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European Patent Office staff rep blames prez for 'slipping quality'

The questioner

Battistelli's proposed reform of recruitment and retention policies is astonishing in many ways. However, for seasoned observers, two features stand out in particular.

Firstly, all of the reforms aimed at "ordinary" (ie lower level) employees appear to be predicated upon the assumption that the interests of the employer are those of the employees are not aligned, and that the interests of the employer shall always prevail.

A case in point is paragraph 18:

"Studies and surveys have shown a pattern of reduction of motivation after about 6 years. The generous social package implies a high opportunity cost for staff to leave the EPO".

So what does the EPO propose to do about this worrying pattern? Does it express any concern about the fact that experienced employees tend to become demotivated over time? Does it indicate any curiosity about the reasons why such a "pattern" exists in the first place? Does it identify any possibility to make cost savings by improving motivation and retention (ie by avoiding the need to continually train new staff to replace those who knew what they were doing)? Not a bit of it! The proposed solution is to put new recruits on fixed, 5-year contracts, so that:

"The extension of the contract period will be the opportunity for both employee and employer to express their mutual motivation and agreement to continue the employment relationship".

So not so much of a "social dialogue" with the staff, then. More of a social monologue along the lines of "we don't care why you and all of your colleagues are demotivated, improve your performance or you're out".

The situation will not be the same for all employees, however. This is because the reforms propose to create special rules for the management and their hand-picked stooges. Thus, whilst Article 4(1) of the proposed amendments retains the traditional procedure of advertising posts and picking the best candidate, it does away with such troublesome rules for the President, his or her Vice-Presidents and a number of other "special" categories of employees:

"A procedure other than that of competition may be adopted by the appointing authority for the recruitment or appointment of the senior employees referred to in Article 11 of the European Patent Convention (hereinafter referred to as "the Convention"), for principal directors and also, in exceptional cases, for recruitment to posts which require special qualifications".

So, trebles all round in the old boys' club!

It will be a dark day indeed if the Administrative Council approves these proposed reforms.

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