13 November 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

New EPO president looking to cooperate with USF

The new president of the European Patent Office (EPO), António Campinos, has said he will look to continue the cooperation between the EPO and the Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF) when he takes up presidential duties in 2018.

Campinos, who currently works as the executive director of the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), was responding to an open letter from the USF congratulating him on his new role.

In the letter, the USF called for Campinos to ensure the office conformed with high standards of “genuine social dialogue, the stability of employment as well as trust of the EPO staff in its top management”, in place of the “current ill-designed and abusive human resources policies implemented by the current administration”.

The USF was referring to the alleged abuse of staff rights that has taken place at the EPO under the current administration.

However, it said it was looking forward to “substantial improvements especially on social dialogue, rule of law and employment stability issues during your mandate”.

The Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has criticised the current administration’s attempts to change work practices at the office, as well as the prohibition of demonstrations and the dismissal of senior staff members associated with SUEPO.

In October, SUEPO said it was willing to embark on a road of “fruitful cooperation” with Campinos, provid there was “respect by top management for the rule of law”.

In his reply to the USF, Campinos—while not referring directly to SUEPO—said he had “always prioritised human resources matters” and “developed an open and fruitful relationship with the representatives of the staff and their associations” during his tenure at the EUIPO.

He added: “In this sense, I look forward to continuing the cooperation between the EPO and the USF once I take up my duties as president of the EPO next year.”

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general secretary of the European Public Service Union, said Campinos’s letter was the “start of a more constructive dialogue in which the issues that have been raised by the staff and their union can be addressed and dealt with”.

In a separate letter, sent from Goudriaan at the USF, it stated that there were “quite a few” issues at the EPO and that Campinos had “inherited a rather unfortunate situation, which included a hostile approach towards the union and its delegates”.

He added: “I wish the union colleagues and you a constructive and successful dialogue … and that this might be one of many successes for the patent office, the staff and you.”

A source close to SUEPO said that as Campinos did not reject the numerous points issued against the current administration of the EPO, he is clearly aware of the contentions. However, the source added that what Campinos will actually do is still up for discussion, “since his answer is rather (to say the least) very vague”.

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