EPO: Battistelli needs to leave!



Article posted on October 11, 2016 in Blog, In the constituency, Press review – Philip Cordery, French MP for French citizens living outside France.

On 13 October, I was once again alongside the 600 or so employees of the European Patent Office (EPO) who marched peacefully through the streets of The Hague to express their dissatisfaction with the authoritarian and arbitrary management of the organisation.

Unhealthy production pressure, drastic limitation of the right to strike, threats of various sanctions, dismissals of staff representatives and trade unionists … This is the daily life of this international organisation which for 3 years has been abusively hiding behind its functional immunity to violate with impunity the elementary and fundamental principles of labour law.

The EPO, like many other international organisations, enjoys immunity from jurisdiction and execution according to which no law or decision can be imposed on it, in order to protect itself from possible national interference in the exercise of its functions. This immunity, which the main party concerned, its French president Benoît Battistelli, is using as a defence argument. However, as I have said repeatedly: “Immunity must not mean impunity”.

I would prefer to speak of the EPO for what is at the heart of its mission, that is to say, a formidable organisation whose agents have all been dedicated for almost 40 years to the service of industry and innovation in Europe, whose serious work is a guarantee of competence in the very demanding world of industrial property. Unfortunately, the social pressure coupled with the brutal imposition of ever-higher returns in recent years is eventually rubbing off on the quality of the work provided, with the risk, in the long run, of seriously affecting the confidence of users.

In this anxiety-provoking and deleterious climate, I have visited The Hague several times to support the staff. I met many staff members who all informed me about what is going on behind the beautiful façade of this organisation. I have been working tirelessly for 3 years with the French authorities to alert them to the industrial, social and moral issues at stake.

The latest developments are both worrying and unacceptable. In January, three staff representatives were dismissed or downgraded in Munich. Today it is the turn of those in The Hague to be under threat. This cannot be a coincidence. This hunt for employee representatives who are all members of the majority union is unworthy of an organisation in a democratic country.

The governance of the management team is not only a suffering for the staff and a brake on the effectiveness of the EPO, it has also become over time a task for the image of France in Europe and the world. Enough is enough. At teh EPO, Mr Battistelli must leave.

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