Bonum Certa Men Certa

[Video] "The Heart of Staff Rep" at the EPO Threatens to Snitch to Management

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Jan 16, 2024,
updated Jan 16, 2024

Video download link | md5sum e4053e6041acee58f7c2157316baea88
The Heart or The Hague?
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Preview for The Heart or The Hague?

Today's publication is important. We even did a teaser about it and that's quite rare.

As readers are likely aware by now, the European Patent Office (EPO) besieges its staff. Under the management of Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos things have been chaotic as laws are routinely broken. They've dismantled a properly-functioning office and staff is compelled to grant patents against the European Patent Convention (EPC).

One would imagine that the staff representatives, including the Central Staff Committee and the union, would be able to identify the real problem and focus on the culprit. But as it turns out, some are attacking the more senior representatives. Pro-management leanings, wherein we're meant to assume that management will "fix" the representation (which it vehemently hates) can be seen coming from 3 people, whom I did not name in the video above. This is FFPE-EPO [1, 2] all over again, except it comes from within, so to speak. FFPE-EPO hardly had any members, or it hardly represented people (in The Hague). Its strategy was one of appeasing Office management. No wonder FFPE-EPO perished. The letter below come from the following 3 people:

Claudia Lopes

Jorge Raposo

Alexandra Forjaz

Having patiently read what they have to say, it seems like a lot of "he said, she said" and perhaps soreness over not retaining one's status in staff representation. Apparently one does not get along with fellow representatives and now looks for some cheap revenge by threatening to go to management.

A decade ago, under the pretext of "protecting" staff (citing canards like "sniper" or "nazis"), Office management tried to crush the union and marginalise the staff representation's role.

Here is the first letter from a group called "The Heart of Staff Rep":

The Heart of Staff Rep
with Staff at Heart

Request for an Internal Inquiry
The Hague, 20 September 2023

Dear CSC Chair, dear Derek,

The Heart of Staff Representation (TH-SR) is a formal group of elected staff representatives, whose program has been validated in the last Local Staff Committee The Hague elections (June 2023). We approach the Central Staff Committee (CSC) as TH-SR elected members of the Staff Representation in The Hague to request an internal inquiry regarding the CSC meetings on 31 August and 7 September.

It is competence of the Central Staff Committee to make appointments to the bodies under the Serv Reg or as requested by the President. Article 36(2)(a) Serv Reg.
The CSC requested each Local Staff Committee (LSC) to present a list of candidates for full and alternate members for the GCC-SSPR. The LSC on each site provided a list of proposed candidates to the CSC as GCC-SSPR full and alternate members.

During the weekly CSC meeting (31 August), LSC Vienna presented its proposed full member – a member of the LSCVI - and alternate member - Claudia Lopes (CL, member of TH) to the CSC. With regard to the candidature of CL a CSC member of MU raised an objection, evoking that cross- site-nominations were unseen. To this argument, a CSC member of TH added the fact that her group was unaware of this nomination, and that CL did not apply for alternate member in The Hague. A member of the LSC TH noticed that nominating CL without informing the group must be discussed in LSCTH. Another CSC member of TH reinforced the argument that CL did not apply to the alternate position in The Hague and yet a further CSC TH member stated that nominations have been done “in the back” of the LSC The Hague. There is no basis for an objection to be a candidate as an alternate member for Vienna.

To the argument that CL is the most experienced and knowledgeable staff member in The Hague for the GCC-SSPR, the group recognised her competence. The reason for not supporting her nomination rests in the statement by a member of TH: “There is a lack of trust in this person” without context or further explanation on what sort of “trust” was at stake. Further a CSC member of MU

stated that the presence of CL in the GCC-SSPR would disturb the work of other members. The

same statement was also stated in writing by two further members of TH. CL further informed the CSC that she is working in the GCC-SSPR since her first mandate (2017), that she is the most experienced SR in The Hague in this matter, and that she made herself available to join the GCC-SSPR as full member for the LSC TH. In any case, CL has the interest of all staff members at heart, especially in her areas of proven competence in finances and pension schemes. The LSCTH had voted her out that morning of 31 August, finding other members for the full and alternate positions without difficulty. Therefore, she decided to accept the invitation from Vienna.

To the question posed by Vienna, on which grounds are based according to the rules of the CSC for the objections over CL’s candidature, the CSC remitted the matter to the LSCTH, and postponed the nominations of the alternate members. The CSC decided only upon the nomination of the full members.

During the CSC weekly meeting of 7 September, a CSC member of the TH, spoke in the name of his group, requesting a vote on the alternate member list of candidates. Another TH member explained that in her group’s view there is no problem on cross-site-nomination per-se, however her group doesn’t want to have “back door” negotiations between one member of LSCTH and other Committees. The problem appears to be perceived the lack of communication from CL towards the LSCTH and would appear to remain a problem until the communication improves.

The CSC recognised that the competence of CL is not questioned.

A CSC member of TH mentioned an agreement that was broken with the interference of Vienna. The agreement seemed to be an internal matter of this group from The Hague. However, TH-SR is not aware of any such agreement.
Another CSC member of TH stated that the issue was Vienna nominating on the back of The Hague, to remedy he proposed that Vienna suspends the name of CL from the list, and that negotiations with all sites shall start, and if the wish to renominate CL persists, Vienna should negotiate with his group in The Hague. Again, there appears to be no basis for this.

A vote was called on the list of 6 names, followed by a vote on each individual candidate. Several objections were raised against this procedure, namely based in Article 1(2) RoP of the CSC: “The CSC acts collegially and according to the principle of collective responsibility.” and that should one of the candidates be voted out there would be no substitution, in fact, the list would be then incomplete.

