07.29.22

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EPO VP4 Nellie Simon: 24/7 Day and Night, Only One Hour to Speak to EPO Staff

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 6e06b34d85f0c4e3c0d0847053795671
EPO VP4 Too Busy to Speak to Staff
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The president’s sidekick Nellie Simon isn’t fulfilling her Office duties; staff isn’t amused

THE corruption at the EPO deepens, as do the stress levels. European software patents, as we recently showed, are being promoted under false pretenses and buzzwords while staff gets treated very poorly. No wonder there's a recruitment and retention crisis.

“No wonder there’s a recruitment and retention crisis.”The document discussed above and shown below (as HTML) reminds us of the lack of dialogue — an issue for which EPO management is entirely to blame. It can barely devote an hour a month to discussion about pressing issues, including worrisome deviations from the rules/laws.

Here’s the full text:

Örtlicher Personalausschuss München Innenstadt, Haar und Brüssel
Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels
Le Comité local du Personnel de Munich ville, Haar et Bruxelles

Munich/München,28.07.2022
sc22018mp

Report on the meeting of the Local Staff Committee Munich City with the Site Manager of Munich City, VP4 Nellie Simon

On 12 July 2022 the Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels (LSC Munich) met the Site Manager of Munich City, VP4 Nellie Simon, for the first time in 2022 to discuss a number of prevailing local matters, notably the Bringing Teams Together project and the planned move of the BoA Unit to PH 7 in a virtual meeting which had been scheduled, as had the previous ones last year, for one hour, only.

Since on some topics no progress had been made, we had requested the administration to put them on the agenda again.

The agenda was as follows:
1. Bringing Teams Together Project
2. BoA Unit re-location to PH VII (see also Intranet announcement by BoA 05.04.2022)
3. Proposal for a Conference on the possible building occupancy
4. DE Kindergeld vs. EPO Dependants’ allowance
5. Dependency status
6. Lack of Consultation of LOHSEC

Topics which were not discussed

i. Ongoing problems with tools and associated issues
ii. Compensation for extra-ordinary inflation
iii. Data-protection issues regarding on-call colleagues and personal mobile phones

We had agreed with the administration in advance that any topic left out would be dealt with by the administration in writing. Topic (i) was submitted as “Kleine Anfrage”, due to be answered by VP4 by the end of the summer break.

Present for the administration: Nellie Simon (VP4), Edda Franz (PD 44), Fiona Dullenkopf (President’s Office); Steve Rowan (VP1), Jan Boulanger (in part) (Director HR Essential Services) and Frédéric Brunelle (Director Planning and Construction)


1. Bringing Teams Together Project

For the project, we noted that a prime motivation appeared to be the plan to gradually empty the offices in the PH I-IV buildings due to structural problems, as seen e.g. by the rusting of the reinforcing steel of the concrete in the underground garage. We inquired how long these repairs would last. We were especially curious why the works weren’t well underway, some closed off areas being in the same corroded state since February 2021, the date shown on the closing-off notice in the garage. We specifically asked whether the long announced tender for fixing the concrete reinforcements in the underground garage PH I-IV had been completed and repair work started.

In this connection we also inquired what would happen if, in addition to staff from PH I-IV, staff from PH VII would also be moved elsewhere, due to the planned move of the BoA to PH VII (see also next agenda item). Presently foreseen is only PH V, VI, VIII and the ISAR building.

While the emptying out of PH I-IV was neither confirmed nor denied, the administration was adamant with regard to repair work having in fact started. It assured us that the underground garage was structurally sound. It further explained that at the moment it was collecting information about workspace relocation and the underground garage. In the garage, measurements were being made to make a 3D digital twin of it, to enable efficient working on the needed repairs.

Regarding the planning of future office use within the project, we stressed that staff needed to know what they should do to have an allocated fixed office. In essence, we inquired whether it would be sufficient just to ask for a fixed office in order to get one, no matter whether for one day per week or e.g. if a whole team would like to come in four to five days per week, or if further factors were involved.

The administration gave various “peripheral” replies amounting to (1) the need for discussion within the teams, with the line manager deciding based on the information gained, but that everybody’s preference would be accepted, with (2) chances being higher if increased presence is sought (e.g. two days per week), but (3) there was no “one solution fits all” approach. Responding to an explicit question, VP4 said a whole team wishing to come in four to five days per week on a regular basis would be “perfect[ly]” accommodated with an allocated fixed offices for each team member.

In this connection it was pointed out that VP1 was currently asking Team Managers how we could make staff come back to the EPO. However, unsurprisingly, it turned out that a workplace for the day was unattractive to many. We strongly urged the administration to clarify its plans, i.e. whether to motivate staff to come back or to keep them out as much as practically possible by demotivating their return.

VP1 replied that the plan was neither. The question should actually be “What do I do?” The New Ways of Working scheme gave “incredible flexibility and treated everyone with trust”. Surely there were people who needed an office, but others who rarely came would not. The idea was to give people an adult choice how they want to manage their time.

