12.08.22

Gemini version available ♊︎

Virtually (i.e. Online) and for Only One Hour the EPO’s Staff Representation Was Allowed to Discuss Many Lingering Concerns

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 470e4580b03d232fa4b96e4993a089e5
EPO Staff Affairs in Munich
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: “Report on the LSCMN meeting with VP4 of 9 November 2022″ (i.e. one month ago) is being circulated this week; “On 9 November 2022,” says the union or the local officials (Staff Union of the EPO, or SUEPO for short, has overlaps), “the Local Staff Committee Munich (LSCMN) met with VP4, Ms Nellie Simon, to discuss a number of prevailing local matters in a virtual meeting which had been scheduled, as had the previous one, for one hour only.” (the usual; they intentionally don’t allocate sufficient time)

THE LSC Munich City, Haar and Brussels (LSCMN) has published and circulated a 6-page publication about internal EPO affairs, based on a meeting with Benoît Battistelli associates (like Madame Bergot, now promoted again) and the buddies imported by António Campinos from Alicante.

The video above goes through this document with personal remarks added along the way; here’s the text as HTML (and later as plain text and GemText):

Örtlicher Personalausschuss München Innenstadt, Haar und Brüssel
Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels
Le Comité local du Personnel de Munich Ville, Haar et Bruxelles

München/Munich, 29.11.2022
sc22030mp – 0.2.1/1.3.1

Report on the meeting of the Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels with the Site Manager of Munich City, VP4 Nellie Simon

On 09 November 2022 the Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels (LSC Munich) met the Site Manager of Munich City, VP4 Nellie Simon, for the second time in 2022 to discuss a number of prevailing local matters, notably building and canteen matters, in a virtual meeting which had been scheduled, as had the previous ones last year, for one hour only.

Since on some topics (*) little or no progress had been made (see link to last meeting report here), we had requested the administration to put them on the agenda again.

The agenda was as follows:

1. Introduction of Deputy Site Manager
2. Office hardware
3. Canteens and Cafeterias
4. Underground garages
5. Buildings
6. DE Kindergeld vs. EPO Dependants’ allowance *
7. Dependency status *
8. Delays in treating HR requests and education allowance

Topics which were not discussed

i. Buildings – Bringing Teams Together (BTT)
ii. Education allowance matters

Topics (i) and (ii) were dropped due to time constraints, (i) was revisited in a dedicated meeting for
participants from all sites on 21.11.2022, for which a separate report will follow.

Present for the administration: Elodie Bergot (EB), Jan Boulanger (JB), Frédéric Brunelle (FB), Fiona Dullenkopf (FD), Diego Eguidazu Alonso (DEA), Edda Franz (EF), Mohamed El Hadouchi (MEH), Konstantinos Kortsaris (KK), Andreas Sattler (AS) and Nellie Simon (VP4)


1. Introduction of Deputy Site Manager

The administration wished to share their idea of introducing a deputy site manager for the large sites Munich and The Hague as well. Previously, deputy site managers had only been used in the smaller places of employment Vienna and Berlin. It was still under discussion who the deputy site manager would be. VP4 was working with VP1 on this1.

Upon our question as to the consequences for Brussels and Haar. NS replied that Brussels was very small and Haar was independent. In any case, no deputy site manager was yet apparent for Haar.

2. Office hardware

We inquired why staff was being ordered to return Dell monitors used at home to the Office. The administration noted that this was a central issue, but nevertheless chose to discuss it. It was explained that the problem was that many staff members had taken two monitors home, then had a 38” monitor delivered. In some cases, these staff members had a new office assigned subsequently, equipped in standard fashion with 2 monitors, so they ended up with five monitors. Conversely others filling in the vacated original office returned to the office to find no monitors.

