Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO is Like a Pressure Cooker, Multiple Staff Actions Coincide and Add Up

Video download link | md5sum 9a08e81c2e0f4d1b3f4de37d6cb57de9 EPO Staff Rising Up Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0



Summary: The approval rate of António Campinos seems to have fallen to the same level as Benoît Battistelli's; the media is not talking about it, as that would be against the interests of wealthy media owners, but the EPO is imploding from within due to abuse against staff and laws

THE EPO's staff has embarked on a number of actions lately. We cover some of these actions almost on a daily basis, but today we take stock (outline) and add some more internal documents to the mix. The public deserves transparency. Corporate media, owned by affluent people and corporations, is intentionally turning a blind eye.



We start with an alta vista of sorts; as the video above explains, at the end of this month there's an important meeting. In it, the Council will discuss a sharp fall in patent grants and the future -- if any -- of corrupt Campinos (Monopoly Tony).

We previously wrote about ongoing petitions, surveys, and much more. But today we have more documents to share with the public, i.e. the primary stakeholder, and publish in the form of HTML, plain text, and GemText (making the information more widely accessible and easier to preserve for decades to come).

We begin with the prospect of continuing (not resumption but extension) of industrial actions. "Following the quasi final results of the survey on the upcoming actions," the union has said, "SUEPO Central [staff union] Committee has decided to go ahead with a ballot (one question) concerning the extension of the Work-to-Rule actions until 30 September 2022. The ballot will run until Thursday 23 June at 12:00 (noon)."

At an earlier point they said: "Following the Action Plan voted on 22 February 2022, the Committee of SUEPO would like to step up the actions and have your opinion before deciding which upcoming actions will be submitted to a members’ ballot. For this purpose, the SUEPO Committee has prepared a short survey for you..."

For the sake of Europe and for the sake of scientists (not monopolies) please do carry on. Join the staff union. They're on the right side of history! And the more people participate, the safer participants will become. It's an act of much-needed solidarity.

Here is the statement from SUEPO Central, circulated among staff earlier today:

Staff engagement survey “Together, stronger”



Please participate in the Office staff engagement survey with due care!

Dear SUEPO members,

The Office has announced a staff engagement survey by Willis Tower Watson (WTW) starting the 8th of June. With the summer break of the pandemic finally starting, the title “Together, stronger” reminds nevertheless very much the title of the Covid-update intranet page “Stronger together".

And this is for a good reason: from what we heard from staff, Covid generally has left traces: long-term sickness is rising and it could be that many colleagues do not feel stronger than before the pandemic. In this context, we agree that emphasising solidarity, “together”, sets the right tone.

The last check of the Office on how we were doing was conducted in October 2020. This was only shortly before the 2nd lock-down! And the results back then indicated that many staff were struggling (see“Shaping the New Normal Staff Survey”). It is important for the Office to be aware of how you feel and what you think, and not only how you consider working in the future.

Unfortunately the Staff representation was not asked at all in the preparation for this week’s staff engagement survey. It speaks for itself about social dialogue under the presidency of Mr. Campinos.

The upcoming staff engagement survey is allegedly an update of the 2019 Staff Engagement Survey, “Your voice, our future”. The results of that survey were disastrous.

It will be interesting to see if the many problems that staff had identified back then are still very evident and unresolved, and which new issues the recent reforms (SAP, NCS, EA, fixed-terms contracts), the present circumstances and the New Ways of Working have created.

In the past surveys, we found many questions of WTW to be suggestive questions or asked in a manipulative and limited context, e. g. questions on support given by line managers and support by hardware, while the much important question of work pressure in difficult working conditions was left out. Therefore, please read the questions and answer carefully!

There will be a free-text comments’ space in the staff engagement survey. However, we regret that an analysis of such comments for the last surveys was not shared with the Staff representation.

And be aware: your answers may have an impact on your future in the Office and on how your concrete working environment will look like after the summer and beyond!