The vote on each individual candidate is casted and CL is rejected as Vienna alternate member to the GCC-SSPR.
The CSC decided to send the nominations of five alternate members.

The competence of the CSC to make the appointments to the GCC-SSPR is not questioned.

However, the CSC has failed to address the basis for the original objection raised on the 31 August, and later on the 7 September, the matter of accepting or not a cross-site nomination, i.e., to provide the grounds according to the rules for the CSC to reject or not a cross-site nomination.

On the contrary, the CSC has allowed arguments to be marshalled, not relevant to its members' decision-making, and which in any case do not fall within the CSC's remit to assess.

The CSC failed to settle the question of law, i.e. whether or not Vienna can appoint a person from another site, and in a clear interference with Vienna's autonomy and CL's Staff Rep mandate, allowed derogatory statements affecting CL's right to protection of reputation and good name.

Some statements wrt CL were:
"There is no trust in this person"; "This person does not work well with the group"; "This person did not apply to alternate in The Hague"; "There is an agreement that this person and Vienna broke"; "There were negotiations behind the back"; "Vienna and CL should have informed/negotiated with The Hague". However, none of these statements and arguments address the question of law, if Vienna can appoint someone from another site.

Should the CSC have decided that cross-site nominations are not allowed, the matter would have been closed. However, it seems that the CSC implicitly recognised that such nominations were possible as has already occurred in the past.
Therefore, within a strictly collegial approach, the CSC could have asked whether CL may, according to the rules, accept the appointment, but the CSC did not. We emphasize in this respect, there are no rules limiting the exercise of the Staff Rep's mandate, since a SR is elected directly by its colleagues, free and with an individual mandate, to a collegial advisory body, with no hierarchical structure and as such with no subordinate status. Therefore, the alleged obligation for authorisation to accept such Vienna invitation from the Local Staff Committee does not exist, and cannot be claimed.
Such demand seems demeaning and serving a persecutory line of acting.
To this end, nor can a group of Staff Reps in The Hague claim a mandatory communication, since this can only be done on CL's own free will.

Setting aside all the derogatory arguments, the only aspect relevant to be assessed was the merits of our candidate CL.

Instead, the CSC allowed the introduction of offensive and fallacious statements and arguments, without questioning the context and/or relevance to the matter at hand, disparaging the image of our candidate CL in the eyes of the CSC members who subsequently voted to exclude her and observers of LSCs.

In view of the foregoing, we consider that the events described could constitute mobbing. Given the seriousness of the events, TH-SR hereby requests that the CSC set up an internal inquiry committee in order to ascertain the legality and legitimacy of the conduct of staff rep members present at the CSC.

We look forward to a favourable resolution of this matter.

Kind regards,

Alexandra Forjaz

Cláudia Lopes

Jorge Raposo

Staff Representatives of the group The Heart of Staff Rep

Having looked at this twice already, including while recording the video, it seems like a disorganised ramble or a rant. It does not make it clear what the alleged misdeeds or misconduct may be. To me, it seems like someone isn't compatible and is viewed as an obstruction. This can happen and is naturally a part of how multi-person representation works, never mind if cross-site roles are pursued or not. This seems like a minor detail.

An escalation is dated about 2 months ago and it's worded in an ugly, hostile fashion.

Have a look:

The Heart of Staff Rep
with Staff at Heart

The Hague, 1 November 2023

Our letter of 20 September 2023 and your e-mail of 13 October 2023

Dear CSC Chair, dear Derek,

With reference to your e-mail from 13 October 2023 concerning our request for an internal inquiry on 20 September 2023 and our reminder on 27.09.2023, we hereby take note that the CSC has not reacted to our request of 20 September 2023.

We noticed that our letter was added for information on the CSC agenda on the 12 October 2023 under point 16g. On the 13 October you have informed us, without announcing any deadline, that the CSC requires more time to process our request.

Today, two weeks later, we still did not receive any reaction from the CSC.

Considering the seriousness of the events, taken place on the 31 of August and the 7 of September, giving rise to a presumption of the existence of misconduct (see arguments in our letter of 20 September), we would have expected that our request would have been handled with due diligence and urgency by the CSC. In view of the absence of reply, we consider that the CSC has no means for internal regulation and proper governance to address events subject to workplace ethics.

According to our service regulations, Art. 21(2), “An employee who, in the course of or in connection with his employment, becomes aware of facts which give rise to a presumption of the existence of misconduct shall without delay inform the unit in charge of investigating allegations or indications of misconduct, and shall transmit to it any information of which he is aware from which the existence of the irregularities may be presumed.”

Therefore, staff representatives attending the meetings on 31.08.2023 and/or 07.09.2023 have now become aware of facts that we – the Staff Representatives of The Heart of Staff Rep - consider as giving rise to a presumption of the existence of misconduct. The attending staff representatives are now subject to this obligation.

Consequently, as the CSC is not competent to address our letter, we hereby expect the staff representatives attending the above mentioned CSC meetings to forward immediately our request dated 20 September 2023 to the competent unit within the EPO.

Kind regards,

Alexandra Forjaz
Cláudia Lopes
Jorge Raposo

Staff Representatives of the group The Heart of Staff Rep

Reading between the lines, and clearly seeing how they nonchalantly cite service regulations, just like Battistelli et al, plus the insinuations they would pursue relevant avenues in Office management, this certainly sounds like a threat. Do they intend to contact the Investigative Unit? Have they already done so?

Judge Gavel

As noted in the video, the Investigative Unit is more like a paramilitary force working for those who break the law, breach their own Code of Conduct, and only leverage "service regulations" against low-level staff that they dislike, especially representatives.

If anyone knows more, or if somebody inside the Office has documents relevant to this matter, please contact us securely.

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