11.02.21

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EPO Management Will Exploit the Pandemic to Crush Patent Examiners Like It Crushed the Rule of Law (and Judges)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Work (or the boss) comes home to roost

You don't need to kidnap judges if you control all the judges' boss
Imagine home ‘raids’; also remember that the EPO has already ‘normalised’ surprise visits to people’s homes (to “verify” they were in fact ill and not “faking it”)

Summary: EPO management pretends to “protect” the staff from an invisible enemy; people who have worked in the Office long enough are familiar with these antics (as if there are terrorists and “Nazis” and “snipers” on the premises) and should view very sceptically the real motivations behind sending staff to homes/apartments with growing workloads and more pervasive spying (such as illegal Microsoft spyware which has a covert keylogger and can access microphones, cameras etc. — shades of a supposedly bygone EPO era)

THIS post isn’t intended to provoke. It’s an expression of an opinion. But this opinion is based on past experiences and a lot of reading, including some of the practices observed in technology companies such as IBM.

“The list of issues is endless and many aspects were covered here last year when lock-downs began at the end of March (UK).”Last week I did a 25-minute video expressing my personal thoughts on home-working or work-from-home arrangements, having done that (mostly full-time) since 2007. Don’t call it “remote work” or “teleworking”; these misnomers manipulate semantics and twist the narratives so as to harm workers, making it seem like working from one’s own residence is inadequate and thus merits additional deductions, surveillance, a lack of flexibility and so on. One example is, employers tend to wrongly assume that because one’s office is at home they can phone the worker any time of the day. Other common examples are, they expect workers to be productive at any time of the day/week (for no additional or exceptional payment — something most countries mandate), convert “commute time” into unpaid work time, and generally work very long hours under constant wiretapping/spying, impacting not only the workers but also other tenants, usually loved ones. The list of issues is endless and many aspects were covered here last year when lock-downs began at the end of March (UK). The title of last week’s post was “EPO Home-Working (or ‘Remote’ Working or ‘Teleworking’) Isn’t an Act of Generosity But of Exploitation” and it seems like some workers have been bamboozled/conned into thinking that António Campinos buying them some ergonomic chair (a tiny fraction of the annual salary of EPO examiners) makes it acceptable for him to take away lots of benefitd. Don’t be grateful for it; António has ideas and now that fewer people are in the Office they approach low-cost labourers further abroad (outside Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands). Like Greek mythology teaches us, the oversized wooden horse isn’t quite the gift which it’s disguised as. That ergonomic chair too is easily discardable.

“My advice to EPO staff representatives is, stay constantly vigilant.”Earlier today the EPO’s Central Staff Committee (CSC) circulated this document [PDF] and a member of staff ‘leaked’ it to us. The document isn’t exceptionally interesting and it concerns a meeting that took place 13.5 days ago, i.e. nearly a fortnight ago. The gist (or the abstract) says: “On 18 October, the administration provided us with a copy of a draft Circular defining a mid-term teleworking policy for the Office (see CA/38/21, page 17) as of 1 February 2022 and to be reviewed in no later than 3 years after entry into force. This Circular would replace both the Emergency Teleworking Guidelines in place since March 2020 and the revised Part-Time Home Working (PTHW) Guidelines in place since May 2018. Management invited us ["the staff representation"] to a meeting which took place on 22 October.”

Page 2 describes location limitations. In page 1 it gives the example of “EPO employee recruited in Munich or Berlin would be allowed to reside in Hamburg and to telework from there. In addition to the employee’s residence, an employee can telework from any location within the country of employment.”

This is just Germany shielding its economic interests in the Office. Obviously most workers are based in Germany, so they’re force to stay there and spend money there. For some, this means sending the kids to highly expensive international schools.

My reflex or my instinct about all this, having observed the tricks leveraged by Benoît Battistelli, isn’t positive at all. They’re trying to sell this ‘reform’ using “pandemic”, even though it actually predates the pandemic, as noted in this document. They did the same with the SAP, based on a lie, and we’ve already seen how they misuse the pandemic to outsource 'courts' to American companies, not just to the outskirts (Haar). It’s unconstitutional, it is in violation of the EPC (respectively), but what do these people care/worry about? It took ILO-AT nearly an entire decades to assess "Strike Regulations", which were unlawful all along.

I’m not being facetious and I’m not being negative for the sake of ‘bashing’ the EPO. I’ve been working from home for over 14 years (incidentally, this site turns 15 in a matter of days). I saw how such working conditions are exploited as a sort of pretext for paycuts (or a lack of pay increases, which as long as we have positive inflation rates means a paycut).

My advice to EPO staff representatives is, stay constantly vigilant. Try to envision the next step of the administration or the proposals floated behind closed doors; these people absolutely do not care about patent examiners and they do not even understand them (or their jobs)! Letting people work from home is just a matter of complying with the national laws — to the most minimal extent in this case — while squeezing out the most “production” out of workers… in a time of international emergency/crisis.

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