paid for by the EPO or the pointless extravagance and meaningless distraction that is the European Inventor Award.
The Le Monde article makes grim reading. Recent events are reported thus:
But behind this pleasant façade, word has it that now a different reality prevails on the inside. A poisonous atmosphere, people on the edge of a nervous breakdown, under surveillance, their movements recorded, put under pressure, subjected to productivity targets which keep getting higher and higher. Those who don’t toe the line are told by security to pack up their things with an hour’s notice, and then escorted off the premises. Some of them have been pushed to extremes. One 55-year-old man had to be restrained by the other people in the office when he started banging his head against the wall. Another resorted to self-harming. Still more dramatically, at the end of March a German committed suicide in a public garden in the Bavarian capital. He was on sick leave for depression, and had told close friends about his fear of not being able to meet his targets. On 8 July 2013, a Belgian employee jumped out of the window of his office in The Hague. Two others, a Frenchman and a German, committed suicide at their homes in Munich. Before putting an end to himself, in May 2012 the Frenchman had requested a transfer, claiming harassment by his superior. The German, who had criticised the attitude of the management in dealing with his colleague’s distress, had forthwith been suspended and removed from the premises. He killed himself on 3 September 2014, the day on which he received a letter summoning him before the disciplinary committee.On these tragic events, Mr Battistelli is quoted thus:
Using suicides against him is indicative of malicious intent: “I am deeply shocked by these attempts to turn these tragedies into instruments of action. It is too serious a subject for them to break into polemics.”The current regime is characterised as follows:
According to Suepo, this economic and legal independence has now been perverted by the arrival of Benoît Battistelli, a 64-year-old alumnus of the prestigious École Nationale d’Administration. The new boss is said to have succumbed to a “spiral of authoritarianism” and “dictatorial tactics”. He is surrounded by a Praetorian guard who are devoted to him, made up entirely of French people who, like him, have come from the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). Benoît Battistelli is accused, by way of his minions, of having turned the tenth floor of the Munich headquarters into a fortress from which he is remoulding the institution.
Strictly according to the detractors, the management is using and abusing an “investigation unit” which, at each site, is responsible for looking into any shortcomings. At the headquarters in Germany, this internal police force has been given another name – the Stasi. An internal directive makes it obligatory to collaborate with this unit and to denounce the deficiencies of colleagues, on pain of sanctions. “There have been more disciplinary procedures in the last two years than in the thirty years before”, as one staff representative complained.On the other hand, Mr Battistelli gives assurance that “the investigation unit acts with total independence.”
“We are aware that our remunerations are more than correct. But at what level of income do human rights no longer apply?” asks one Munich employee. “There is a lead weight dragging this organization down”, maintains Philip Cordery, Socialist Deputy for French citizens abroad. “People working at the EPO regularly inform me of their mistreatment. There is abuse of the extra-territorial status, which is not supposed to equate to impunity.”Finally, the article refers to the appeal made by the Administrative Council at its March meeting for the “resumption of social dialogue”. But it concludes:
It is by no means sure that this attempt at conciliation will be enough to appease some festering hatreds. The violence of the communications exchanges between the President and Suepo prove that this is going to be a fight to the death between them.Merpel hopes that this is not the case, but is concerned that the controversial reforms voted on at the March Administrative Council meeting are apparently being implemented immediately. These reforms, relating to the sick leave and invalidity provisions for EPO employees, were apparently passed with no fewer than 10 abstentions -- including the three major delegations (DE, FR, and UK) together with CZ, IE, IT, MT, SE, SI and SK. They were also the subject of the acrimonious General Consultative Committee meeting that Merpel reported here. The reforms are apparently to be implemented before the scheduled meeting with SUEPO that may lead to the trade union recognition that the Administrative Council also called for. If all of the controversial changes are already made, what value will remain in any later union recognition? Will there be anything left to consult on?
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