Bonum Certa Men Certa

Edda Franz, EPO's Principal Director General Administration, Leaves EPO Amid Growing Chaos and Orchestrated Efforts to Divide the EPO's Staff

Video download link | md5sum 7cb2e512f130af86f7f2395fc168904c EPO Separating the Examiners Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: Europe's second-largest institution is resorting to tactics one might expect to find in a factory floor or sweatshop in Communist China; workers are being separated from their work friends, whom they lose contact with (might not even be sure if they left the Office), in what's likely an effort at union-busting (Taiwan exercises several more union-busting tactics). There's considerable doubt about the legality of this in Germany and The Netherlands. "In the middle of December," we now learn, "Ms Edda Franz, PD General Administration who was in charge of the project, left the Office unexpectedly."

"ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" THE EPO continues to crush its very own staff. Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos could never tolerate dissent, so they try to "divide and rule" the staff, quite likely in violation of domestic laws (they'd claim to be immune to these as international organisations) and in violation of international labour laws (they like to simply disregard rulings against them, even if ILOAT decisions are fully enforceable and binding, unless or until ILO cans EPO... maybe vice versa, but then goes out the window one common excuse for the EPO's immunity).

The media's unwillingness to cover these scandals is proving harmful to many workers. Consider some of the new comments in this thread; the German government is very much complicit at this point, including the ministry of 'justice' and the FCC.

The latest publication from the Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO focuses on a subject it discussed half a year ago when we argued "EPO Management Behaves As If the Goal is to Shut Down and Outsource the Patent Office".

As it turns out, Edda Franz abruptly left and what's left of examiners will suffer profoundly from a torturous regime whose priority seems to be... inconveniencing and threatening staff.

"Since the last Working Group meeting of 21 November 2022," the CSC wrote, "management has unilaterally made radical changes to the project “Bringing Teams Together”. According to information now provided to line managers, the 3-day rule will not guarantee an allocated fixed workplace anymore. Line managers are asked to proceed on the basis of quotas (70% of workplaces) which will trigger divisive discussions among team members."

Here's the full publication:

Munich, 12 January 2023 sc23002cp

Bringing Teams Together:

The divisive exercise

Since the last Working Group meeting of 21 November 2022, management has unilaterally made radical changes to the project “Bringing Teams Together”. According to information now provided to line managers, the 3-day rule will not guarantee an allocated fixed workplace anymore. Line managers are asked to proceed on the basis of quotas (70% of workplaces) which will trigger divisive discussions among team members. This paper gives more details of what we learnt about the revised plans of the administration.

Dear Colleagues,

From survey... Back in September 2022, the administration asked line managers to make surveys among their teams. Colleagues were asked how often they intend to come to the Office premises, whether they have specific conditions justifying an allocated fixed workplace and whether they would accept a workplace-for-the day. The message cascaded down at the time was that the 3-day rule for getting an allocated fixed workplace1 was that everybody would get what they want. Ms Simon (VP4) had already assured in a meeting with the Local Staff Committee Munich that a whole team wishing to come to the office premises 4 or 5 days per week on a regular basis would be “perfectly” accommodated with allocated fixed offices for each team member.

In the Communiqué of 14 September 2022, the administration announced that they were “currently still gathering detailed information on the needs of all DG1 staff concerned from their line managers”. The lack of popularity of the project also triggered the administration to postpone the moves in The Hague and Pschorrhöfe buildings until the beginning of 2023. broken promises... On 17 November 2022, the Office announced the revival of the project and that “all teams will now work together with their managers in The Hague and in the Pschorrhöfe buildings to finalise a detailed accommodation plan by January 2023”. Line managers were still expecting that they could prepare a plan matching what their colleagues expressed in the surveys. _____ 1 The term workplace is the one used by the administration in the GCC/DOC 13/2022 and designates a workstation comprising a desk, a chair and IT equipment. A workplace can be in an individual office room or in a shared office room with other workplaces.

