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EPO Management Isn’t Listening to Staff, It’s Just Trying to Divide and Demoralise the Staff Instead

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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EPO Divide-and-Rule
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Summary: “On 18 January 2023,” the staff representatives tell European Patent Office (EPO) colleagues, “the staff representation met with the administration in a Working Group on the project “Bringing Teams Together”. It was the first meeting since the departure of PD General Administration and the radical changes made to the project. We voiced the major concerns of staff, the organization chaos and unrest caused by the project among teams and made concrete proposals.”

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) at Europe’s largest patent office — the EPOis again protesting the proposal put forth by António Campinos and his cronies. Remember that these cronies aren’t democratically elected; they’re in need of impressing nobody; they literally buy (bribe for) votes from the Council. It’s an oppressive force of corporate occupation, not leadership by any stretch of imagination. They openly promote utterly illegal and unconstitutional proposals. They refuse to obey orders from judges.

“Where’s the media in all this? Still ignoring what’s happening in Europe’s second-largest organisation?”Edda Franz, the EPO’s Principal Director General Administration, has left already, but this terrible proposal she’s responsible for goes ahead. This was covered here towards the end of last year.

Here’s the latest publication on the subject, noting that unrest and chaos soon followed:


“Bringing Teams Together”

Report on the Working Group meeting of
18 January 2023

On 18 January 2023, the staff representation met with the administration in a Working Group on the project “Bringing Teams Together”. It was the first meeting since the departure of PD General Administration and the radical changes made to the project. We voiced major concerns of staff, the organisation chaos and unrest caused by the project among teams and made concrete proposals.

Dear Colleagues,

Compressing staff in less space than available

The administration announced in the meeting that:
− in The Hague, DG1 staff will be entirely moved to the New Main and the Shell building will be gradually emptied.
− in the Isar building, three floors have been emptied and will be used by three directorates of DG1.
− the Pschorr Höfe Parts 5 and 6 will be emptied for conversion work in order to increase the number of single offices (e.g. dividing current shared or meeting rooms in several smaller rooms). Staff will be moved to the lower floors 1 to 5 of Pschorr Höfe Parts 1-4. Higher floors will remain empty in order to compress staff as much as possible so that a global move back to Pschorr Höfe Parts 5 and 6 in two years will allow the administration to make another use of Pschorr Höfe Parts 1-4 (most likely renting out).

Radical changes and chaotic implementation

In the meeting, we referred to the CSC publication of 12 January 2023 pointing at the radical changes made to the project since December without consulting staff representation. Line managers are asked to proceed on the basis of quotas (70% of workplaces per directorate among which 50% can be allocated fixed) thereby triggering divisive discussions among staff. The implementation is chaotic and arbitrary with a broad range of diverging implementations on top of “managerial arbitrariness”. Here a non-exhaustive list:

• Some line managers decide to allocate only workplaces-for-the-day to everyone.
• Some line managers explain that only those agreeing to a shared office (e.g. two workplaces in the same room) could have an allocated fixed workplace.
• Some line managers allocate fixed workplaces only to those coming 5 days a week on the premises.
• Some line managers allocate a fixed workplace only to “high producers”.

We repeated that such implementations contradict the principle of individual workplace allocation promised by Mr Campinos, as well as the statement of Ms Simon (VP4) in the December Administrative Council meeting that “anyone coming at least three days per week will have an allocated fixed workplace”. Furthermore, a purely quota-based distribution of workplaces and allocated fixed workplaces cannot match the wishes of staff.

We stressed that staff are additionally worried that even allocated fixed workplaces must not be personalised, that they will have no keys and will furthermore only have limited storage space.

Impact study? Disengagement?

The administration confirmed that neither an impact study nor any proper needs assessment had been made before launching the project. In their view, the goal is to avoid a “ghost town” feeling because of low building occupancy when coming to the premises. Concerning the timing, the administration explained that it is not possible to wait forever before doing something nor to wait for the implementation to be agreed by all DGs. The guiding principle is to allocate fixed workplaces to people who come more often and bookable workplaces-for-the-day for those who come less frequently.

In our view, such a project requires an impact study to assess the effects on staff. How much working time will be lost for the moves (and in the prior divisive discussions)? How long will staff take to adapt to the system? How much time will be lost in resetting every day the individual ergonomics, computer and screen settings and locking all personal items when leaving the room?

It is easy to see that staff willing to come three days a week will resort to the minimum attendance of 60 days to avoid the hassle of workplace booking and the readjustment of ergonomics. Rather than “Bringing Teams Together”, the project will achieve the opposite, i.e. deter staff from coming to theOffice premises.

The latest Technologia Survey results already show a significant degradation of staff engagement. Disengagement of EPO staff increased from 13% of staff in 2016, and 19% in 2020, to 41% in 2022. An employer who tries to allocate impersonal workplaces-for-the-day even to those coming frequently to the Office premises (three days or more per week), is an employer showing staff that they do not count. The present project therefore is expected to only worsen the situation.

Concrete proposals

In the meeting, the administration asked whether we had any concrete proposal. We explained that:

− staff needs clear rules e.g. a three-day rule for having an allocated fixed workplace, as previously promised by Ms Simon (VP4),
− allocated fixed workplaces must have a key and storage space and personalisation should be allowed.

The administration promised follow-up meetings but no invitation was yet received. We remain ready for further discussions.

The Central Staff Committee

Where’s the media in all this? Still ignoring what’s happening in Europe’s second-largest organisation?

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