The CSC has just published a paper on this topic [...]


Here's what the CSC (Central Staff Committee) published:

Staff engagement survey "Together, stronger": Participate!

Dear colleagues,

The Office has announced a staff engagement survey by Willis Tower Watson (WTW) starting the 8 June. The pandemic may be taking a pause but the title “Together, stronger” is very reminiscent of the Covid update intranet page title, "Stronger together"

From what we heard from staff, Covid in general has left its mark: long-term sickness is on the rise and it could be that many colleagues do not feel stronger than before the pandemic. In this context, we agree that the emphasis on solidarity, “together”, sets the right tone.

This survey responds to a long-standing request from us: The last survey was conducted in October 2020. This was just before the second lock-down! And the results at that time already indicated that many staff were struggling (see“ Shaping the New Normal Staff Survey”). It is important for the Office to be aware of how you feel and what you think, not just how you imagine work in the future.

We recently conducted together with SUEPO the fifth edition of the Technologia survey on this subject. The results are expected very soon. While we were naturally heavily involved in this one, we were not asked at all in the preparation for this week’s staff engagement survey. It speaks for itself in terms of social dialogue under the presidency of Mr Campinos.

The upcoming staff engagement survey is supposed to be an update of the 2019 Staff Engagement Survey, “Your voice, our future”. The results of that survey were disastrous.

It will be interesting to see whether the many problems that staff identified in 2019 are still very evident and unresolved, and what new problems have been created by the recent reforms (SAP, NCS, Education Allowance, fixed-terms contracts,…), current circumstances and the New Ways of Working.

In the past surveys, we have noticed that many questions of WTW were leading or asked in a manipulative and limited context, e. g. questions about support given by line managers and support by hardware, while the important question of work pressure in difficult working conditions was left out. However, there will be a space for free-text comments in the survey. It is a way to make your voice heard! Still, we regret that no analysis of your comments was shared with you (and us) after the last survey.

Take the opportunity to express your thoughts and feelings. Read the questions carefully and answer wholeheartedly! And be aware: your answers will have an impact on your future in the Office and on what your concrete working environment will look like after the summer and beyond…


As pointed out in the video above, there's a lot of push-polling going on, as usual.

So they're hoping to sort of 'weaponise' the Office survey (controlled by the corrupt management) to expose this management for what staff really thinks and feels. Separately, there's also a staff survey, challenging whatever narrative the management hopes to distract or detract from.

Additionally, there are a couple of petitions with impending finalisation (we've already mentioned the Dutch one). For different branches of the Office there are different petitions, but here is the one for Munich, the main branch:

Petition: Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures

Dear colleagues,

In 2019, the EPO orchestrated a flawed Financial Study together with Oliver Wyman & Mercer. The President selected a base-2 scenario which foresaw deflation and an overall deficit of €3.8bn by 2038, and added a €2bn arbitrary “buffer” for closing the alleged “gap”.

In May 2020, SUEPO mandated Ernst & Young to perform an analysis. Comparing the key assumptions of the 2019 study with those of other EPO documents, Ernst & Young found that the 2019 study consistently took an overly conservative approach. It was clear that the EPO had no deficit.

In spite of this evidence, the President put in place as of July 2020 a new salary adjustment procedure aimed at closing the alleged “gap” and which cuts staff purchasing power. Instead of the alleged deflation, inflation materialized at the historical level of +9,1% in Germany[1] since then. At the same time, EPO salaries were adjusted by only +0,5%.

Over the same period, the EPO saved on liabilities and increased its assets in the treasury fund and the pension reserve fund. Within only 2 years, the new salary adjustment procedure saved €1,33bn of the €2bn planned to be saved over 20 years. At the end of 2021 the actual budget surplus came to €385.7m, 10.6% better than 2020, and significantly above the budget figure of €214.8m.[2]

The generated savings are currently not managed by staff. Staff has no say in the supervision of the treasury fund of the EPO and there is currently no mechanism to make cash payouts out of the pension reserve fund. In view of the excellent performance of the EPO, staff should be thanked for their effort instead of having a historical loss of purchasing power. This situation is neither justified nor sustainable. For the above reasons:

SUEPO Munich requests an extraordinary salary adjustment to be applied as of 1 July 2022.