Hence a distribution problem arose. This was compounded by the endeavour of the Office to equip the Offices for a Day (OfD) with monitors. To solve this issue the Office was therefore asking staff to bring their monitors from home, although going forward the issue should soon be solved because there were overall 16 000 monitors in the Office, more than enough to equip everyone. It was confirmed that staff members could still order a 38” monitor for home. As a side note it has been mentioned that new models of LG 38” screens were currently being tested by 70-80 beta testers. The new models should overcome some technical limitations of the current model. The idea was to equip day offices with 38” screens.

3. Canteens and Cafeterias

We explained why several staff members were asking for at least cafeterias or bistros in BT’s 7 and 8 of Pschorr Höfe. The queues in the PH 1-4 canteen and cafeteria were often very long, the total waiting time frequently exceeding 20 minutes. Factually the number of cafeterias and canteens was much lower than before, i.e. from 4 (5 if you count Arche Noah as well) down to 1. The coffee machines were not always working, there were no napkins or cups provided, the outdoor Sky Bar, which was the only outdoor space in the whole Pschorr Höfe complex, had no chairs or tables.

The administration replied that the bigger picture had to be looked at. The SV Group had won the tender for the canteens a year ago. Performance was being measured against the contract with KPIs, which included price, level of service and quality. The caterer was operating at his own risk, the

____
1 In the meantime, Elodie Bergot has been appointed deputy site manager for Munich and Frederic Brunelle to the corresponding position in The Hague, see here


operation needed to be sustainable. 1200 staff had been at the PH buildings on the previous day (Tuesday), i.e. a 40% building occupancy. Of these, 70% use the canteen, which, in the opinion of the administration, is a good take-out rate. On Fridays and Mondays, the occupancy rate is 30%. Queues of 20 minutes had not been observed by management, rather 3 to 4 minutes. Staff could always use the self-service coffee machines. It was not reasonable to compare the situation today to that pre-pandemic. As for the outdoor Sky Bar, it was now winter, but tables and chairs could be put out there later. As for the lack of cups provided for the coffee machines, surely it was better to avoid disposable cups? Data shows that the self-service coffee machines are used very frequently. Data furthermore showed that the time needed for lunch at canteen and cafeteria remained “constant” and did not worsen.

We suggested that VP4 or EF as head of Facility Management had lunch with staff representatives to judge by themselves. Preferably between Tuesday and Thursday, when the canteen was expected to be quite busy. We demanded that the Office should bring back the canteen committee, especially since a “completely different situation” (the words of EF) was now present vs. pre-COVID. Moreover there had been complaints about the quality of the food. A survey of users was needed as well.

EF replied that although the canteen committee would not be returning, informal exchanges could take place. Feedback could be given to the SV Group via the SV Group app. Feedback could be shared with staff representatives. More staff should use the app of the canteen, as this opportunity for feedback was not being used enough.

We wondered when the situation would be looked at again, to see, in particular, if the canteens and cafeterias in BT-7 and BT-8 could be opened. It was replied that the time to consider that was in two years (May 2024), when the New Ways of Working trial project came to an end. VP4 declined to do a survey of staff, because the canteen app was considered good enough. EF added that in any case, small issues could be sorted out in the meantime, and she could be approached at any time.

4. Underground garages

We inquired why there were no charging stations for e-bikes. Conversely, what was the cost of the extra e-car charging stations? Furthermore, we found it bizarre that the security doors leading into the building were still sealed, despite rapid evacuations being needed with e.g. burning e-car batteries and the associated very toxic fumes. Still further, we desired to know if it was seriously considered safe to have water sprinklers above e-car charging stations, moreover to extinguish burning lithium batteries with them, i.e. an electrical fire.

Yet still further, we could not help but note that on one hand, the Office was “freezing” cold but on the other hand, free energy to charge private cars was provided. We wondered whether this was in line with the Offices objective to provide for more “sustainability”? We inquired as to the fate of our letter sent to VP4 (on 04.11.2022) in that respect.


VP4 replied that we would certainly get an answer to that letter. We had sent a letter, consequently we would get an answer. We should therefore not “waste precious time” discussing such matters at the meeting.2

On a more general note, we asked how the renovation works were progressing.

