One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind?

Surprise, surprise!
It has been a quiet day so far, and Merpel was busy taking a nap in the sun when the following media release came in from the European Patent Office (EPO). This Kat has decided to reproduce it in full for the benefit of his readers, who have been wondering what happened at yesterday's historical meeting (the context of which is apparent from the text below).  Not having been at the meeting, this Kat can make no comment other than to express relief both that it has happened and that a further meeting has been diarised.  There was a time when he thought there was a better chance of the Earth facing an invasion from litle green men from the Moon than of this meeting of unlike minds in Munich taking place; he is pleased that this was not the case.

The media release reads like this:
Trade unions join round table with EPO President and Administrative Council Chairman

Munich, 23 April 2015 – At a round table meeting jointly initiated by the Chairman of the Administrative Council, Jesper Kongstad, and EPO President Benoît Battistelli, the SUEPO and FFPE entered into a process which could eventually lead to their formal recognition as trade unions at the Office for the first time in EPO history. The meeting’s aim was to re-launch social dialogue to overcome disputes that have arisen over the inner reform agenda of the EPO.

All parties agreed to continue the process and create a working group to discuss further details already in the coming days. The next round table meeting has been scheduled for 28 May 2015 with the intention to review the findings of the working group, and to consider next steps.

“It wasn’t an easy meeting, but sitting at one table has been an important first move and marked the beginning of a constructive process”, Kongstad said. “We are pleased that the meeting took place in an open atmosphere, and that agreement could be reached that social dialogue is in the best interest of the EPO”, President Battistelli explained.

The EPO is an international organisation established by an international treaty ratified by its 38 member states which creates a legal framework for the Office compliant with the best international standards and practices. That framework is not governed by the provisions of the national laws of the member states, including those where the EPO has offices. As the treaty does not hold provisions on trade unions, the effort to recognise them is a new initiative leading well beyond the currently existing legal framework of the EPO.
One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind? One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, April 23, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. Here's the preliminary informal report which circulated amongst staff in the last hours. The subject of the e-mail message translates to something like "cautious optimism".

    Dear colleagues,

    Here is a short preliminary report of the "trilateral meeting" between President, AC delegates and the unions, which took place yesterday (date corrected: 22.04.2015) in Munich.

    This informal message is written to my best knowledge after gathering some feedback from the participants: An official report will be provided as soon as possible by SUEPO.

    A few facts first:

    - besides the Unions SUEPO* and FFPE, present in the meeting were representatives of the Office (President, VP5, VP4, PD5.3 and PD4.3) and the following representatives of the AC: Mr. Kongstad (AC chairman, DK), Mr. Benszel (AC Vice-Chair, HU) and Mr. Ernst (BFC Chairman, DE);

    - the meeting took much longer than planed (around 4 hours) which is a very good sign;

    - the intensive discussion took place in a polite and constructive atmosphere: contrarily to most of the meetings with the Office over the last years, no threats were issued, no outburst of emotions took place and both sides seemed to have made a great effort to listen to the points presented.

    Further reports indicate that the president did not hide his impatience at the fact that the meeting was not solely focusing on “union recognition”. However the AC delegates seemed to have welcomed the Staff perspective which attempted to explained the larger nature of the problem: Staff considers that communication is not really the issue and recognising the union is one step forward but does not resolve the Staff concrete problem. The CSC is recognised and a formal consultation exists but the conflicts exist. Why is that? Staff is not against reforms but considers over the last years that the series of wide ranging unilateral decisions made in total impunity have led to today’s largest social conflict ever.

    In a nutshell SUEPO stressed that the problem is much larger than it may appear to the delegations and if no decisive and immediate action was taken solving Staff real problems (and not the union), it will keep on growing and become unmanageable. SUEPO warned that toxic management practices have had a disastrous Social impact with far ranging health and safety consequences. These in turn are deeply impacting the EPO functioning risking to de-rail the EPO, a key institution in Europe for the European industry and the European public at large. All in all, while intentions are good, it was noted that the present HR roadmap is still rolling-out and staff expects strong and credible signal that a change of attitude is taking place.

    While this meeting was recognised as a promising attempt to restore Social dialog a joint communiqué proposal was gently turned down, as first concrete measures addressing Staff real concerns should be the priority. It was agreed that a further meeting should take place in 3 weeks (29.05.2015)

    And as usual, don’t forget to forward to your friends and colleagues (max 50).


    Another E-mail received much attention lately. It was a notice of resignation from a colleague who described the demeaning and threatening treatment he suffered upon returning from sick leave.

    Let's hope he won't be carted off from work directly to the funny farm, like that fellow at the other site.

  2. The formal report by SUEPO:

    Report on the trilateral meeting with the President and the Administrative Council

    Dear colleagues,

    In a joint statement issued soon after the March Council meeting, Mr Battistelli and Mr Kongstad called for a renewed social dialogue and invited Union officials to a "kick-off meeting" on 22 April 2015.

    Participants to the meeting were, other than Mr Battistelli and Mr Kongstad: Mr Bendzsel (HU, Vice-Chair of the Council) and Mr Ernst (DE, Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee). Mr Topic (VP4), Mr Lutz (VP5), Mr Bergot (PD4.3) and Ms Wieland (PD5.3) were also present. The meeting was chaired by Mr Kongstad. On SUEPO’s side, the central and four local SUEPO Chairpersons were present.