We found it bizarre to have on one hand a security awareness campaign but on the other an open door policy with absence of keys even for allocated fixed offices. The administration stressed that security was not seen as an issue. Staff did not have keys in The Hague either and Munich should not


be treated differently. In any case, papers should not be left on desks and with proper discipline there would not be a problem.

2. BoA Unit re-location to PH VII

We inquired about the time frame of planned movements of DG1 staff actually situated in PH VII, noting that the President of the BoA had stated that the relocation would be completed in 2025-26. In particular we sought clarification as to when the removals would start and to which building the DG1 staff concerned would move.

The administration confirmed that 2025-2026 was correct. However no concrete plans for a starting date had yet been made. With regard to staff moving out of PH VII, it was reiterated that it was most important to bring teams together. Again no confirmation was given that PH I-IV would be emptied (and no denial). With respect to the planned investment into Oral Proceedings facilities on the side of BoA, including F2F facilities, not being foreseen anymore save for very exceptional cases in DG1, the administration could not give any specific assessment, being aware, as was everyone, of the Oral Proceedings rooms in PH I-VI.

With respect to our assumption that there would be free movement possible between the BoA building and PH I-VI and VIII (e.g. Sky bar, tunnel, bike cages), as well as the rooms in PH VII not being used for the BoA, the administration could not refer to any concrete plans as of now.

(N.B. After the meeting with VP4, an update by the BoA Unit appeared on the intranet on 20.07. 2022; inter alia free access of the Sky-bar to all EPO staff was mentioned)

3. Proposal for a Conference on the possible building occupancy

In context with the removal topics of the preceding agenda items, we wished to discuss our proposal of a conference with, inter alia, the Presidium of the BoA Unit, the MSC and the site managers of Munich Haar and Munich City, and Facility Management, in order to discuss the future of BT7 and related matters of building occupancy. We further noted that a conference was the gold standard of consultation.

VP4 essentially replied that the word “conference” sent shivers down her spine. In her experience, conferences were often a waste of time. It was still early, and she hadn’t seen any plans about 2025-2026. However, there would be full communication, which would be low key and efficient. She didn’t like the idea of a conference, but she understood our point that transparency was needed. As for the “wish list” of the President of the BoA, it was too early for any detailed discussion. Even if consultation wasn’t possible she agreed that information should be provided to the people. She understood that staff representatives needed to know what was happening.

4. DE Kindergeld vs EPO Dependants’ allowance

The German “Kindergeldgesetz” and “Einkommensteuergesetz” contain a passage stating that Kindergeld is not paid if it can be received from an International Organisation, cf. Bundeskinder-geldgesetz:

§ 4 Andere Leistungen für Kinder, (1) Kindergeld wird nicht für ein Kind gewährt, für das eine der folgenden Leistungen zu zahlen ist oder bei entsprechender Antragstellung zu zahlen wäre: …3. Leistungen für Kinder, die von einer zwischen- oder überstaatlichen Einrichtung gewährt werden und dem Kindergeld vergleichbar sind


This is not in line with the EPO’s handling of the Kindergeld, which merely deducts it from the dependants’ allowance, as possible under previous DE law. However, this situation is now illegal under the current DE law quoted above, hence colleagues unaware of this change in law and still collecting the German Kindergeld first and the remainder from the EPO second are liable for DE fraud charges, regardless of the fact that the EPO would be the beneficiary of this fraud. So we inquired once again (after 23 June and 28 October 2021) about any office measures to inform and/or help affected colleagues.

The administration was aware of the situation and would assess the extent of the problem based on case numbers, noting that staff had to take individual responsibility too, in view of the complex multi-national and interlocutory situation. If the numbers are sufficiently high, VP4 offered to have a communication sent to alert colleagues to this important regulatory change. If not, following our suggestion, the affected colleagues would be contacted individually.

5. Dependency status Article 69 (3) vs 69 (4) and the implementing Circular 82.

We informed the administration anew that their systematic confusion of Article 69(3) ServRegs with Article 69(4) ServRegs was detrimental to staff. Thus the administration was confusing the dependency status of a child with granting it an allowance. This confusion had great implications for all children between 18–26 years irrespective if these children are in vocation training or not.

The administration argued that only a handful of staff were affected. We pointed out that this was demonstratively not true.

We explained how the two articles must be considered in order to avoid misinterpretation.

Step 1:

Article 69(3) ServRegs

This article deals solely with establishing if a child is dependent. Once this has been established that child is automatically in receipt of the health insurance under the parent’s policy (Cigna).

Step 2:

Article 69(4) ServRegs

This article deals solely with granting a child a dependency allowance according to a couple of rules one of which is: if the child is in receipt of vocational or educational training. This article has nothing to do with the health insurance (Cigna) or dependency status. It is purely the basis for granting an allowance.

