The meeting was apparently to discuss amendments to the sick leave and invalidity provisions of the EPO. As Merpel understands it, by working for the EPO, employees place themselves outside of national welfare provisions, so the EPO's own provisions represent the only safety net that employees have. It would therefore be understandable that amendments to these provisions would cause some concern. Merpel does not at this stage know what the precise proposed changes are, but has heard these amendments among the list of stated concerns of EPO employees (along with such issues as the Investigation Guidelines, the changes in career structure and evaluation of productivity).
The full letter, in which Merpel has interpolated some comments of her own, reads as follows.
After long and careful reflection [actually not that long since the meeting was on Friday 27 February and the letter is dated Tuesday 3 March -- with just one clear working day in between], it is with a great deal of regret that we, the undersigned, are writing this letter to inform the staff concerning several serious incidents which occurred during the last General Consultative Committee on 27 February 2015. This session was mainly dedicated to discuss the sick leave and invalidity reform. A full day was booked for this purpose. Sadly, we have to report our concerns about serious obstruction to the consultative process from the side of the staff representation.
First, despite the fact that all those full and alternate members elected by the staff and still in place after the series of recent resignations had received in due time an invitation to participate in the meeting, only 9 staff representatives [out of how many?] attended it. It became obvious that there had been a choice to come in such reduced composition to pretend that the consultation was flawed and to request its postponement, although no quorum is needed following the rules of procedures of the GCC [Was this really the reason? Merpel has heard reports of intimidation of staff representatives: might this have had a role to play?]. Elected members from The Hague threatened to leave the room if the meeting was not postponed but they finally stayed. Only after 1.30 hour of procedural debates, the discussions on the main purpose of the meeting, i.e., the sick leave and invalidity reform could really start.
A CSC [Central Staff Committee] member from Vienna presented to the meeting the list of staff concerns on this reform, which was then completed by a CSC member from Berlin. However when PD [Principal Director] Human Resources and PD Legal Services started to address the various points raised by the staff representation, the representatives from The Hague and a representative from Munich disrupted violently the debate with shouts, protests, cries and insulting comments at the two management representatives, who nevertheless went on to answer the questions. Unfortunately, their answers were only turned into twisted interpretations and excessive comments, aiming at provoking incidents. When she was trying to present the points on which the management could, after the various consultations (COHSEC, BFC), propose some changes in the texts, PD 4.3 was once again violently interrupted and was prevented from presenting the modifications which the Management envisaged to introduce in the final document to be presented to the March Council. At 13:00, the staff representatives had no further question or comments, despite several encouragements from the chairman to take the floor, and the GCC meeting was closed. [This paragraph is full of obfuscation - there must have been some reason for the outbursts and there is no indication of what they concerned.]
Not the GCC Manual ...
Such misbehaviour and personal attacks are an affront to the dignity of the representatives of the Management, which are as well members of the EPO staff, that cannot be ignored. Remaining silent would be tantamount to condoning this as acceptable. It is not. As managers, we all well understand that there can be differing opinions, even lively discussions, on topics that are so important to the future of all of our colleagues at the Office and the GCC is the highest forum for such discussions. It is expected, even required under their mandates, that staff representatives raise all the concerns the staff may have about management proposals and that we debate these concerns. However, repeated and malicious personal attacks on other staff members regarding their professional competence, sleights against their intentions and even direct attacks as to their integrity are unacceptable. We simply cannot and will not accept that these attacks continue and go unaddressed.
Therefore, we have decided that we have no other choice than to inform the staff about such misbehaviours of its representatives. Well-founded opinions and clear arguments do not need such tricks, misinformation of colleagues and outrageous comments, in order to defend the interests of the staff. Respect of the rules and the individuals are core values of the EPO and a pre-requirement to a constructive social dialogue. Finally, such misconducts and repetitive violations of the minimal and basic principles to be respected by any international civil servant constitute a clear abuse of the freedom of speech, which is granted to the staff representatives, with the purpose of defending the interests of the staff. They do not serve the purpose for which such freedom is intended and are detrimental to the image of the Office.
Good behaviour: is it
best when reciprocated?
Signed: all management members present on 27.02.2015