    The atmosphere was such that some frank exchanges about the situation in the Office could take place. The AC representatives seemed to understand the Staff perspective on the larger nature of the problem, and acknowledged in substance the need to “re-launch social dialog to overcome disputes that have arisen over the inner reform agenda of the EPO”. Nevertheless it was disappointing that the only initiative to "restoring social peace" envisioned by the Council at this point is the formal recognition of the Unions. It remained unclear what Union recognition "within the EPO's legal framework" could actually mean.

    We took the opportunity to remind the participants that union recognition means little if it is not accompanied by meaningful involvement in practical matters that affect staff, like the recent reforms on the Career & Performance, Sick leave & Incapacity, and the reforms that still remain to be designed in the framework of the HR roadmap.

    What puzzles us is this: The Office declared that it would not implement the judgment of the Dutch Court of Appeal; it then filed a request for Cassation with the Supreme Court. Now it wants to recognize the unions. Would it not have been easier simply to implement the judgment? Be that as it may, SUEPO recognises that restoring a social dialogue is a necessary first step to addressing any other issues. We therefore agreed that we would participate in a working group that will look into the matter. A further meeting in a similar setting is foreseen for the end of May.

    SUEPO Central

  3. @ Korinthenkacker:

    "Another E-mail received much attention lately. It was a notice of resignation from a colleague who described the demeaning and threatening treatment he suffered upon returning from sick leave."

    Care to post the email?


  4. @ catwoman : cautious here not to put the colleague into a difficult situation by disclosing his email which was not intended for such a broad diffusion.

    The colleague is sick and was re-integrated with production objective he cannot reach (increase of no less than 40% !!!!).

    He fall into the from the mangement so called "challenging people" program = get rid of the low performer no matter the reasons behind low performance- Only über examiner are welcome the rest should leave one way or another.

    The current work organisation is really a toxic one.

    In Le Monde mention was done of 4 suicides. It can safely be feared to record more as the top management in locked into denial.

  5. Btw last week top management shoot on the messengers again (in this case a staff rep and unionist from The Hague denouncing the toxic work organisation leading to both suffering and suicides).

    heard top management wishes to now initiate a harassment procedure against him for ... having harassed the principal director of personnel (Ms A3 to A6 spouse of Battistelli's husband...)

    Put the word suicide in the room and here is what you get... So much for recognition of unions in facts ....

  6. 1984atepo,
    'Spouse of Batistelli's husband'?? I think all the right words. But not in the right order. Her husband is a close colleague of the President, in his office.

    Re. the colleague who resigns. He isn't the only one. As a VP said (perhaps in jest?), the trouble is that half the staff are performing below average. I don't know who you mean and haven't seen or heard of the email but I am aware of a similar case (different percentage) but still high.

  7. By the way, it is amusing that I can't receive the Suepo email inside the EPO (commas blocked and forwarding limited to 50 people including forwRding) so have to read it here first. Shows the futility and the purility of the ban.

  8. However civilised the trilateral meeting today has been, I do not beleave in the good intentions of the managment. I beleave in the bad intentions of the management and in the deception.


  9. @ old mand of EPO

    well spotted, thanks. a nice freudian slip of mine!

    Indeed she is the spouse of Battistelli's right harm (a man who was recently upgraded to the title of chef de cabinet, graded min at director's level)

    She came from the french securité sociale where she was chef de service to now deal with 7000 highly educated staff.... no surprise that all goes wrong : thanks to her this is now l'insecurité sociale

  10. A newspaper boy quotes …

    BB: “It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right.”

  11. Bumped into an old mate from the EPO, earlier this week. Fairly senior in the heirarchy. The guy always was slim, carrying no fat, but this week his face was hollow and he told me he had lost 8 kg bodyweight over the last year.

    I am interested to know whether BB will lose weight this year. Can readers keep us posted? I suspect that, where he's sitting, he's now experiencing a degree of heat that he ain't used to and does not enjoy.

    There must be a reason why top managers think they need fat bonuses. Compensation for all the stress, I suppose.

  12. vostradamus says:
    SUEPO is about to fall in the trap prepared by Battistelli & Co. Just wait and see how things will develop. We have seen this sort of game before when BB consolidated his power by showing the carrot of "tax free pensions". Most of the staff fell into the trap and realised that in the mean time he had occupied all key posts with his friends. Then he showed his true face, that of an untrustworthy malicious man.
    Do not trust him.

  13. A tri-lateral meeting and the coffee lady quotes…

    JK: "Stand up. Your President passing."

    BB: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"

    JK: "What we've got failure to communicate."

    ZT: "There are two types of people in this world: those who like BB and me, and those who don't."

    JK: "Nobody puts BB and ZT in a corner."

    TU: "You can't handle the truth EB, BB and ZT!"

    BB: "You know you don't have to act with me, JK. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Jesper? You just put your lips together - and blow."

    EB: "Oh, and President, just one more thing. Love your suit."

    BB: "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in you guys."

    TU: "You keep using the word truth. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    BB: "Get outta here! And don't come back for five to seven days!"


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