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English Transcript of Bayerischer Rundfunk Coverage About EPO

Summary: The full English transcript of the TV program shown earlier this month in Germany

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Dialogue time: 00:00.000:07.00: Bayerischer Rundfunk FernsehenMagazin "Kontrovers" 02.03.2016 21:00Die Story: "When the dream job becomes a nightmare." Dialogue time: 00:07.94,0:00:11.40: Klaus Schießl is visiting his brother€´s grave. Dialogue time: 00:12.32,0:00:16.98: His brother Wolfgang was an employee of the European Patent Office for many years... Dialogue time: 00:16.98,0:00:21.86: ...until he killed himself in the summer of 2014. Dialogue time: 00:23.86,0:00:27.76: I think he was completely absorbed in the work. Dialogue time: 00:27.92,0:00:30.84: He was helpful, he was always there, Dialogue time: 00:30.84,0:00:33.28: he tried to do everything carefully. Dialogue time: 00:33.28,0:00:38.28: And he was greatly appreciated by his colleagues, thank God. Dialogue time: 00:42.28,0:00:46.20: Klaus Schießl knows little of his brother’s problems. Dialogue time: 00:46.200:53.94: Neither that he is suffering from severe depression, nor that the European Patent Office is carrying out a disciplinary procedure against him. Dialogue time: 00:54.02,0:00:59.78: But when his brother doesn’t get in touch for days in the summer of 2014, he becomes unsettled. Dialogue time: 00:59.78,0:01:03.48: So he decides to go to his house. Dialogue time: 01:07.16,0:01:09.52: Here is where I found him dead. Dialogue time: 01:09.52,0:01:16.80: It was so warm at that time. His body had about three times its normal girth. Dialogue time: 01:16.801:22.10: There at the front, the TV was running. Dialogue time: 01:22.58,0:01:29.92: There was a beastly smell. And his face was almost completely black. Dialogue time: 01:33.92,0:01:39.96: The European Patent Office suspected Wolfgang Schießl of having sent anonymous insults. Dialogue time: 01:39.96,0:01:43.93: Hence the disciplinary proceedings against him. Dialogue time: 01:43.93,0:01:48.00: Klaus Schießl was still to find a suicide note. Dialogue time: 01:50.26,0:02:04.83: "To my brother Klaus: Please do not condemn me, my depression was too overpowering. I've totally failed in life." Dialogue time: 02:06.33,0:02:11.23: Klaus Schießl believes that the conflict at work was also a trigger. Dialogue time: 02:11.53,0:02:15.96: If he writes, he is depressed, he can’t carry on, Dialogue time: 02:15.96,0:02:22.93: and then, on the same day a letter arrives saying how the disciplinary procedures will proceed, ... Dialogue time: 02:23.402:28.90: ... I think it was the final straw. Dialogue time: 02:32.03,0:02:34.03: Is there a link? Dialogue time: 02:34.03,0:02:38.56: It’s well known: The mood in the European Patent Office is bad. Dialogue time: 02:38.86,0:02:42.55: Again and again the employees demonstrate in front of their administration. Dialogue time: 02:42.55,0:02:49.23: Even though the employees here are highly paid and have many privileges. Dialogue time: 02:49.23,0:02:53.20: We want to know what is nevertheless driving the people here onto the streets. Dialogue time: 02:53.202:58.46: But when we show up with the camera, many ask us, not to show them publicly. Dialogue time: 02:58.46,0:03:00.46: There is obviously fear here. Dialogue time: 03:01.86,0:03:05.36: "Because, we cannot speak to journalists." Dialogue time: 03:05.96,0:03:08.26: Why can’t you tell me anything? Dialogue time: 03:08.56,0:03:11.36: "Because we have a responsibility towards our families. Dialogue time: 03:11.36,0:03:16.24: The whole family depends on it, the children's education, the school, the social system, social security. Dialogue time: 03:16.28,0:03:17.93: Everything depends on this job. Dialogue time: 03:17.93,0:03:20.76: If we lose the job, we lose everything." Dialogue time: 03:20.76,0:03:23.80: But you usually don’t lose your job so quickly, do you? Dialogue time: 03:23.803:25.13: "Here you do!" Dialogue time: 03:25.13,0:03:31.70: The European Patent Office is an inter-governmental institution, so German labour law does not apply here. Dialogue time: 03:31.703:34.31: What is going on behind the