Please sign the petition ! We need your support !

SUEPO Munich

[1] Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for Germany since July 2020 (Statistisches Bundesamt & Eurostat 116.1 / 106.4 = 1,091)

[2] CA/10/22 page 27/82


This petition is one of several petitions. But there's also this new petition which targets the members of the Administrative Council of the EPO, who meet later this month. Here's what it says:

07 June 2022 su22032cp - 0.2.1

P E T I T I O N

To the members of the Administrative Council of the EPO

Call for a Conference of Ministers of Contracting States under Article 4a EPC



We, staff members of the European Patent Office (EPO) and the signatories of this petition, perceive that the development of the European Patent Organization (EPOrg) has increasingly departed from the structure and its mission as foreseen under the EPC and it appears that no appropriate countermeasures will be taken.

Therefore, we consider an external review of the EPO's situation by a Conference of Ministers of the Contracting States under Article 4a EPC to be expedient; such a Conference is anyway long overdue in view of Article 4a EPC.

We call on you to have anew a close look: - at the development and administration of the organization’s resources, in particular the alarming reduction of staffing levels in the core tasks; - at the development of EPO employment law, at the (absence of) internal dialogue with social partners; and - at hidden attempts to de-centralize the EPO towards National Patent Offices and weaken the roles and competencies of the various organs defined under the EPC

We also call you to reflect on whether the strategic governance of the EPO is compatible with the long-term continuity of the Organization’s existence and with the future fulfillment of its mission, also in the context of its role in the Unitary Patent system.

We ask you to transmit this petition to your Ministries in order to convene such Conference without delay.

Sign the petition here

You can find more detailed information on the petition.

Sincerely

SUEPO Munich on behalf of SUEPO Central


We have omitted the link for obvious reasons. Here's the detailed information supplied:

Detailed information

We, staff members of the European Patent Office (EPO) and the signatories of this petition, perceive that the development of the European Patent Organization (EPOrg) has increasingly departed from the structure and its mission as foreseen under the EPC.

It appears that the EPO is being more and more transformed into a profit center, which is - in our view - inappropriate for a public service with quasi-judicial bodies responsible for granting monopoly rights by sovereign acts, which have a wide impact on their owners, their competitors and on the public. The fact that almost all management decisions are made on the basis of financial figures calculated according to the accounting standards applicable to the private sector (IFRS) rather than to the public sector (IPSAS) has led to reforms focused on savings on the expense of staff and downsizing of staff in core business to an amount which endangers the good functioning of the EPO. Core tasks are evaluated increasingly more on a financial perspective, wherein internally a link between the number of patents granted and the financial health of the EPO is openly communicated. The EPO career system further adds to an individual preference for granting of a patent over refusing a patent application.

Internal quality control mechanisms have been implemented, by which the President of the European Patent Office has increasingly assumed the position of an additional higher ranking, but hidden instance in the patent granting procedure above the Divisions defined pursuant to Articles 15, 18 and 19 EPC. This not only questions the authenticity and legal validity of the Division's decisions but also leads to strong influence to quickly grant patents. While surveys among external "stakeholders" ran by the EPO appear to show a high quality of the EPO patents, internal audits disclose that since years more than 20% of the European Patents have severe deficiencies and shouldn't have been granted.

