG1, noting that Team Managers (TMs) in Formalities Officers teams are “considering stepping down.”

The CSC speaks of “an ever-growing list” of issues, as noted in the video above, which later deals with the latest ridiculous fluff from the EPO’s Web site, treating a deal with Peru (warning: epo.org link) like it’s a big accomplishment (Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos have both visited past colonies of Europe in an effort to seem popular). Peru is of no strategic importance to the EPO, except — maybe — raw materials Campinos wants to plunder for corporations with a thirst for patents (“national resources”). The ‘young’ Campinos should ask his dad first. The EPO’s site moreover resorts to greenwashing tactics, pretending that patents somehow save the planet (warning: epo.org link) when in practice they only impede access to technology by litigious means. Maybe the EPO’s management wrongly assumes that it managed a bunch of fools. As we’ll see in the next article, insulting the intelligence of staff is a self-harming move.

Here is the full letter from the CSC:

Reference: sc22053cl
Date: 04/05/2022

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr Steve Rowan
Vice-President DG 1

By email

OPEN LETTER

Formalities Officers Team Managers; meetings

Dear Mr Vice-President,
Dear Steve,

Staff representation (SR) has organised many meetings with the formalities officer’s (FO) teams since October 2021. During these meetings, we realised that FO Team Managers (TM) had specific feedback they needed to express. With this in mind, we organised two meetings with TMs in The Hague and Munich, shortly before and after the re-organisation of 1 April 2022. We would like to share with you the feedback collected, which causes us great concerns about the potential impact on engagement of staff, some TMs even considering stepping down.

The following topics have emerged from our conversations:

Lack of consultation and support from higher management
Before the reorganisation of 1st of April, the TMs were neither consulted, nor could they prepare their staff for the change. TMs have not been consulted on the future units they would be in charge of, neither on capacities nor on other needs. Organisation of capacity and expertise is still not in place. The TMs heavily rely on ancient personal networks. At the same time, some TM’s now have cross-site teams and although the situation is unprecedented, no guidance has been offered on how to handle a hybrid team and make cohesion a reality. The very low managerial time budget seems to not make much sense under these circumstances either.

One role, two categories

Under DG2, FO colleagues appointed as TMs were promoted to Job Group 5 as Head of Section (HOS) with 100% managerial tasks. After the 2018 reorganisation, their job description was suddenly changed to include 20% of production, and the manager role was given ad personam


for this category of TM’s only. Since then, newly appointed TMs remain in Job Group 6, their term has a duration of three years renewable. A low monthly functional allowance is granted but the time budget that initially comprised 80% production / 20% management has been further increased to 70% production / 30% management. This distinction is visible in the EPO telephone book too, where Job Group 6 TMs are shown as “PA admemp patent FO” like every other FO while the Job Group 5 TMs are shown as Heads of a Section.

We believe that creating two distinct categories of TMs performing identical tasks contributes to the feeling of discrimination. There is no obvious justification for this inequality of treatment since the job is the same, only one category is given more time to complete the same task. This situation creates resentment and distrust in management. The dispirited TMs feel that this job is no longer part of a real career with concrete opportunities but merely an extra task. Could it be that one day they will be asked to go back to a 100% FO job? They underline that this is not what they applied for and they are very desperate about the lack of perspectives. Staff representation is currently looking into the discriminatory aspect of the situation.

Teleworking
Consistent with general feedback from staff, TMs report screen fatigue and a feeling of isolation. The duty of care fell back on them during the pandemic and this situation appears to last. The permanent situation of teleworking the EPO is aiming at entails that a lot of time be invested in contacting team members individually to maintain inclusion and cohesion in the group. Some TMs fear the sense of belonging will be lost. Working virtually does not allow contacts in person or corridor talks. Conflicts and misunderstanding arise easier when the human touch is missing.

Centralised group for Receiving Office and PCT Chapter II
The pilot that has already been existing for more than 18 months has been extended again, and without any clear reason why this structure has not by now been officialised. The uncertainty and instability this situation induces is not acknowledged. These circumstances do not offer an efficient and reliable framework and do not allow TMs or FOs to make plans.

Lack of support structure and platform of expression for Patent Administration (PA) staff and TMs

TMs from the pre-2018 era deplore the suppression of DG2. Under that structure, they felt PA was an entity that was clearly defined and was given a voice. They felt valued. They were offered the tools to do their job properly and were consulted about changes in their area. Thorough training was offered (e.g. cursus at Erasmus university), real means were


invested. DG2 gave them the feeling of respect and recognition. They consider it all lost now. A TM told us she did not recognise the job anymore. She ended up disliking the role she previously took pride in. She said that luckily retirement was coming soon for her, giving the relief she longed for. This feeling of resignation is neither desirable for the colleagues nor for the Office.

In February 2022 we were to meet you about several topics related to Job groups 5&6 staff. This meeting was cancelled and has not been rescheduled since.

Further to the meetings with TMs, we have even more points on an ever-growing list. The CSC would therefore appreciate meeting you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Alain Dumont
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

Will it take a month to respond to this letter? Talent is trickling away in the meantime and there’s industrial action still ongoing while the “f**king president” (his own words) is shouting and cursing.

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