scenes? Dialogue time: 03:34.31,0:03:37.53: Why are staff so afraid? Dialogue time: 03:37.56,0:03:41.40: In the Munich Palace of Justice we meet Siegfried Broß. Dialogue time: 03:41.403:43.60: He was a judge at the Federal Constitutional Court. Dialogue time: 03:43.603:47.80: His specialty: Public law and patent law. Dialogue time: 03:47.803:53.50: He explains why the staff are so at the mercy of this employer. Dialogue time: 03:53.504:03.36: I note that there are very substantial deficiencies, as regards the staff’s employment law status. Dialogue time: 04:03.36,0:04:09.86: While there is a staff representation, it has no constitutional right of involvement, Dialogue time: 04:09.86,0:04:14.55: but can only make recommendations to which the President is not bound. Dialogue time: 04:16.404:23.73: During our research, many people turn to us, report of harassment in the European Patent Office, Dialogue time: 04:23.73,0:04:25.97: but no one dares to face the camera. Dialogue time: 04:27.46,0:04:30.10: Not even the representatives of the Staff Representation. Dialogue time: 04:30.104:36.03: Finally, a patent examiner in The Hague agreed to meet in Cologne. Dialogue time: 04:36.804:39.16: He also does not want to be identified. Dialogue time: 04:39.16,0:04:42.66: For that reason his report is spoken by an actor. Dialogue time: 04:47.03,0:04:51.40: The pressure especially for patent examiners has increased enormously. Dialogue time: 04:51.404:57.56: This can be seen in that the days per patent product have been steadily declining. Dialogue time: 04:57.56,0:04:59.56: The time budget that you have for it. Dialogue time: 04:59.56,0:05:03.86: It has become very much like an assembly line. Dialogue time: 05:03.86,0:05:13.46: If you’re honest, it’s borderline whether you can to justice to all the aspects of the complex technical fields. Dialogue time: 05:13.46,0:05:19.40: Because there is really only any emphasis on the output quantity. Dialogue time: 05:21.705:27.83: We are told that the pressure since the inauguration of President Benoît Battistelli has increased enormously. Dialogue time: 05:27.83,0:05:33.16: His goal: To reform the Patent Office and reduce costs. But at what price? Dialogue time: 05:33.16,0:05:38.26: We make enquiries. The European Patent Office invites us for a background discussion. Dialogue time: 05:38.26,0:05:40.96: But we can’t have an interview on camera. Dialogue time: 05:40.96,0:05:45.36: In writing, the Office confirms increased demands due to the reform: Dialogue time: 05:45.36,0:05:54.90: "At the end of the day, the Office has to cope with an annual increase in filings of 4% on average, and this with staffing levels remaining the same. Dialogue time: 05:54.906:06.53: The reforms have led to positive results: our productivity increased by 10% last year, the production by as much as 14%." Dialogue time: 06:08.53,0:06:11.63: But the path taken to get there is questionable. Dialogue time: 06:11.63,0:06:15.73: Controversial is, for example, the way sick colleagues are treated. Dialogue time: 06:15.73,0:06:22.26: Since 2013, they are not allowed to leave their homes during core working hours. Dialogue time: 06:22.26,0:06:25.43: Only for registered visits to the doctor. Dialogue time: 06:25.43,0:06:32.53: The Patent Office can check up on this at any time with a phone call or an unannounced visit. Dialogue time: 06:34.53,0:06:42.80: We get to know an employee who can no longer work because of a serious chronic illness and is now housebound. Dialogue time: 06:44.26,0:06:50.50: "You have the feeling that you’re a criminal, that you have done something wrong, Dialogue time: 06:50.506:54.03: even though I’ve just unfortunately fallen ill. Dialogue time: 06:54.03,0:06:56.03: It feels like a prison." Dialogue time: 06:59.33,0:07:02.80: We can’t explain the exact medical history. Dialogue time: 07:02.807:06.53: Again someone who is very much afraid of the Office management. Dialogue time: 07:06.53,0:07:12.00: We talk with a doctor who cares for many employees of the European Patent Office. Dialogue time: 07:12.007:17.83: He too only wants to be filmed under concealment to protect his patients. Dialogue time: 07:18.53,0:07:26.60: "The European