‘Prospect members at the Intellectual Property Office are to take industrial action in February after a ballot of members voted with a huge majority in favour. In a turnout of 65%, 88% voted in favour of strike action and 90% for action short of a strike.
Members will start their action with a walk out at 12:30 on Friday 8 February [that's tomorrow] and a half-day strike followed by a work-to-rule.
Over the week leading up to the day of action, members and staff will sign pledge cards committing them to a work-to-rule. As they walk out, their pledge cards will be collected and handed to the IPO. The work-to-rule will continue throughout February.
Prospect negotiator Helen Stevens said:The IPKat has met many examiners at the IPO over the years. On the whole he has found them witty, perceptive, highly educated souls who take their work very seriously and who display scarcely more militancy in their professional capacities than do the sheep that graze the Welsh hillside. This made the voting figures cited above all the more remarkable.
“Members at the IPO have been treated worse than other public sector workers. Austerity for them has meant not only a pay freeze, but a freeze to their progression to the rate for the job. This has cost them large sums of money and left a pay system that is fundamentally unfair and frankly shambolic. Our members at the IPO are highly skilled and work hard to support British business [and indeed much non-British business too]. Any hope of economic recovery depends on people like them. If they were in the private sector [or, it seems, working for the European Patent Office: see Part I of this post here] they would be in receipt of bonuses.”Eleanor Wade, Prospect branch Chair, said:
“The government's policies on pay have left the IPO with an unfair and discriminatory pay system and with equal pay cases outstanding. Central government pay restrictions are stopping the IPO from using its own resources to make a fair pay offer to staff, putting vital support for innovation at risk. Prospect members at the IPO are committed to fighting for fair pay.”Stevens said denying progression also raises issues of fairness, equal pay and retention of staff.
“Many patent examiners are working extra hours because of problems recruiting to these posts. This level of personal sacrifice is too much. The result of this ballot shows members' determination to protest at such unfairness.”
|Pays better than being|
an assistant examiner
Once you're a patent examiner, what happens next? Eleanor Wade explains:
"There is no progression through the Patent Examiner span either, so after promotion Examiners can expect their salary to remain static again, at around £30K (including recruitment and retention allowance) until they gain promotion to Senior Examiner. Senior Examiners are paid £44,173 on promotion (again inclusive of a recruitment and retention allowance), nominally after an average of 7 years examining, and have no way of progressing further up the pay span. The highest paid senior examiners are on £56K and some have not had a pay increase at all for a decade while the pay scales caught up with them. Since progression was withdrawn (it was last paid in August 2009) staff below the top of their span across the IPO cannot move any further up it. So we have people doing the same job to the same standards for as much as 20% less than their colleagues".Merpel is sure that, if there's one thing that is more annoying than not being paid a salary that is commensurate with one's education, training and experience, it's being paid less than someone else who is doing the same work as well as you are.
The Kat team is in agreement that, in principle, every person is entitled to expect reasonable remuneration for his or her work and that this principle applies as much to patent examiners as to anyone else. It is plain that the IPO is not its own master when it comes to setting and implementing its own pay policy and allocating funds received in the manner of its choice. Sadly, this is not a new problem. For years the United States Patent and Trademark Office saw its fee income siphoned off for other Federal purposes, leaving it at the mercy of a larger political debate and dangerously under-funded (even now, while officially in favour, the USPTO still struggles to control its own purse-strings: see eg here and here).
|Being kind to patent applicants|
is bound to make more friends than
opting for industrial action ...