12.21.20

Gemini version available ♊︎

Court Case: Matthias Kirschner, FSFE Women and Volunteers Face Modern Day Slavery

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Free/Libre Software at 9:56 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from the Free Software Fellowship

These women are two more victims abused, two more reasons to stop giving money to FSFE and ban them from all Free Software events.

Susanne Eiswirth, Matthias Kirschner, Galia Mancheva, FSFE, workplace bullying, harassment

A blog has appeared with details of the allegations against Matthias Kirschner, including workplace bullying, sexism, stalking and underpayment of women.

Everything in the blog is entirely consistent with the observations of the last fellowship representative: Kirschner is a thin-skinned despot who tries to control everybody around him. We previously covered Kirschner’s character defects here.

We were not sure whether to name the women who were fired by Kirschner. You can see their names on this snapshot of the FSFE web site before Kirschner decided to blame them for his own small-mindedness. Now the women published a blog, will Matthias Kirschner and Florian Snow publish their names in the next FSFE meeting minutes? Look out for the names Susanne Eiswirt and Galia Mancheva. Their crime? They wanted to be paid.

One of the claims is that women are paid far less than men. This is often hard to prove. The article suggests women are paid twenty percent less than men, in other words, women are paid to work four days and they are like volunteers on the fifth day of the week. We’ve seen how FSFE and Kirschner in particular sells the work of volunteers to other groups and subjects volunteers to experiments and punishments.

There is another side to this story: Kirschner prefers to hire women as interns, not employees, so he can use them up and throw them away before they ever begin to ask serious questions about money. FSFE disposes of and immediately replaces two interns every six months or so. This is a sham to get around the employment law. Kirschner does this so that the women in these roles always remain within the more youthful age bracket, so they can spend long hours at conferences smiling at men and collecting donations.

Matthias Kirschner, FSFE, harassment, bullying, women

The blog published by one of the sacked women:

————– I took FSFE to court. This is my story –––––
Soon after the first lockdown in Berlin this year I filed a public case in the Berlin Tribunal of Labour Court against the president of Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), Matthias Kirschner, for workplace bullying.
Why? A female colleague and me had dared to discuss wage transparency and gender pay gap in the office. Apparently it is common in Germany that this gap exceeds 20%, but we both felt secure that the free software movement is progressive, and cares about being inclusive and equal opportunities oriented.
Unfortunately we miscalculated – our boss Matthias was beyond furious.
After that office meeting, he told my colleague “there will be consequences”. Our efforts coincided with the resignation of Richard Stallman from the US-based sister organisation of FSFE due to careless revictimisation of female victims of sexual abuse- another gender discrimination issue in our community that would cause the situation in our office to deteriorate quickly.
In its reluctant press release on this pivotal change in leadership in the largest free software organisation in the world, the FSFE had opted to honour Stallman for his undeniably long service and overlook the social issues underlying the change – something with which I expressed dissatisfaction, and not without support from colleagues.
It led to immediate retribution.
I was ordered to rewrite the text and was warned that I had “three hours to do it. Whether we will publish it or not, is going to be my [Matthias', my rem.] decision, not yours”. Free software is in most of our digital infrastructure, and I care a lot about inclusivity in this community to ensure that our most basic tools can be developed by everyone’s perspectives for everyone’s needs, so I rewrote our announcement. But not only was it never published – it was not even honoured with his feedback.
My aforementioned female colleague, who had also backed me up, was fired just a few days later. Personally, I was subjected to a good amount of pressure and strategic intrigues.
I was given tasks irrelevant to my job description and far below my qualifications. I was degraded both as a professional and due to who I am through instructions such as “translate this [text] in your mother tongue, so you can understand better”. I was belligerently micromanaged and questioned through rebukes like “why do you refer to dates in this format and not in that format”, while there is no office policy on following a particular date standard. I was even told some of the things I was working on were bullshit! For 3 months I was pushing for time to launch a newsletter survey as an attempt to make qualitative improvements, but my effort was labelled as “not necessary”.
I was regularly nagged, and prevented from doing the work I was hired for. In front of my colleagues I was tasked with one thing and in private I was asked not to do it and have it replaced with another, and then in front of others asked about the progress on the previous. Matthias was manufacturing the false impression I wasn’t doing my work, while at the same time calling and texting my private phone number in obscure hours (such as 5:00AM or 22:00PM) with work orders and topics. Unlike other colleagues, I had a hard time receiving time off for the extra days I worked on, and was prevented from taking any of my annual holidays.
I suspected Matthias was preparing to fire me, and indeed I was on a clock. He needed to make sure he was re-elected FSFE president before he could get rid of me. It would have damaged his chances to have fired all the full-time women in the office in the two months leading up to the elections – an unnecessary risk – but once approved he would have another two years’ free reign.
At this time my friends were starting to worry – the psychological pressure and lack of enough time off caused my condition was decline. I had to take a sick leave. Certain that I was about to get fired, my friends encouraged me to seek legal counsel, if so only to keep myself focussed on constructive tasks.
Immediately after my sick leave announcement, Matthias fired me over the phone on a Friday night, and threatened me to immediately go to the office to hand over work-related items. Appearing in the office during a sick leave is illegal in Germany, so I refused. A weekend of non-stop calls followed, including from hidden phone numbers. He even texted telling me I should answer my phone, for my own better. Even after my lawyer warned him to terminate all attempts to communicate with me and send someone else to pick up my work laptop, he came in person to my house, and was very irritated that I was not alone.
Eventually, of course, my sick leave ended, I was fired, and there was a global pandemic with follow-on lockdowns.
It was against this background that I filed a complaint in the Anti-Discrimination Commission in Germany and I filed a case against him in court for work-place bullying.
Disappointingly, it turned out, the Commission does not have much legal authority for actions, so I proceeded further only with the bullying case.
During the process, one curious clue popped up. In one of the publicly available answers to the court he argued I had no reason to doubt a gender pay gap, because you see, there was this male trainee that was having a lower pay than me.
But, not only does the FSFE rate women salaries lower, but also foreigners. So, if you happen to be a foreign woman – well, tough luck. At the same time they are proudly proclaiming the office “international” and “inclusive” when pursuing donor relations or in relations to the public.
The court process was taxing. The FSFE lawyer made up easily disprovable slanders against me – and I say “easily” because their charges were demonstrably false, but of course finding evidence that is also admissible in the conservative German court system did not do much good for my stress levels over summer. They disrespected the court by not submitting papers on time, and they refused to answer my allegations, opting instead to portray me as a disobedient, sexist, racist, incompetent belligerent. Why did they give such a person a permanent contract after a six month probation period? Well, magnanimously they apparently were afraid that I would otherwise be disappointed.
Now, I finally received the Labour court’s verdict some days ago. The court basically says that even though they recognise my claims as true I do not qualify for financial remuneration because I did not suffer for at least a year and I did not end up having major psychological damage of my identity.
I was accused by the FSFE that my claim was driven by a desire for a quick financial gain. Unfortunately, the German law foresees only monetary and no other type of compensation. However, I was given the opportunity in court to ask for something else. I asked for an apology and the president of the FSFE refused.
Why am I writing all this? Because I want to expose the hypocrisy and double standards in FSFE leadership. How the organisation “promoting” transparency, equality and inclusivity treats employees and more specifically women. How donations are spent on nurturing Matthias’ grandiosity. Because, let’s be honest, to how many male employees’ homes would he appear uninvited after being cautioned by a lawyer not to do so?
I remain committed to open infrastructure and free software, and I know the community extends beyond the FSFE Berlin office, where Matthias reigns supreme with the support of his FSFE Board employees. I of course also hope that the advocacy arm of the European free software movement will eventually also reflect the diversity, friendship and equality that I continue to find in the movement as such. Finally, I want to thank those of my hacker friends who showed up in person at my final court hearing and those whose priceless support remained in spite of physical distance. Your presence made it so much more bearable, and reminded me that it is not the sour apples of the FSFE offices that make our community, but the many people around them who continue to commit themselves and their skills to a better tomorrow.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

Decor ᶃ Gemini Space

Below is a Web proxy. We recommend getting a Gemini client/browser.

Black/white/grey bullet button This post is also available in Gemini over at this address (requires a Gemini client/browser to open).

Decor ✐ Cross-references

Black/white/grey bullet button Pages that cross-reference this one, if any exist, are listed below or will be listed below over time.

Decor ▢ Respond and Discuss

Black/white/grey bullet button If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

DecorWhat Else is New


  1. Links 21/05/2022: HP Teams up with System76

    Links for the day



  2. IRC Proceedings: Friday, May 20, 2022

    IRC logs for Friday, May 20, 2022



  3. Links 20/05/2022: Thunderbird Revenue Rising

    Links for the day



  4. Outsourcing Sites to Social Control Media is an Outdated Mindset in 2022

    Centralised or federated censorship/filtering platforms (also known as "social [control] media" [sic]) aren't the way forward; we're therefore a little surprised that Linux Weekly News (LWN) bothers with that languishing bandwagon all of a sudden