Patent Office treats the patients in such a way that the employees are so scared... Dialogue time: 07:26.607:35.66: that they basically refuse to be written off sick, even if that would in fact be medically advisable. Dialogue time: 07:35.66,0:07:49.23: Because they are afraid that if they have a certain number of days of absence on their account they will be dismissed, or have sanctions imposed." Dialogue time: 07:50.607:53.76: The Patent Office sees it differently: Dialogue time: 07:54.53,0:08:08.36: "As a result of more stringent practices in this field, the average sickness rate has already been reduced from 14 days to 11.5 days in Office within a year." Dialogue time: 08:10.16,0:08:18.50: During our research, we get an ever clearer look behind the scenes of the glass palaces of the European Patent Office. Dialogue time: 08:18.508:24.10: And we note: The people who told us their stories are not isolated cases. Dialogue time: 08:24.108:30.46: They tell of the fear of being reprimanded or fired for the smallest offenses. Dialogue time: 08:31.86,0:08:35.36: The lawyer Alexander Holtz represents many of them. Dialogue time: 08:35.36,0:08:40.83: Most need above all emotional support, because they no longer cope with the pressure. Dialogue time: 08:42.36,0:08:49.50: [Alexander Holtz, lawyer]"They are often people who, for example, come to me as their lawyer once a week to bring their mail. Dialogue time: 08:49.508:57.40: I then have to open the post for them, because they are no longer able to do such everyday things themselves. Dialogue time: 08:57.409:02.30: People who were in a life-threatening situation, Dialogue time: 09:02.309:11.80: where I was glad when I was able to reach them on Monday because I didn’t know whether they might do something to themselves over weekend." Dialogue time: 09:12.66,0:09:19.53: In three years, five employees of the European Patent Office have committed suicide. Dialogue time: 09:19.53,0:09:22.46: The Office does not consider itself at all responsible. Dialogue time: 09:25.13,0:09:41.30: "In all cases, talks that our occupational health service, colleagues and managers have held with the families of the deceased do not allow the conclusion to be drawn of any work-related reasons for suicide, but put personal circumstances at the forefront." Dialogue time: 09:43.76,0:09:47.83: In Germany, the Staff Representation helps when there are conflicts with the employer. Dialogue time: 09:47.83,0:09:50.86: Its members enjoy special protection. Dialogue time: 09:50.86,0:09:58.00: Here it is different: Union representatives like the biologist Elizabeth Hardon are being targeted. Dialogue time: 09:58.010:03.56: She and her colleague Ion Brumme, a father of five children, were suspended in November [2015]. Dialogue time: 10:03.56,0:10:10.46: Of all people they, as staff representatives, are supposed to have bullied colleagues and defamed the Office. Dialogue time: 10:11.03,0:10:14.86: But many employees are in solidarity with them. Dialogue time: 10:14.86,0:10:18.76: [Ion Brumme]"I'm really, really happy to see so many of you here. Dialogue time: 10:18.76,0:10:22.33: Thank you for coming, for supporting us." Dialogue time: 10:23.210:29.20: Because the procedure is still ongoing, the two cannot comment specifically. Only this much: Dialogue time: 10:29.210:34.10: [Elizabeth Hardon]"It is very distressing and even worse for my colleagues. Dialogue time: 10:34.110:39.80: I'm in pre-retirement age, but my colleagues are much younger. Dialogue time: 10:39.810:45.63: For the other suspended colleagues that is very threatening." Dialogue time: 10:48.57,0:11:05.11: "As I see it, this is a systematic strategy of the Office management, to get rid of the union leadership, to eliminate them." Dialogue time: 11:07.91,0:11:15.02: In the meantime Elizabeth Hardon and Ion Brumme have even been dismissed [Jan. 2016]. Dialogue time: 11:19.02,0:11:25.42: Staff representatives in The Hague have also come into the management’s sights. Dialogue time: 11:25.42,0:11:32.08: Our informant in Cologne told us about an incident that has shocked many people. Dialogue time: 11:32.35,0:11:40.93: After a staff representative in the Hague had left work in the evening, he