Backlogs in examination and search are increasing and it appears that for tackling the problems the current line management is tempted to return to outdated management approaches like "challenging people" measures and management "by fear", which are unworthy of a modern organization like the EPO with highly qualified personnel. At the same time the EPO plans to reduce the staffing level in core tasks even further. This adds to current plans squaring with a large-scale decentralization of EPO tasks, including transfer of tasks to NPOs. Such significant amendments of the Organization’s structure fall outside the prerogatives of the President or the Administrative Council as defined in Articles 10 and 33 EPC. Furthermore, such a decentralization of EPO tasks would also affect the legal certainties of the validity of the patents granted by the EPO.

Apart from that, virtually all reforms of employment law since 2013 have been legally challenged, a number of which were already considered as null and void by the ILOAT (see e.g. Judgments 4430 to 4435 or 4482) or even in breach of fundamental rights; no significant investments have been made for reviewing the other reforms at stake. The EPO has obviously been unable to develop and apply new policies in line with legal constraints as defined by the ILOAT, so that further embarrassing judgments are to be expected.

All these issues have not been appropriately tackled due to the long-lasting failure of the EPO Administration to engage in a genuine social dialog with the staff representation and trade unions, who have drawn attention to them repeatedly to no avail.

Therefore, we consider an external review of the EPO's situation by a Conference of Ministers of the Contracting States under Article 4a EPC to be expedient; such a Conference is anyway long overdue in view of Article 4a EPC.

We call on you to have anew a close look: - at the development and administration of the organization’s resources, in particular the alarming reduction of staffing levels in the core tasks; - at the development of EPO employment law, at the (absence of) internal dialogue with social partners; and - at hidden attempts to de-centralize the EPO towards National Patent Offices and weaken the roles and competencies of the various organs defined under the EPC

We also call you to reflect on whether the strategic governance of the EPO is compatible with the long-term continuity of the Organization’s existence and with the future fulfillment of its mission, also in the context of its role in the Unitary Patent system.

We ask you to transmit this petition to your Ministries in order to convene such Conference without delay.

The non-exhaustive list of signs of derailment of the EPO includes:

Management of core business and Quality: ● Staffing level in core business has been reduced significantly during the past years and the office plans to continue the reduction of staffing level in core tasks by 25% of examiners and by 50% of formalities officers; ● Since the beginning of 2021 until the end of April 2022 an increase of the examination backlog by about 12% and search backlog by 5% is visible; ● Rather than adapting the recruitment plans in core business to the actual situation the Office continues to focus on prioritizing and re-shuffling examiners tasks in examination and search; ● The latest figures of the internal quality audit disclose a decreasing trend of quality of grant decisions from an already low compliance rate of 80% in April 2021 down to less than 75% at the end of March 2022.

Decentralisation initiatives: ● The EPO has proposed a new „mobility” program which includes secondment of patent examiners between the EPO and NPOs without limitations; it further focuses on harmonization of IT structures between NPOs and the EPO rather than primarily investing in the tools to support the core work; ● By the reorganization of 1 April 2022, EPO examining divisions and EPO formality officers were artificially separated geographically to different sites, without any added value for the EPO work procedures; ● The Office has departed from long-term and permanent employment towards high rotation short-term contract jobs for the members of the Divisions defined pursuant to Articles 15, 18 and 19 EPC.

Legal Certainty of Sovereign acts: ● Over the past years the President of the European Patent Office has issued instructions by which he increasingly assumed the position of an additional higher ranking, but hidden instance in the patent granting procedure above the Divisions defined pursuant to Articles 15, 18 and 19 EPC. Every notified action of the Division like a communication, summons to oral proceedings, refusal decision or grant of a patent application requires approval of the line manager in substance, although she or he is not a member of the Division; ● No legal means are available for the members of the Divisions for redressing interferences, like unlawful orders of the line manager to issue a communication instead of a decision to refuse an application as no legal instance is available (see e.g., Judgment 4417); ● The current electronic file and workflow system systematically implements resulting interference by management with the Division's responsibilities and tasks and does not ensure an appropriate authentication of signatures of the responsible members f the Division.



And based on past participation rates, it seems safe to assume thousands will sign it. Will the Council listen? For a change?

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