  5. Links 20/05/2022: Plasma's Latest Beta in Kubuntu 22.04, Kapow 1.6.0 Released

    Links for the day



  6. Turkey's Migration to Pardus Linux and LibreOffice Explained 2 Months Ago in LibrePlanet

    This talk by Hüseyin GÜÇ was uploaded under the title “Real world GNU/Linux story from Istanbul”



  7. In Turkey, Windows Market Share is Down to Almost Nothing, 'Linux' is About Two Thirds of the Connected Devices

    Watch this graph of Windows going down from around 99.5% to just 11.55% this month



  8. The Lies and Delusions of António Campinos

    Monopolies and American corporations (and their lawyers) are a priority for today's EPO, Europe's second-largest institution



  9. Links 20/05/2022: Fedora BIOS Boot SIG

    Links for the day



  10. Links 20/05/2022: Oracle Linux 8.6 and VMware Security Crisis

    Links for the day



  11. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, May 19, 2022

    IRC logs for Thursday, May 19, 2022



  12. Links 19/05/2022: Rust 1.61.0 and Lots of Security FUD

    Links for the day



  13. EPO Eating Its Own (and Robbing Its Own)

    António Campinos is lying to his staff and losing his temper when challenged about it; Like Benoît Battistelli, who ‘fixed’ this job for his banker buddy (despite a clear lack of qualifications and relevant experience), he’s just robbing the EPO’s staff (even pensioners!) and scrubbing the EPC for ill-gotten money, which is in turn illegally funneled into financialization schemes



  14. [Meme] EPO Budget Tanking?

    While the EPO‘s António Campinos incites people (and politicians) to break the law he’s also attacking, robbing, and lying to his own staff; thankfully, his staff isn’t gullible enough and some MEPs are sympathetic; soon to follow is a video and publication about the EPO’s systematic plunder (ETA midnight GMT)



  15. EPO.org (Official EPO Site) Continues to Promote Illegal Agenda and Exploit Ukraine for PR Stunts That Help Unaccountable Crooks

    epo.org has been turned into a non-stop propaganda machine of Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos because the EPO routinely breaks the law; it’s rather tasteless that while Ukrainians are dying the EPO’s mob exploits Ukraine for PR purposes



  16. [Meme] EPO Applicants Unwittingly Fund the War on Ukraine

    As we’ve just shown, António Campinos is desperately trying to hide a massive EPO scandal



  17. EPO Virtue-Signalling on the Ukrainian Front

    António Campinos persists in attention-shifting dross and photo ops; none of that can change the verifiable facts about the EPO’s connections to Lukashenko’s 'science park' in Minsk



  18. Links 19/05/2022: PostgreSQL 15 Beta 1 and Plasma 5.25 Beta

    Links for the day



  19. A Libera.Chat Anniversary and Happy Birthday (Maybe the Last) to 'Leenode'

    What became known as the so-called ‘Leenode’ is a cautionary tale, but maybe it is also a blessing in disguise because IRC as a whole seem to have become a lot more decentralised (as everything should be)



  20. Links 19/05/2022: The Gradual Fall of Netflix/DRM

    Links for the day



  21. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

    IRC logs for Wednesday, May 18, 2022



  22. Links 18/05/2022: Qt Company Loses Chief; OpenSUSE Leap Micro 5.2 and RHEL 9 Final

    Links for the day



  23. Jim Zemlin's Wife is Funded by Puppies (Microsoft)

    Jim Zemlin — like his wife — is bagging millions from Microsoft, but that’s clearly a conflict of interest for the Linux Foundation



  24. Links 18/05/2022: More Defections From WordPress to Gemini

    Links for the day



  25. Links 18/05/2022: PikaScript and cURL's Annual User Survey

    Links for the day



  26. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

    IRC logs for Tuesday, May 17, 2022



  27. Phoronix: Microsoft and Phoronix Sponsor (and Close Microsoft Partner) AMD All Over the Place

    When you’re taking massive 'gifts' from AMD (and also some from Microsoft) maybe it’s not surprising that editorial decisions change somewhat…



  28. EPO Has No F-ing Oversight

    Earlier today SUEPO mentioned this new article demonstrating that EPO President António Campinos can very obviously and blatantly violate the Code of Conduct of the Office without facing any consequences; there are translations too, so the report is now available in four languages



  29. [Meme] Linux-Rejecting Foundation

    The Linux Foundation never really leads by example; by default, it uses proprietary software



  30. Linux Foundation Almost Never Uses Open Source

    The Linux Foundation uses proprietary software (look where they hire and take money from) and be sure they're probably not even aware of it


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts