A loose screw at the European Patent Office!

The European Patent Office (EPO) is an International Organisation which employs 7000 people on different sites across Europe, and is responsible for the granting of patents in Europe. In an ever more globalized society, it is essential to have a European institution which can grant patents of a very high quality and legally unassailable.

However, over the past three years this organization has been under the rule of a president who imposes productivity targets which hinders the quality of the work done by the intellectual property specialists. This Presidency, with manners of a gone-by era, has only managed to degrade the social climate over the last years, which European media has echoed. By imposing ultra-liberal methods worthy of the 19th century — when union rights and personnel representation were unheard of or repressed if they tried to rise — the President endangers the institution and affects the European economy.

And to better reach his goal, and scorning all rules that are often shared by international organisations, the President of the EPO is now attacking the personnel representatives who have been denouncing the ever more rigid policies and practice of the Presidency.

After the Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has been denouncing the climate of fear and anxiety, several personnel delegates, over several EPO sites, have been demoted or even sacked. To this day many are still under the menace of imminent enquiries that could entail disciplinary sanctions and even dismissal.

This did not deter the EPO personnel from participating in several demonstrations to alert the media, public opinion and the representatives of the 38 Member states of this organization. An open letter was published in June this year and we invite you to read it. You will see that it is anonymous for fear of reprisal.

This practice of retaliation against the personnel and its delegates are completely unspeakable and are merely an abuse of authority. They must be denounced with the strongest determination across all international and European organisations.

Fortunately, this practice is far from being the norm in the community of international organisations where personnel representatives are normally protected by statutory regulations that recognize their essential rights and duties necessary for the proper functioning of the institutions.

Here at CERN, the relations between the personnel and its delegates, the Management and the Member States take place currently in very favourable conditions, showing mutual respect, and attention to the points of view of the other parties, in order to reach a concerted position. We will take all actions within our realm to maintain this quality of relationship; but the situation at the European Patent Office reminds us that we shall remain vigilant about the due respect of the rights of the personnel and its representatives.

It is important that, as international civil servants working at CERN, we shall keep regular contacts with our colleagues from other international and European organisations, in order to stay informed, and eventually show a display of solidarity when unacceptable practice happens.

We support our colleagues at the European Patent Office in the hardship that is imposed on them by the current Presidency. We take note of the efforts that the Administrative Council of the EPO has made public, in a motion dated March 2016, to try and solve the situation, but we regret that the EPO Presidency does not follow the recommendations of its Administrative Council.

by Staff Association