EPO dragged to human rights court by its own staff

News, Special Report, Working conditions

Union steps up survival efforts as Dutch parliament debates King Battistelli

The staff union of the European Patent Office on Tuesday applied to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to force greater accountability on the organization and its president, Benoit Battistelli.

The EPO has carried out a years-long campaign of surveillance, intimidation and disciplinary hearings against staff who have opposed Battistelli’s reform efforts: a campaign that would be illegal under the laws of the countries in which the organization resides.

But when the staff union, SUEPO, sued to force the organization to follow those laws, EPO management claimed immunity due to its status as an international organization. After a protracted legal battle, the Dutch Supreme Court ultimately agreed with that argument, and shortly thereafter EPO’s president Battistelli sacked another staff union representative, sparking more protests.

SUEPO is appealing that decision to the human rights court by making the case that the immunity provision only holds if an organization has effective internal remedies. It argues that the EPO does not, and that its own systems are also severely lacking.

That is a claim seemingly backed up by two decisions late last year from the International Labour Organization (ILO). Those decisions found that the EPO’s appeals committee – which oversees disciplinary proceedings – was not legal since it included a majority of management-chosen members and actively ignored its own internal membership rules.

The ILO also found a slew of procedural errors, and told the EPO it needed to rebuild the appeals committee – effectively nullifying more than year’s worth of decisions.

The situation has grown so bad that the ILO’s management felt obliged to warn its governing body earlier this year that the backlog of complaints it had against the EPO was impairing its ability to function. No less than 73 per cent of the hundreds of cases it was reviewing resulted from EPO actions.

By : Kieren McCarthy

The Register, 10 May 2017 at 06:58

For more information, read the article “EPO dragged to human rights court by its own staff” from the Register here :


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