Bonum Certa Men Certa

The EPO's Central Staff Committee on Occupational Health Accidents, Right to Disconnect, and Other Issues Under 'New Ways of Working'

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 09, 2024

Technical meetings on New Ways of Working: Kick off

The Central Staff Committee of the EPO has a new publication, dated this past Friday in the form of an open letter to António Campinos, the person who continues Benoît Battistelli's attack on the Office, in effect turning it into a monopoly-granting frenzy with kangaroo courts that help the Office trash the European Patent Convention, granting loads of low-quality patents including software patents in order to fake "productivity".

The publication was introduced to staff as follows:

Technical meetings on New Ways of Working: Kick off

Dear Colleagues,

The Office will present a New Ways of Working document to the Administrative Council in June. Technical meetings with the staff representation are currently foreseen to take place across April 2024.

The administration requested in an email of 22 March 2024 that the staff representation sends in writing any questions / proposals it may have related to this topic before 5 April 2024.

The results of the Staff Survey 2024 “Engagement in the New Ways of Working” are presented as the basis for the drafting of the new document to the Administrative Council. The results are therefore essential for the Technical Meetings but we understand that they will be provided on 16 April 2024.

In this open letter, the Central Staff Committee (CSC) raises questions and makes proposals.

Sincerely yours,

The Central Staff Committee - CSC

"New Ways of Working" is just stupid buzzwords and the underlying open letter explains some of the harsh realities behind it. We reproduce it below as plain text, HTML, and GemText:

European Patent Office
80298 Munich
Germany

Central Staff Committee
Comité central du personnel
Zentraler Personalausschuss

centralSTCOM@epo.org
Reference: sc24020cl

Date: 05/04/2024

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

ISAR - R.1081

By email: president@epo.org

OPEN LETTER

Technical meetings on New Ways of Working – Kick off

Dear Mr President,

The Office will present a New Ways of Working document to the Administrative Council in June. Technical meetings with the staff representation are currently foreseen to take place across April. In the meantime, your service requested in an email of 22 March 2024 that the staff representation sends in writing any questions / proposals it may have related to this topic.

The results of the Staff Survey 2024 “Engagement in the New Ways of Working” are presented as the basis for the drafting of the new document to the Administrative Council. The results are therefore essential for the Technical Meetings but we understand that they will be provided on 16 April 2024.

Until the results are available, the staff representation will refer to the items left open in March 2022 at the end of the discussion on the pilot scheme (Circular 419).

Teleworking from abroad and minimum attendance

Minimum attendance is presently of 60 working days a year (reduced to 20 days in case of any type of leave exceeding 125 working days a year


Article 4(3)) the employee’s site of employment (Article 4(1)). Employees may telework in blocks of full or half workings days (Article 3(b)).

We request clarification on the pro-rata approach for minimum attendance adopted to part-timers as well as information on which type of part-time it is applied (Article 4(2)) and how periods of sickness are taken into account.

Teleworking from abroad is limited to EPC contracting states (Article 1(b)) and limited to 60 working days a year (Article 3(d)).

When discussing the current scheme, the administration explained that there had been reluctance from the host states and justified the limitation to 60 days of teleworking from abroad by the fact that when these are combined with weekends, annual and other leave, an employee would spend more than six months out of the country of employment. The administration explained that, according to a legal assessment, a change of residence would lead to taxation and social security issues (see report on the fourth meeting of the Working Group of 4 November 2021).

We repeat our request to be provided with a copy of this legal assessment.

The administration also explained that the Office would not rule out a future discussion with the Member States and mentioned that an option could be multilateral agreements, similar to the ones done by the OECD (see report on the fourth meeting of the Working Group of 4 November 2021). We would like to know what was done by the Office in this direction since 2022.

A first benchmark among International Organisations shows that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), European Court of Auditors (ECA), the European Statistical System Committee / European Committee of the Regions (ESSC/CoR), European Investment Bank (EIB) (see CSC paper, Annex 1) and the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD staff rules page 470/495) have no ceiling on the number of days of teleworking from abroad in exceptional cases e.g. for justified circumstances, for duly documented family emergencies or medical reasons (in consultation with the responsible services). We would like to know whether the administration has considered this possibility.

Occupational health accidents

If an employee suffers an accident on the Office premises, or while on duty travel, or on the way between the place of work and the residence, an accident can be classified as an occupational accident. If an accident is classified as an occupational accident, there are e.g. differences in respect to coverage of the medical costs, medical visits and transportation.


The current scheme reduces the qualification for an accident occurring at home to an injury due to fire or malfunction of EPO equipment (e.g. laptop, screen, power cord, electrically adjustable desk) (Article 13(2)).

The definition is legally doubtful as it is more restrictive than the higher- ranking Article 28(2) ServRegs, which makes no difference between work and telework:

“If an employee or former employee suffers injury by reason of his office or duties, the Organisation shall compensate him in so far as he has not wilfully or through serious negligence himself provoked the injury, and has been unable to obtain full redress.”

As we explained at the time (see CSC paper of 31 January 2022), the definition is much narrower than in national legislation, especially Germany and Austria:

„Wird die versicherte Tätigkeit im Haushalt der Versicherten oder an einem anderen Ort ausgeübt, besteht Versicherungsschutz in gleichem Umfang wie bei Ausübung der Tätigkeit auf der Unternehmensstätte.“

This situation is not compatible with the Office’s obligations under Article 20 PPI.

A benchmark with other International Organisations reveals that, the OECD staff regulations define (page 442, PDG page 471/495):

Work accident
36. Within the context of teleworking, any accident which officials prove had occurred at the teleworking location, during teleworking hours, and as a result or in connection with the functions performed, shall be considered a work accident.

The EUIPO management decision defines (page 8)

Article 7 - Health and safety
1. Teleworkers shall benefit from the same insurance against accident and
occupational disease as staff working at the workplace.

The EPO’s definition is therefore below benchmark when compared to other international organisations.

Costs borne by the employee vs Savings made by the Office

The current scheme states that the employee’s choice to telework shall carry no costs to the Office (Article 2(5)), except for a few exceptions (Article 5(1)).


The Office made huge savings thanks to teleworking during the pandemic (see CSC letter of 22 June 2021). At the time, we requested the setup of a teleworking allowance to redistribute the savings (see CSC paper of 15 July 2021). The Office explained that no savings (or small savings only) are foreseen with the mid-term policy “because all staff members may work from their office if they wish so”. Since then, the project “Bringing Teams Together” was put in place and generalized “workplaces-for-the-day”. Staff without an “allocated workplace” do not have “their office” anymore. The buildings PH5, 6 and 7, and the Shell were closed, the number of offices and workplaces was reduced at all sites. The canteens in PH7, PH8 and cafeteria in the Shell were closed, no canteen is foreseen to be installed in Berlin.

We request a recalculation of the savings made by the Office as a basis for discussion.

The current building situation is found detrimental by all staff and should be remedied. A teleworking allowance makes even more sense for those mainly teleworking and not interested in a permanent office.

Line manager responsibilities vs employee rights

All employees are eligible for teleworking in principle but the line- manager may limit or exclude teleworking if considered incompatible with the ”interests of the service” (Article 2(3)). Teleworking can even be limited, suspended or withdrawn.

Since then, we observe a growing tendency among some line managers to withdraw or to threaten to withdraw teleworking (from abroad) as retaliation against a performance considered too low. Staff members who need to telework for personal reasons experience the situation as intimidating, unfair and even as institutional harassment. It impacts the health and well-being of our colleagues and is counter-productive for the smooth running of the Office.

We request that there should be clear rules. For instance, a pattern of teleworking (from abroad) shall be agreed upon for a period of 1 year and cannot be withdrawn by the line manager before the final review meeting of the year.

The setup of a fast conflict resolution panel in case of disputes relating to teleworking is in any case indispensable.

Right to disconnect

A monitoring of unhealthy working managerial requests (rest breaks and hours per day / week) is currently missing.


We observe that line managers ask colleagues to work late hours during the week or ask them to finalise “urgent” assignments during the weekend. Some managers unduly contact staff during sick leave or maternity leave for e.g. appraisals review meetings and expect them to be connected.

A right to disconnection is currently missing. The flexibility of the NWoW should not be misinterpreted and misused by line managers.

Virtual transfers and Physical transfers

Virtual transfers consist in transferring a staff member to a team at another site without any physical relocation. Virtual transfers help the Office to save on allowances (e.g. expatriation) and costs (e.g. for removal).

In the case of virtual transfer, the employee’s site of employment is different from the site of their team. We observe that employees have to work the compulsory 60 days on the site of employment and days spent on the site of the team do not count. This is inconsistent with “Bringing Teams Together” and the original intent of the “sense of belonging”. The contradiction must be remedied.

Since the end of the pandemic, physical transfers are limited to very few cases. We hear that many staff members are even expecting since several years a physical transfer which is denied by the administration.

We request that physical transfers for work and/or personal reasons are granted again.

Conclusion

Our questions / requests will be refined as soon as the results of the Staff Survey 2024 “Engagement in the New Ways of Working” are made available to us.

We believe that we should strive towards an agreement between management and staff representation on the final New Ways of Working document altogether.

Sincerely yours

Derek Kelly
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

The EPO's management does the Office policy in a very "write-only" fashion, so it is not likely it'll pay any attention to letters from staff. It tends to ignore not only the law but also its own workers, who cite the actual laws.

The "modern" EPO isn't about science and technology; it's about lobbying and appeasing lobbyists employed by the litigation 'industry' and its largest clients. They've even managed to install fake tribunals that are fundamentally illegal and unconstitutional. It's worse than ISDS.

Science And Technology

Other Recent Techrights' Posts

[Meme] Debian's 'Cannon Fodder' Economics
Conflicts of interest don't matter
According to Microsoft, It's Not a Code of Conduct Violation to Troll Your Victims Whose Files You Are Purging
The group of vandals from Microsoft think it's "funny" (and for a "nominal fee") to troll Microsoft critics
Microsoft Inside Debian is Sabotaging Debian and Its Many Hundreds of Derivatives With SystemD (Microsoft/GitHub Slopware With Catastrophic Bugs is Hardly a New Problem)
What is the moral of the story about The Scorpion and the Frog?
 
Links 23/06/2024: More Microsoft Cancellations, Growing Repression Worldwide
Links for the day
Gemini Links 23/06/2024: The Magician and the Hacker, tmux Tips
Links for the day
Links 23/06/2024: Twitter/X Wants Your Money, Google Reports a Billion DMCA Takedowns in Four Months
Links for the day
Digital Restrictions (Like DRM) Don't Have Brands, We Need to Teach People to Hate the Underlying Restrictions, Not Companies That Typically Come and Go
Conceptually, the hens should fear humans, not the farmer who cages them
Going Above 4% Again
Maybe 4% (or above) by month's end?
Conviction, jail for Hinduja family, Debian exploitation comparison
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 23/06/2024: Hey Hi (AI) Scrapers Gone Very Rogue, Software Patents Squashed at EPO
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, June 22, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, June 22, 2024
Gemini Links 23/06/2024: LoRaWAN and Gemini Plugin for KOReade
Links for the day
Links 22/06/2024: Chat Control Vote Postponed, More Economic Perils
Links for the day
[Meme/Photography] Photos From the Tux Machines Parties
took nearly a fortnight
Uzbekistan: GNU/Linux Ascent
Uzbekistan is almost the same size as France
SLAPP as an Own Goal
We have better things to with our limited time
Independence From Monopolies
"They were ethnically GAFAM anyway..."
GNU/Linux at New Highs (Again) in Taiwan
latest numbers
Links 22/06/2024: More Layoffs and Health Scares
Links for the day
Rwanda: Windows Falls Below 30%
For the first time since 2020 Windows is measured below 30%
[Meme] IBM Lost the Case Over "Dinobabies" (and People Died)
IBM agreed to pay to keep the details (and embarrassing evidence) secret; people never forgot what IBM called its staff that wasn't young, this keeps coming up in forums
Exactly One Year Ago RHEL Became Proprietary Operating System
Oh, you want the source code of RHEL? You need to pay me money and promise not to share with anyone
Dr. John Campbell on Gates Foundation
Published two days ago
Melinda Gates Did Not Trust Bill Gates, So Why Should You?
She left him because of his ties to child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein
How Much IBM Really Cares About Software Freedom (Exactly One Year Ago IBM Turned RHEL Into Proprietary Software)
RHEL became proprietary software
Fedora Week of Diversity 2024 Was Powered by Proprietary Software
If instead of opening up to women and minorities we might open up to proprietary software, i.e. become less open
18 Countries in Europe Where Windows Fell Below 30% "Market Share"
Many people still use laptops with Windows, but they're outnumbered by mobile users on Android
[Meme] EPO Pensions in the UK
pensioners: looks like another EPO 'reform'
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Friday, June 21, 2024
IRC logs for Friday, June 21, 2024
During Fedora Week of Diversity (FWD) 2024 IBM and Its Subsidiaries Dragged to Court Over Discrimination at the Corporate Level
IBM is a deplorable, racist company
Workers of the European Patent Office Take the Office to Court Over Pension
pensions still precarious
Gemini Links 22/06/2024: FreeBSD vs XFCE and Gemini Bookmarks Syncing Solution
Links for the day
Links 21/06/2024: Matrimony Perils and US-Sponsored COVID-19 Misinformation
Links for the day
"A coming cybersecurity schism" by Dr. Andy Farnell
new from Dr. Andy Farnell
Links 21/06/2024: Overpopulation, Censorship, and Conflicts
Links for the day
IBM and Subsidiaries Sued for Ageism (Not Just for Racism)
This is already being discussed
UEFI is Against Computer Security, Its True Goal is to Curtail Adoption of GNU/Linux and BSDs on Existing or New PCs
the world is moving away from Windows
[Meme] Chat Control (EU) is All About Social Control
It won't even protect children
The Persistent Nature of Freedom Isn't About Easy Routes
Resistance to oppression takes effort and sometimes money
EFF Not Only Lobbies for TikTok (CPC) But for All Social Control Media, Irrespective of Known Harms as Explained by the US Government
The EFF's own "free speech" people reject free speech
Microsoft's Search (Bing) Fell From 3.3% to 1% in Turkey Just Since the LLM Hype Began
Bing fell sharply in many other countries
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, June 20, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Real FSF Lost Well Over a Million Dollars Since the Defamation Attacks on Its Founder
2020-2023 income: -$659,756, -$349,927, -$227,857, and -$686,366, respectively
The Fake FSF ('FSF Europe') Connected to Novell Via SUSE, Not Just Via Microsoft (Repeated 'Donations')
'FSF Europe' is an imposter organisation
Just Less Than 3 Hours After Article on Debian Suicide Cluster Debian's Donald Norwood Recycles a Fortnight-Old 'Hit Piece'
The fall of Debian is its attack on its very own volunteers