02.14.21

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EPO Management and ‘The Children’ Who Run the Office

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Months ago: Inside the EPO During Corona: COVID-in-the-Head António Campinos Acts Like a Maniac and Starts Shouting at Meetings (Refusing to Listen to Anybody or Accept Reality)

A baby face

Summary: The ‘rights’ of patents aren’t more important than the real rights of parents; the staff representatives at the EPO explain the reality which is overlooked (or deliberately ignored) by EPO management

THE EPO is no “happy family”, but it’s run by one. People at the top of the institution bring in friends and family, paying them massive salaries cushioned by European taxpayers and stakeholders. Who’s holding this “Mafia” accountable? Nobody.

“I’m just a baaaaaaaby!”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to…”

Benoît Battistelli‘s man, António Campinos, continues to oppress EPO staff (people who actually do all the work, not mere photo ops).

“Who’s holding this “Mafia” accountable? Nobody.”The other day the Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO wrote to staff about the pandemic and its impact on young families. “Childcare centres and some schools have reopened but the effects of the pandemic on families is still keenly felt.”

“In this letter to the President,” they said, “we advocate for a shared effort in the form of special leave.”

Tommy babyThey can see what’s coming next: “A third wave and lockdown are looming on the horizon. If they materialise, if your child(ren) is/are sent home because they or another pupil in the group have mild symptoms, or if they need to quarantine, we advise to take half the time you will need for childcare in the form of annual, parental or unpaid leave and request special leave for the other half of that time. In this paper, the Local Staff Committee The Hague also suggests a template that you can use (in part/adapted/amended) to request special leave.”

In the name of transparency we reproduce this here. First, the open letter (to staff):

Reference: sc21012cl-0.3.1/4.3
Date: 11.02.2021

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

ISAR – R.1081

OPEN LETTER

Special leave for a shared effort

Dear Mr President,

We would like to draw your attention to the situation of our colleagues during the pandemic. As you have stressed on repeated occasions, the health of staff and their families is more important than ever.

While we appreciate your words of empathy and the measures that have been implemented until now, we see that our colleagues who have childcaring responsibilities are increasingly exhausted as they have to juggle work and taking care of their offspring during lockdowns, quarantines, and when schools and day-care centres will not accept them due to mild symptoms.

With a large part of the EPO population being composed of expats living far away from family, this situation means an extreme burden for the affected colleagues. The psychological burden that this situation is causing is alarming, with research showing increased risk of parental burnout and pandemic fatigue 1 – further evidence that we should be making every effort to safeguard the mental health of our colleagues.

With your announcement of 08.01.2021 you granted ten extra days of parental leave to all parents2. Whilst this offer is appreciated, it merely seems a drop in the ocean to many distressed parents.

Parental leave alone is not a viable solution because it is a form of unpaid leave and as such affects the families’ income. Many colleagues therefore have no alternative but to take annual leave to care for their offspring, thus depleting their annual leave credit, or to work when their caring responsibilities are over for the day, both of which leading to physical and mental exhaustion.

_____
1 Parental Burnout and Child Maltreatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic, A.K. Griffith, J. Fam. Violence, 23 June 2020, pages 1–7.
2 N.B: For the sake of consistency with the Codex, any supplementary parental leave should be granted per child rather than per parent – this is to avoid that families where both parents work at the EPO receive double the amount compared to families where only one parent is an Office employee.


In the video announcement of 05.01.2020, you recommended the solution of adjusting the targets to alleviate the burden caused by the pandemic. From the feedback we have received, this recommendation has not been followed consistently by line managers – some even refusing to take parental leave into account for the 2021 target-setting exercise. The workload pressure remains unchanged, which does not help to alleviate the situation.

We would therefore like to appeal to the Office’s duty of care. The lockdown and its impact are clearly a case of “force majeure” in order to put into practice the principle of a genuine shared effort between the employer and the employee.

We are of the opinion that “a problem shared is a problem halved”, and therefore we propose that the EPO should contribute half by granting special leave, while the employee should contribute half by taking annual, parental or unpaid leave.

In other words: in the absence of schooling and day-care facilities due to lockdown, quarantine or stricter rules relating to keeping children away from said facilities, a staff member taking half a day of annual, parental or unpaid leave will be granted half a day of special leave to make up a whole day dedicated to childcare or home-schooling during the pandemic. This seems to be common practice3.

We are confident that the swift implementation of this measure will bring some relief for the colleagues and ultimately benefit the Office as well.

Yours sincerely,
Alain Dumont

Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

___
3 See for example KPN (NL) granting four hours leave for every four hours taken by its employees for childcare: “Betaald verlof en docent aan huis: zo helpt de baas zijn werknemers”, RTL, NL. For other examples of common practice in the matter, see “Zusätzliche Kinderkrankentage für Eltern”, Bundesregierung, DE, and “Can I be furloughed to look after my children?”, BBC, UK.

Tomorrow morning we’ll talk about the action suggested by the representatives. They take this matter very seriously.

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