... be sure that you close your eyes."
|Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reports on staff demonstration|
(Screenshot shows Google translation of headline)
The protests have been noticed by parliamentarians and by the media. The EPO march was joined by a couple of Dutch MPs (Sharon Gesthuizen, John Kerstens), a French MP (Philip Cordery), and a delegation of FNV, the largest Dutch union. Mainstream media reports have appeared here, here, here and here.
Mr Battistelli has continued to push through and even intensify disciplinary measures against staff and union representatives, dismissing two union officials and downgrading another [amended 21.30]. Disciplinary actions against at least two other staff representatives are being actively pursued, as far as Merpel can tell.
Many of those demonstrating today are also concerned with the hospitalisation of one of the staff representatives, with several commenters and correspondents linking this to stresses arising from a disciplinary procedure which the individual has been prohibited from discussing with colleagues. Merpel can't tell if it is fair to make such a connection, not having any verifiable information one way or another. However, the fact that the EPO makes it a disciplinary offence for a staff member to even discuss any aspect of an investigation of which they are the subject seems to make it difficult to confirm or deny such rumours when they spread widely through the Office (as they have in this case judging from the number of comments that Merpel has disallowed on this blog for various reasons).
A further issue underlying the demonstration concerns a different staff representative who, while certified sick by his/her doctor, has not had that certification recognised by the EPO and is thus deemed to be on an unauthorised leave. Merpel's somewhat sketchy understanding of the sickness rules is that this means the EPO's doctor has examined the individual and disagrees with the individual's own physician.
It would take a brave person to be an EPO staff representative in the current climate. Happily, being a member of the AC is far less risky. In that forum, outright rebellion is expressed in a more gentlemanly fashion, by abstaining from a vote every now and again, and then, to show that there are no hard feelings, publicly applauding the President for his latest production figures.
If the Administrative Council really does want to address the "culture of fear" and the indisputably toxic staff relations within the office, then allowing the management to continually target and pressurise the staff representatives seems counter-productive. As long as the AC limits its actions to public displays of hand-wringing and paternal expressions of concern, nothing will change, and staff relations will continue to dance to Mr Battistelli's rather discordant tune. Merpel suspects that residents of the embassy districts of Munich and the Hague can expect disruptions to their lives to continue for the foreseeable future.