Management invited staff representation to a Working Group meeting on 21 November 2022. In the meeting, the administration revealed worrying changes to their approach. Line managers will be tasked to check the history of presence of staff in the premises. At the time, the administration said that the 3-day rule for being eligible to an allocated fixed workplace would cease to be a simple guideline and would become a strict criterion.

...and arbitrary action In the middle of December, Ms Edda Franz, PD General Administration who was in charge of the project, left the Office unexpectedly. The project is now in the hands of Ms Simon (VP4) assisted by Ms Bergot and Mr Brunelle (as deputy site managers for Munich and The Hague respectively).

At the same time, line managers started to cascade down radical changes to the project to their teams:

− For each Directorate, a specific number of workplaces (70% compared to present) will be allocated in the buildings.

− The 70% workplaces will be split into assigned fixed workplaces and workplaces-for-the-day. In some directorates, a maximum of 50% of the allocated workplaces would be assigned fixed workplaces. Consequently only 35% of staff of that directorate will have an assigned fixed workplace. In other directorates, the share of assigned fixed workplaces was communicated to range between 50% and 70% of the quota allocated to the directorate.

− Team Managers with many staff coming often to the premises will have to try to get allocated fixed workplaces from other teams with more regular teleworkers.

− The allocation of a fixed workplace will be subject to regular reviews (e.g. every six months).

Such features of the project were never discussed with the staff representation. The administration has now moved from an allegedly flexible system to an arbitrary quota-based system.

The divisive exercise The reaction of staff is very negative. The whole survey exercise made in September 2022 turns out to be useless. Line managers are now in the difficult position of allocating workplaces to their team members on the basis of a quota not taking into account the wishes of their team.

We now hear the following: ● Some line managers now say that coming five days a week to the Office premises cannot guarantee an allocated fixed workplace anymore. This contradicts the statement made by Ms Simon (VP4) in the December meeting of the Administrative Council that “anyone coming at least three days per week will have an allocated fixed workplace”. ● Some line managers confess that allocating only workplaces-for-the-day to everyone would be easier (!) and some even dare say they will do so. ● Some line managers plan to split the week among colleagues in order to optimise the

use of workplaces-for-the-day. Such a proposal would go against the principle of flexibility of teleworking and would lack support as Mondays and Fridays are currently the preferred choice for teleworking.

● Some line managers say that staff members accepting a shared office (namely several workplaces in the same room) would increase their chances of having an allocated fixed workplace. This would go against the principle of individual workplace allocation promised by Mr Campinos.

Instead of “bringing teams together”, the project will divide teams and cause conflicts.


Back in June 2022, the staff representation had published a paper estimating the percentage of workplaces-for-the-day necessary to empty some EPO buildings. At the time, management had tried to prevent the publication of the paper by alleging that it contained wrong information without saying which. The figures published at the time were actually very close to the ones circulated by line managers now.

Mr Campinos acknowledged his ambition to rent out EPO buildings in the GCC meeting of 5 July 2022 and the Communiqué of 13 July 2022. Mr Campinos promised that “any potential rental revenues would be paid into the RFPSS”. However, this is of no direct help for the active staff.

While the staff representation sees the necessity of a reasonable use of resources and energy, e.g. avoiding to heat unused office space, there must be a better solution than simply kicking people out of their workplaces. After all, our homes are not occupied 100% of the time and, yet, we do not leave our homes. We just turn the heating down and manage to find solutions tailored to our individual needs. We should expect that our employer also takes responsibility.

The present problems associated with emptying several buildings simultaneously was created by management itself. Once again, upper management chose an arbitrary solution without considering the repercussions at team level and ignoring the feedback given by the staff representation. The project as currently foreseen will cause significant disruption in the work of staff. Further, transforming the personalised workplaces as they are now into standardised, impersonal, unlocked offices, where each office is exactly the same, seems to us the worst idea since the installation of glass walls. It is now up to line managers and their teams to pay the price of poor management.

The Central Staff Committee

An office wanting to actually attract talented staff would not intentionally choose a policy that staff patently hates.

The EPO needs to update its site already. Edda Franz left last year, but this is what it presents today:

Edda Franz, EPO

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