The problem is with Circular No. 82 which deals with the implementation of Article 69(3) (dependency status) and not with Article 69(4) (Granting of an allowance), but contains provisions of the latter:

Rule 1

(1) Subject to paragraph (2), a legitimate, natural or adopted child (Art. 69(3(a) ServRegs) shall be assumed to be mainly and continuously supported by the employee or his spouse if the child is:
(a) not gainfully employed (Rule 3) and
(b) is under 18 years of age, or has not reached the age of twenty-six and is receiving educational or vocational training, or
(c) prevented by serious illness or invalidity from earning a livelihood, irrespective of age.

Hence this circular introduces unallowable restrictions (in bold and red above) into Article 69(3) from Article 69(4). For instance, it introduces the restriction that a child has to be receiving educational or vocational training in order to be considered dependant. This requirement is not found in Article 69(3) ServRegs which Circular No. 82 is meant to implement.

In a nutshell: the Administrative Council of the Organisation, by adopting Article 69 ServRegs as is, has decided that dependent children should still receive health insurance (Cigna), even without undergoing educational or vocational training. The President of the Office, by adopting Circular No. 82 as is, has taken that away again. However, it is beyond his powers to do so (ultra vires). This is why it is an unallowable restriction.

This unallowable restriction causes considerable anxiety for ALL staff having children between the age of 18-26, because they are left unsure how the administration will interpret the rules. For instance, all children finishing the baccalaureate are, according to the administration not health insured (Cigna) unless the parents can prove that within a very limited time frame the child continues with their vocational or educational training. This situation may even lead to retroactive loss of coverage and is clearly wrong since there is no such requirement in Article 69(3) ServRegs.

Should the Office insist on such an interpretation, the staff should ask for a written confirmation of the Article of the ServRegs (not the Circular) indicating the basis of such a requirement. The Circular is of a lower ranking law which cannot supersede the ServRegs.

We insisted on this during the meeting until VP4 instructed the Director of HR Essential Services to delve further into the matter. We have also been promised by the President that should there be a systemic problem with implementing the Rules of the Codex this would be addressed immediately. There is no better example of systematic wrongful implementation of the ServRegs than this present case. We look forward to seeing swift implementation of an appropriate amendment to the provisions of Circular No. 82.

6. Lack of Consultation of LOHSEC

We explained that on 2 June 2022 there had been a publication on the intranet in the “Life” channel about a new terrace outside the cafeteria in the ISAR building. LOHSEC had not been informed about this, nor other staff representatives. On 9 June 2022 the LOHSEC members of the MSC presented this issue to all LOHSEC members, asking to put the topic of the terrace and the lack of consultation of the LOHSEC on the next agenda, since safety and health aspects were clearly involved. We found


the reply by the LOHSEC Chairwoman unsatisfactory, that the project had been mentioned months before and thus the topic could have been raised before.

We further inquired when and how consultation should start, in particular with the LOHSEC. At the same time we were curious to know whether the PschorrHöfe Buildings would also have outdoor terraces.

The administration sided with the LOHSEC Chairwoman, noting further that safety aspects had been considered by facility management staff and working conditions did not change, hence the Staff Representation did not need to be involved.

We noted that the initial publication was on a side-line of the Life channel, hence of low visibility. Moreover, Staff Representatives should not have to hunt for information, rather the Administration in control of this knowledge should be approaching Staff Representatives with it. That is what consultation was about. The absence in this case was furthermore seen as symptomatic of how “consultation” is presently carried out in the Office. Lastly the difference between Article 38 Service Regulations, defining when the Staff Representation is to be consulted, and Article 38a Service Regulations, defining when the LOHSEC is to be consulted, was explained, as well as between considering (something) and consulting (someone).

This issue and the pertinent procedural and legal questions was furthermore submitted as “Kleine Anfrage” to VP4, due to be answered after the summer break.

Conclusion

While the meeting may be said to be well organized and efficiently conducted, one hour per half year is not enough. Consider this: A working year has about 2000 hours. The Site Manager of Munich City is spending 0,1% of her working time on consultation with us. It is not nearly enough for one half year of topics, of both broad scope and great impact, requiring normally lengthy discussions. The latter applies especially to the complex Bringing Teams Together project, the apparently desperately needed PH 1-4 building repairs, or to properly follow the dynamics of a pandemic.

Your

Local Staff Committee Munich City, Haar and Brussels

[...]

With a dire situation such as this, no wonder many workers are protesting and engaging in industrial action. As noted the other day, quoting the union: “770 staff members participated in the ballot on the “Work-to-Rule” actions among which 90% voted in favour.”

It’ll carry on for at least 2 more months.

“A working year has about 2000 hours,” the above notes. “The Site Manager of Munich City is spending 0,1% of her working time on consultation with us. It is not nearly enough for one half year of topics, of both broad scope and great impact, requiring normally lengthy discussions.”

She wants people to work all day long (it's illegal by the way) while she fails to fulfil her own role. She’s busy doing pinkwashing photoshoots to distract from the fact she’s not qualified for this job and got it through nepotism as a former colleague of António Campinos.

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