18 January 2016Patents

EPO dismisses two members of staff

European Patent Office president Benoît Battistelli has dismissed two members of the office’s staff union.

On Friday, January 15, the EPO confirmed the dismissal of Elizabeth Hardon, chair of the Staff Union of the European Patent Office’s (SUEPO) Munich branch, and Ion Brumme, the union’s treasurer.

Following Friday’s announcement staff staged demonstrations at the EPO’s offices in The Hague, Munich, Berlin and Vienna.

In a communiqué sent to staff on January 15, and seen by WIPR, Battistelli said: “Before taking my decisions, I have paid great attention to the fact that the employees involved are staff representatives who enjoy a higher level of protection and freedom of expression, having in mind their particular duties.

“It must be underlined that these cases relate to personal failures of the employees and have nothing to do with social dialogue and staff representative activities,” he added.

Committees made up of staff and management representatives had recommended “high sanctions” against the three members, Battistelli said.

The staff members were accused of participating in a “damaging defamation campaign” against senior officials and issuing “calls for violence”. These claims have been denied by SUEPO.

They were suspended last November.

A spokesperson for the EPO told WIPR that the office’s management intends to resume its “social dialogue” with the union.

A meeting to discuss union recognition talks is set for Wednesday, January 20. This is the same day that SUEPO is due to hold another demonstration in support of the three members.

“The demonstrations will continue until the EPO is back on track: with its staff policies (respect for staff rights) and with its patent policies (quality),” SUEPO said in a leaflet published on January 14.

French MP Pierre-Yves Le Borgn, a member of Parti Socialiste, criticised the EPO’s management’s decision on Friday.

He said “the will to do evil, to frighten, to eradicate all criticism and any intermediate power” is evident in the decision.

He added that an organisation has a future only when its staff identify with its governance and management, and that “this is no longer the case” with the EPO.

Borgn urged the French government to intervene in the dispute.

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28 January 2016   A demonstration by a group of staff members at the European Patent Office’s branch in The Hague is due to take place today, January 28.
3 March 2016   The European Patent Office has said it has taken a step forward in improving relations with staff by agreeing to recognise one of the office’s staff unions.
24 November 2016   Staff members at the European Patent Office are holding a demonstration today in the centre of The Hague in support of dismissed workers.