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President Campinos is Finished (EPO Crisis Afoot)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Letters of Lead
Based on the tone and the choice of words, Campinos has already been written off by staff

Summary: There is nobody left to discuss ways forward with Campinos; he has clearly lost control of the institution at several levels

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO has lost patience for the abusive António Campinos, who increasingly resembles Benoît Battistelli over time. In some sense he’s even worse than Battistelli, but that’s not what’s important.

“The EPO’s management is running out of apologists and allies, even among stakeholders.”Earlier in the week the CSC circulated a report “on the meeting with the President on 19 May 2021″ (i.e. about 10 days ago). “The main item on the agenda was an update on the social [sic] agenda 2021,” they wrote. “A second agenda item was “New Normal”.”

For those who don’t know, “New Normal” is just a catchy buzzphrase for doing illegal things and then exploiting COVID-19 to justify those illegal things. As if “there was no other choice…”

Thankfully, EPO staff is smart enough to not fall for these tricks.

Hungarian Letter“The Administration limited its part of the dialogue to presenting its point of view mostly with the usual buzzwords,” said the CSC. “The meeting was anyway far too short for a meaningful exchange on all the topics of the social agenda that count. Besides the review of the Salary Savings Plan / New Pension Scheme, we would also have liked to ask the President about other topics, such as Covid-19 vaccination in the EPO or the 2021 appraisal exercise.”

The EPO’s management didn't even provide masks to staff (in spite of national laws mandating that). The CSC concluded: “Mr Campinos apparently expects us to have more modest ambitions and be more “constructive”. We might disappoint him, at a time where he is methodically eroding the benefits and the conditions of employment of staff.”

We thought it would be “constructive” to share the whole letter to staff. It would certainly be “constructive” for the European public to see what’s really going on inside Europe’s second-largest institution, given how media actively covers it up (intentionally choosing not to inform the general public). It’s dated Thursday.

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel

Munich, 27 May 2021

Report on the meeting with the President on 19 May 2021

The main item on the agenda was an update on the social agenda 2021.

Reform of the education / childcare benefits
As regards the reform of the education / childcare benefits, the Office’s proposal CA/7/21 is on its way to the Administrative Council, so that any discussion on its content would have been useless. However, one colleague who is new in the Staff Representation described her eye-opening first experience of “social dialogue” in the working group on this very reform, or rather the lack of it. She was all the more disappointed because the official propaganda machinery had given her the impression, as a normal staff member before she joined the Staff Representation, that a proper social dialogue was taking place.

The President gave again an insight into the way he sees social dialogue. He stressed that consultation was not co-management: he would look at our proposal, make his decision and then tell us. He added that the Staff Committee constantly asking for more did not motivate him to accept our proposals.

We also asked for a psycho-social impact study of the reform of the education / childcare benefits as well as of teleworking. The Administration replied that they were already doing a lot to help staff. It made no commitment.

Employment conditions: Extension / conversions
We stressed the drawbacks of the fixed-term contracts and proposed a solution limiting them to five years1. The President informed us that the framework would remain by two times five years, in line with the direction given in the SP2023, followed by conversion into permanent employment if certain criteria were fulfilled2. Further details will be regulated in a Circular (405).

Communication and Resources for Staff Representatives including Circular 356
The President confirmed that he saw no “business case” for allocating a secretary for the staff committees and that secretarial tasks could be distributed among staff representatives. As a result, the last secretary will retire on 31 May and there will be no anchor in the Staff Representation from 1 June 2021. As regards “mass emails”, they should include a practical opt-out option for staff and comply with data protection.

1 See our publications on the topic here.
2 See also CA/3/18, §35: “… depending on business and organisational needs, service rendered and performance.”

Review of the Salary Savings Plan / New Pension Scheme (SSP/NPS)
Quite unexpectedly, the Administration skipped this important item on the social agenda. We would have liked to address and possibly dispel some disturbing rumours about the next reform of the pension scheme(s).

“New Normal”
A second agenda item was “New Normal”, next to the social agenda. Here a strange discussion unfolded with the President and VP5. We submitted that a Conference of ministers of the Contracting States3 could be useful (and that it was actually overdue) to set the course for the future of the Office. The President argued that such a conference was not necessary and could open a Pandora box in times of a pandemic. We, on the other hand, are still of the opinion that “New Normal” should stand on solid legal foundations.

The Administration limited its part of the dialogue to presenting its point of view mostly with the usual buzzwords. The meeting was anyway far too short for a meaningful exchange on all the topics of the social agenda that count. Besides SSP/NPS, we would also have liked to ask the President about other topics, such as Covid vaccination in the EPO or the 2021 appraisal exercise.

The President apparently expects us to have more modest ambitions and be more “constructive”. We might disappoint him, at a time where he is methodically eroding the benefits and the conditions of employment of staff.

The Central Staff Committee

3 In accordance with Article 4a EPC, not to be confused with a “diplomatic conference” in accordance with Article 172 EPC

In a month from now Campinos marks 3 years since he was parachuted into the Office (into the top position). He still shows no real understanding of the patent system, he cannot grasp the concept of social dialogue, and it won’t be long before just 0% of his staff trusts him (last year’s survey, conducted confidentially, showed that only 3% of staff still trusted him).

What an awful way to run an institution with the word “European” in it. Lest we even mention the crisis of the EPO's tribunals (news less than a day old)…

As one new comment put it a few hours ago: “In my mind, it also marks the end of the days where rules had to be obeyed (at least for the EBoA). The EBoA discussed and refused request 1 (postponement of the Oral Proceedings) in non-public consultations only with the Appellant when there was no justification to exclude the public on this point, and granted request 2 (Oral Proceedings to discuss Art. 24 EPC) without obeying Rule 115 EPC. And what about the approach that serving documents to parties and clause 2 of Art. 9 RPEBOA are not so important? Only in the last moment the EBoA “gracefully” granted (less than) one month for the Appellant to submit his observations. Surely, Art. 10 RPEBOA provides that third parties’ observations (and amicus curiae submissions) “may be dealt with as the Board thinks fit”. This Board obviously thinks it fit to put them on an USB stick and then directly throw them in the bin. Which patent attorney right in his mind would put in his or her computer an USB stick that had been sent to him by mail? I hope none.”

The EPO’s management is running out of apologists and allies, even among stakeholders.

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