For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

The EPO Rules on Strikes Revealed to Merpel

This year, Merpel decided to take a combined Passover and Easter vacation touring round the sites of the European Patent Office.  On her travels, she happened across a copy of the EPO Service Regulations and the Circular On Strikes (Circular 347).  Attentive readers will recall that the final demand of the PEACES manifesto which lay behind the EPO strikes in March and April was "withdrawal of Circ. 347 (new strike regulations)".  The problem was, Merpel did not know precisely what the offending circular said.  Now, however, all can be revealed.  Comments in brackets from Merpel in the time-honoured format.

Firstly, Article 30a of the Service Regulations:

Merpel's idea of a strike
Right to Strike

(1) All employees have the right to strike. [that's nice, says Merpel]

(2) A strike is defined as a collective and concerted work stoppage for a limited duration related to the conditions of employment.

(3) A Staff Committee, an association of employees or a group of employees may call for a strike.

(4) The decision to start a strike shall be the result of a vote by the employees. [All, of them, apparently, even the President himself - not only Union members]

(5) A strike shall be notified in advance to the President of the Office. The prior notice shall at least specify the grounds for having resort to the strike as well as the scope, beginning and duration of the strike.

(6) Employees shall inform the Office about their participation in a strike.

(7) The freedom to work of non-strikers shall be respected.

(8) Strike participation shall lead to a deduction remuneration. [That's a pity]

(9) The President of the Office may take any appropriate measures, including requisitioning of employees, to guarantee the minimum functioning of the Office as well as the security of the Office’s employees and property.

(10) The President of the Office may lay down further terms and conditions for the application of this Article to all employees; these shall cover inter alia the maximum strike duration and the voting process.

Pursuant to paragraph 10, the President has issued Circular 347, as follows:

Circular on Strikes

The President of the European Patent Office;

Having regard to the European Patent Convention, and in particular Article 10 thereof;

Having regard to the Service Regulations for permanent employees of the European Patent Office, and notably Articles 30, 30a, 63 and 65 thereof;

Having consulted the General Advisory Committee;

Recognising the right to strike, whilst having regard to the need for specific terms and conditions for its exercise in order to ensure a proper functioning of the Office;

Considering that a strike should be a proportionate action of last resort;

Has decided as follows:


Guidelines applicable in the event of strike

A. Definition

1. Strike

A strike is defined in Article 30a(2) of the Service Regulations.
Industrial actions which are not a collective and concerted work stoppage such as go-slow or work-to-rule actions, shall not be considered as a strike. 
The protection granted by the right to strike does not apply to employees participating in industrial actions other than a strike.  [This seems to mean that no industrial action other than a full strike is permitted at all]

B. Exercising the right to strike

2. Call for a strike

A Staff Committee (Central Staff Committee or a local section), an association of employees, or a group of employees representing at least 10% of all EPO employees may decide to call for a strike.

3. Decision to start a strike

The start of a strike shall be the result of a vote by the employees entitled to vote.
Entitled to vote are the active employees either office-wide or at sites concerned by the strike which has been called for. [As mentioned above, that is all of them, including the President.]
The voting process shall be organised and completed by the Office within a maximum of one month following the decision to call for strike. [In any other institution it would be odd for the employer to organise the strike vote.  But this is the EPO.] The voters’ confidentiality shall be guaranteed. [Merpel is sure that is a relief to employees] Employees not able to vote personally shall have the possibility to vote by proxy. An employee can be given only one proxy vote.
The voting process shall be supervised by a committee composes of two employees designated by the resident and two employees designated by the Central Staff Committee on an ad hoc basis.
To be valid, at least 40% of the employees entitled to vote shall participate in the ballot. The decision to start the strike has to be approved by a majority of more than 50% of the voters. [This seems to set a rather high hurdle to achieve the necessary quorum.  The majority is, however, precisely that - a majority]

4. Prior notice

Pursuant to Article 30a(5) of the Service Regulations, prior notice of a strike shall be given to the President at least five working days before the commencement of the strike action.
As regards the scope of the strike, the notice shall indicate which sites of the Office are concerned.
The duration of the strike shall not exceed one month starting from the date indicated in the prior notice as the beginning of the strike. Beyond this maximum duration, any new strike shall be organised in compliance with Article 30a of the Service Regulations.

5. Declaration of participation in a strike

Employees participating in a strike shall inform their immediate superior and shall register via an electronic self-registration tool made available by the Office. The immediate superior will have access to the self-registration tool. [Voting for a strike may be confidential, but an employee can hardly avoid revealing their participation in the strike]
The registration shall occur before or, at the latest, on the day of the strike.
Employees may be considered on unauthorised absence within the meaning of Article 63 of the Service Regulations if they were not at their workplace during a strike action, did not register and did not inform their immediate superior of their absence from work.

6. Deduction of remuneration

For each working day during which an employee participated in a strike, the Office will apply a deductions of the monthly remuneration, in accordance with Article 65(1)(c) of the Service Regulations.
For participation in a strike for more than four hours in a single working day, the Office will apply a deduction of 1/20th of the monthly remuneration.
For participation in a strike for four hours or less in a single working day, the Office will apply a deduction of 1/40th of the monthly remuneration.
For staff working part-time, the deduction will be adjusted proportionally.
The basis for calculating the deduction is the remuneration defined in Article 64(2) of the Service Regulations.
A strike participant remains covered by the social security scheme during strike and therefore continues to contribute in full to the scheme.

C. Entry into force

This decision shall enter into force on 1 July 2013.



So now we know.  Merpel is very happy that this is clarified.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that. The devil is in the detail and it's the subtle changes which are the problem as part of a bigger drive against staff freedoms. As you point out, mgt organising strike ballots is odd and, in my opinion, intimidatory. And intended to be so... BB wants to make strikes as difficult as possible and under his control - he has refused one ballot for being against the spirit of his rules even though that appears to contradict his codification of the procedure I.e. he set the rules then realised he still didn't have enough power.

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