Facility management replied that all sustainability and safety issues were being looked at. E-bike charging stations already existed and bike repair possibilities were also provided for. The e-car charging stations were safe and could be used for both long and short charging periods. The security doors were sealed for physical security issues 5-6 years ago. A card reader would not sort security issues out. Concerning work in the garage, plans were being put in place to deal with wear and tear. There was a €50m Euro budget for buildings with 19 different projects being worked on. Some projects had already started. Health and safety and business continuity was always prioritised.

5. Buildings

Upon our question whether the ISAR Daylight project progressed according to plan and within budgetary boundaries considering the high inflation, we were informed that the ISAR Daylight project has now been completed.

6. Kindergeld

We reiterated our displeasure with the lack of progress on this topic.

The administration stressed that staff members had not been given bad advice and indeed had a duty to inform themselves what the rules were. We strongly disagreed with this. Staff members had been told by the Office that they had the choice whether to accept Kindergeld or not. This was a wrong information. Unloading the blame on staff now could be perceived as cynical, moreover in view of the large sums of money involved for some.

The administration went on to say that the many different Familienkassen were external from the Office. However, staff members could always ask the HR department for help.

We replied that colleagues had not been informed by HR that when they started at the EPO, they should tell the Familienkasse. We added that some staff join the Office already having children and may end up reimbursing substantial amounts of money to the Familienkasse if they make the mistake of splitting the allowance between DE and the EPO (incidentally saving the Office a lot of money) and the Familienkasse finds out about it.

The administration countered that newcomers are explained what to do. In fact, 93% of staff members had correctly filed their allowance requests. The administration was not aware that colleagues are in

_____________
2 The letter to VP4 was sent on 04.11.2022. As of the day of publication of this report (30.11.2022) no answer to the letter has reached us.


an unclear situation. There was on the one hand an HR page on the Intranet for staff to help them3, and on the other hand the Familienkasse clearly stated that any additional money from any other source must be declared as well as any changes. A box needed to be crossed on the application form. In brief, our management appears to be of the opinion, that a correct declaration of the EPO dependant’s allowance in the formulars of the Familienkasse will prevent the respective colleagues from any reclaims.

7. Dependency status vs dependent allowance

The administration explained that the Office was preparing to change the Service Regulations regarding a grace period of six months to provide peace of mind to staff. This would be brought to the GCC and AC in December.

8. Delays in treating HR requests and education allowance

We explained our understanding that HR delays were due to problems with the education allowance, and that the software used to process requests was not working properly.

The administration replied that sorting out HR delays was of highest priority. It was admitted that there had been “hiccups”, moreover this time of year was when HR was busiest. There were also change management issues and publications from the Local Staff Committee The Hague had not helped as they had asked staff to file for the full education allowance amount, even though this was not permitted within the current rules. HR had been working hard to help everyone who had registered and not yet filed reimbursement requests. The aim of the team was to be more efficient, and additional resources were now being used to help get through the peak. The plan was not to reduce staffing levels; indeed, two extra staff members were dealing with the issue and others had offered to help. However, for the next fourteen years there would be problems because of the transitional measures. Despite HR being thankful that BIT had helped to digitalise the process and the tool was very much appreciated, it was clear that further improvement to the tool was needed and would come.

We further proposed dedicated meetings to sort out the increased bureaucratic burden to both staff and HR that we had been made aware of by colleagues. We were assured that the Office was looking into that.

_____________
3 See here; we note that the “Special Situation for Germany” section only appeared very recently, even after the New Intranet had already started.


9. Conclusions

As previously, we noted that more regular meetings with Site Management were needed to discuss the topics, which are typically of both broad scope and great impact.

While VP4 agreed that it had been a good meeting, she thought that twice a year for formal meetings was enough, although informal meetings could happen more often. Both VP4 and EF agreed to have lunch with the LSC Munich before the end of the year.

Your Local Staff Committee

[omitted]

Some time soon we’ll publish some posts about the EPO’s Web site and the UPC. It’s not going as they planned it.

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