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EPO ‘Dialogue’ With Staff Representatives is as Dead as ‘Dialogue’ With the Union

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 5:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Talk to staff, go on with your plan regardless
‘Dialogue’ as a mere box-ticking exercise

Summary: “Yet another failure of social [sic] dialogue [sic] for Mr Campinos,” according to staff representatives, who rightly bemoan the Office president not giving a damn about staff; things quickly deteriorate in Europe’s second-largest institution, which does even worse things than granting loads of illegal European software patents (harming software producers and users alike)

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO has circulated a publication that deals with an ongoing problem, universally exacerbated (globally, worldwide) with “COVID” as the perfect catch-all excuse/justification. This is a very big problem, applicable not just to EPO staff, and Mr. Bausch has just written about it again. Don’t let the so-called ‘new normal’ become a wholesale elimination of human and labour rights [1, 2]. The ‘new normal’ should not be ‘no normal’ or perverse abnormality.

“Don’t let the so-called ‘no normal’ become a wholesale elimination of human and labour rights.”“We summarise the consultation,” the CSC wrote, “the minor amendments to the initial proposal, the unsolved issues created by the reform and the incomplete transitional measures in our publication.” Here’s the full text of it — text which isn’t entirely confidential but António Campinos would rather keep private because it can disrupt his multi-million PR campaign (paid-for puff pieces about EIA, apparently more such pieces and bigger budget than Benoît Battistelli‘s because we’re overrun by such fluff this year).

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel

Munich, 7 May 2021
sc21060cp – 0.2.1/4.4

Education and childcare allowance reform: A summary

The reform of the Education and Childcare allowance was tabled on 4 May 2021 in the GCC for consultation. It is the final stage before submission to the delegations in the Administrative Council. The Hague together with Vienna and Berlin are severely hit by this reform, which will reduce their long-term attractivity. When the dust has not even settled after the adoption of the new salary adjustment procedure, this is yet another failure of social dialogue for Mr Campinos.

Consultation via an unanswered mailbox and futile meetings

Our experience with the education and childcare allowance reform has now shown that the purported mandate of the President and his administration to restore social peace has gone up in smoke. We have witnessed a complete disregard for the concerns of staff and their representatives. The administration claims that the nine working group meetings with staff representatives and the dedicated mailbox for staff to directly send their concerns to the administration are evidence of social dialogue. However, in practice the working group meetings were nothing more than a formality that the administration merely endured to be able to tick the box of having “discussed” the reform with staff representation, and the hundreds of emotional emails sent to the administration, detailing family situations and the potential impact, not only went unanswered but also had very little effect on the reform, such that we wonder if they were even read by the members of the administration in the working group.

The conclusive indicator of whether the concerns of staff have been considered and whether a bona fide consultation has taken place regarding the reform is not a count of (potentially useless) working group meetings or the existence of a dedicated mailbox (that could simply redirect incoming emails straight to the trash), but rather how the initially proposed reform was amended to reflect the input from staff and their representatives.

Only minor amendments to the initial proposal

From the reform proposal that was presented during the very first working group meeting, only two minor changes were made, which are:

• the increase of the young child allowance from 350 to 700 euros where childcare costs exceed the latter sum, and
• a higher ceiling for primary and secondary school direct costs in PoEs without a European School, namely Vienna and Berlin only.

Major unsolved issues created by the reform

Issues that were raised many times by staff and their representatives, and notably have still not been addressed are, among others:

• school fee ceilings in The Hague remain significantly lower than the cost of the European School Munich (ESM) of ~17,000 euros per child per year,
• the difference in regulations between type I and type II European Schools creating inequality between cost-free education provisions at the two big PoEs,
• not a single International School fee covered within the ceilings for Vienna, so no cost-free education option,
• the lack of an afterschool care allowance impacting all sites,
• the fundamentally flawed idea of redistribution of the childcare allowance from those who depend on it to be able to work, to those who have no childcare costs, which creates massive inequality and is regressive in nature,
• the insufficiency of the 700 euros in The Hague considering creche costs of ~2,400 euros per month for full-time care compared to, for example, ~160 euros for the public creche in Munich, ~875 for the EPO in-house creche in Munich, or ~1,450 euros for the bilingual crèche Nymphenburg in Munich,
• the abolishment of extra assistance with the costs of the creche for colleagues in the lowest grades (up to G6), upon which these colleagues heavily depend,
• unequal treatment between colleagues in different PoEs, and the lack of promised site specific solutions in The Hague,
• younger siblings not being covered by transitional measures means some children may still be forced to change school due to insurmountable issues with children attending two different schools (e.g. distance between schools, differing school hours, differing holiday timetable, unaffordable cost above ceiling etc.),
• perversion of the very purpose of a childcare policy, which is to support families so parents are able to work, such that the reform throws away the baby with the bath water,
• undefined meaning of “direct” and “indirect” costs regarding the education allowance,
• the D&I implications of the childcare allowance reform, which discourages female participation in the workforce and/or motivates part-time working, which is particularly pertinent for colleagues in lower grades.

Incomplete transitional measures

The transitional measures were the only area where the administration showed some (though not much) willingness for discussion, since they were not already defined before the first working group meeting. The administration decided that children enrolled in an international school for the year 2021/2022 will have the direct costs reimbursed until the end of their secondary education, provided they do not change school. There is also a provision for children who are registered for the first year of school in 2022/2023 to be covered by transitional measures. However, despite the Office having stated that provisions for siblings were being considered, this never materialised and as such they do not benefit from the transitional measures. Furthermore, the administration rejected outright the simple and fair idea to allow all children, born or unborn, of current staff to be included in transitional measures on the grounds that it would be too complicated (although we beg to differ).

Mistrust will persist

One of the major issues at the EPO is low confidence in senior management decisions, evidenced by the last staff survey, and this issue was identified as an opportunity for improvement. However, the handling of this reform has shown us once again that the President and his administration have no intention to listen to the voice of staff and their representatives, and we expect that the next staff survey will show no improvement on this front. Trust in the Office is incredibly low, particularly in the PoEs where the reform hits hardest. It has not gone unnoticed that the PoE where the vast majority of management are stationed has been relatively unscathed by the reform, nor has it been overlooked that while families with young children will suffer, the post-secondary education allowance has been protected such that the pockets of management are untouched.

Proposal to postpone reform but include nationals rejected

The President and his administration have again shown their inflexibility and rejected our request to postpone the reform and immediately include the nationals in the post-secondary education allowances until the remaining issues have been resolved. We do not understand why there is such a hurry, especially in times of a pandemic, for a reform that was originally claimed to be cost neutral. We now await the opinion of the Budget and Finance Committee and ultimately the decision of the Administrative Council, but we won’t be holding our breath…

Your Central Staff Committee

In about 7 weeks from now Campinos will have complated 3 years inside the Office; the reliable inside sources suggest he won’t seek renewal of his term, which was appalling for a lot of reasons. He likes to measure all the wrong things, not patent quality, brain drain (staff), and aspects like outsourcing of the Office to another country (through Microsoft). What’s left of the EPO? A bunch of contractors, no real recruitment, and waste of tens of millions of euros, devoted or set aside for media puff pieces that distract from all the failures and corruption. Perception management campaigns aren’t cheap and moreover, based on the staff surveys, they’re not effective, either.

Gee, why is my staff angry?
Guess why…

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