received a message that he didn’t see. Dialogue time: 11:40.93,0:11:47.42: The Office’s internal investigation unit invites him for an interview the next morning. Dialogue time: 11:47.42,0:11:53.28: When he comes back to the office, he no longer has time to prepare for it and asks for postponement. Dialogue time: 11:56.88,0:12:06.57: "If someone says he has a problem with another employee, an investigation is started and witnesses are interviewed. Dialogue time: 12:07.11,0:12:09.88: The legal standards applied for that are simply very low. Dialogue time: 12:09.88,0:12:13.35: Because: You can’t call in a lawyer." Dialogue time: 12:15.55,0:12:22.51: Within a few minutes two internal investigators turn up at his workplace and persuade him to come with them. Dialogue time: 12:22.51,0:12:27.20: This type of questioning is feared by the staff. Dialogue time: 12:32.24,0:12:39.28: "There, you’re apparently attacked quite hard; it can sometimes get really loud. Dialogue time: 12:40.02,0:12:45.13: You can also be really very intimidated, even if you’re only a witness." Dialogue time: 12:47.31,0:12:53.08: In The Hague, the Staff Representative collapses after his questioning. Dialogue time: 12:54.42,0:12:57.33: His wife has to take him to the hospital. Dialogue time: 12:58.11,0:13:01.44: He is now on long-term sick leave. Dialogue time: 13:03.82,0:13:10.68: The internal investigation unit of the European Patent Office is also feared by the staff... Dialogue time: 13:10.68,0:13:15.02: because you cannot refuse to make a statement, even if it is damaging to you. Dialogue time: 13:15.02,0:13:17.11: Is this really legal? Dialogue time: 13:17.64,0:13:20.15: The European Patent Office writes: Dialogue time: 13:20.77,0:13:35.46: "The investigation procedure at the EPO is not a criminal procedure, but an administrative fact-finding process in the sense of a Dialogue time between the accused employees and the employer. Dialogue time: 13:35.71,0:13:45.44: As a result, it corresponds with the practices and standards in the national and international organisations of our contracting states.” Dialogue time: 13:46.86,0:13:53.17: Because of the European Patent Office’s immunity, German legal principles for investigations do not apply. Dialogue time: 13:53.17,0:13:56.44: The staff take to the streets in desperation. Dialogue time: 13:56.44,0:14:02.11: "We are not in Germany here. The European Patent Office considers itself to be outside of German law." Dialogue time: 14:02.11,0:14:04.60: "Human rights don’t count there, nothing counts there anymore. Dialogue time: 14:04.614:11.00: Only what our Mr President thinks is right, that is forced through." Dialogue time: 14:11.06,0:14:13.02: Is that really possible? Dialogue time: 14:13.08,0:14:17.53: An office with 3,000 employees in a sort of legal vacuum? Dialogue time: 14:17.53,0:14:20.71: We ask the Federal Justice Minister for an interview. Dialogue time: 14:20.71,0:14:22.71: He doesn’t want to answer us directly. Dialogue time: 14:22.71,0:14:26.60: Regarding the controversial investigation procedures his ministry writes: Dialogue time: 14:26.614:40.82: [Federal Justice Ministry]"Germany has called on the President of the EPO repeatedly and urgently to change the rules it has laid down for the investigation procedures in this respect. This has unfortunately not yet happened." Dialogue time: 14:42.214:49.55: Mere requests are too little, says former federal constitutional judge Siegfried Broß. Dialogue time: 14:49.55,0:14:53.13: [Siegfried Broß, former Judge, Federal Constitutional Court]"The Federal Constitutional Court explicitly states... Dialogue time: 14:53.13,0:14:59.31: that the Federal Republic of Germany may not assist in acts which violate human rights. Dialogue time: 14:59.31,0:15:04.33: From that point of view, Germany as a host country is indeed called upon to act. Dialogue time: 15:04.33,0:15:08.57: If you exaggerate a little and think ahead, Dialogue time: 15:08.66,0:15:12.60: with the way of thinking that has come to light here, Dialogue time: 15:12.615:14.60: Guantanamo would be possible in Germany. Dialogue time: 15:15.415:17.98: It should be clear to all that that can’t be." Dialogue time: 15:19.68,0:15:24.66: But the European Patent Office even ignores court decisions. Dialogue time: 15:25.17,0:15:34.73: In the Netherlands, the Supreme Court determined a violation of fundamental rights and calls for the immunity of the Office to be lifted. Dialogue time: 15:34.73,0:15:37.88: The final decision is still pending. Dialogue time: 15:37.88,0:15:47.95: But the vice-president of the Patent Office has made it clear in an interview with Dutch television how he will deal with a possible conviction. Dialogue time: 15:49.26,0:15:54.88: [Dutch TV Reporter]"What if the High Court lifts the immunity of the European Patent Office?" Dialogue time: 15:54.88,0:16:07.68: [EPO Vice-President]"Then the President will talk to the Administrative Council, with the representatives of the Member States, to see what should happen in this case. Dialogue time: 16:07.71,0:16:14.75: The result will probably be that the verdict will be shelved." Dialogue time: 16:14.77,0:16:18.93: "So you will not accept the verdict of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands?" Dialogue time: 16:18.93,0:16:20.93: [EPO Vice-President]"Yes." Dialogue time: 16:23.33,0:16:30.84: How can it be that an authority does not feel bound by fundamental rights and ignores decisions made by the courts? Dialogue time: 16:31.416:34.97: The reasons for this lie in the history of the Office’s creation: Dialogue time: 16:34.97,0:16:42.66: More than 40 years ago, the member states developed a set of rules that gave the President a great deal of power. Dialogue time: 16:43.02,0:16:47.77: And the current President Benoît Battistelli is making use of this power. Dialogue time: 16:48.04,0:16:59.76: "I have the impression that the loopholes and leeway, created by contracting states, are being exploited." Dialogue time: 17:00.73,0:17:06.26: The only ones who can stop the President are the Members of the Administrative Council. Dialogue time: 17:06.26,0:17:09.24: They come from the 38 Member States. Dialogue time: 17:09.24,0:17:14.91: Each country has one vote, regardless whether San Marino or Germany. Dialogue time: 17:14.91,0:17:18.75: The Austrian Friedrich Rödler sat on the Administrative Council. Dialogue time: 17:18.75,0:17:22.35: He travelled especially from Vienna to give us an impression. Dialogue time: 17:22.35,0:17:28.08: In his opinion, there has been no effective control of the top management for years. Dialogue time: 17:28.08,0:17:31.80: [Friedrich Rödler, former Austrian Administrative Council Representative]"The Administrative Council is also constrained by structural limitations. Dialogue time: 17:31.817:39.66: The Administrative Council is guided in its decisions by the information that it receives from the President of the Office. Dialogue time: 17:39.66,0:17:42.13: It has no other source of information. Dialogue time: 17:42.617:47.48: This is the exact basis on which the Administrative Council has to reach a decision... Dialogue time: 17:47.48,0:17:50.45: ...or sometimes unfortunately not." Dialogue time: 17:51.77,0:17:55.51: The Patent Office employees continue to protest. Dialogue time: 17:55.51,0:18:01.71: Meanwhile, the Administrative Council has called on the President to improve the social climate. Dialogue time: 18:01.71,0:18:03.71: But many employees remain sceptical. Dialogue time: 18:04.31,0:18:06.06: What will happen next? Dialogue time: 18:06.06,0:18:10.42: The staff committee members wish to contest their dismissal internally. Dialogue time: 18:10.42,0:18:16.88: If that doesn’t work, they will have to make a claim in Geneva before the Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation [ILO]. Dialogue time: 18:16.88,0:18:24.68: Also, some chronically ill employees are currently trying in Geneva to challenge what in their view are the inhumane requirements of the Office. Dialogue time: 18:24.84,0:18:28.26: But before there is a judgment, it can take years. Dialogue time: 18:28.88,0:18:35.20: "This is about people and their fate, families, children. Dialogue time: 18:35.2,0:18:37.08: It's really about much more." Dialogue time: 18:37.51,0:18:43.02: That doesn’t seem to concern the President of the European Patent Office.

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