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13 October 2016
The first Social Conference in the history of the EPO took place on 11 October at the EPO's headquarters in Munich. Those participating included internal stakeholders from across the office. Staff members, staff representatives, trade union and the EPO's Administrative Council gathered to discuss the outcome of recent studies on the EPO's social and financial situation, and occupational health and working conditions. Some 350 participants attended and thousands more followed the event online as it was broadcasted live into all offices of the EPO.
The conference follows the recent publishing of three studies by independent, external consultants that provide a root and branch review of the state of the EPO and were commissioned earlier this year to take stock of the comprehensive programme of reforms proposed by the Office and adopted by the Administrative Council since 2011. In addition to highlighting a number of successful achievements and improvements made over the last five years, the studies underline in particular the compliance of the EPO legal and social framework with the best international standards and human rights. They also modelled possible future scenarios and made a series of recommendations for the future, as well as offering a detailed insight into the working environment at the EPO.
Speaking at the conference, EPO President Benoît Battistelli said: "The purpose of this event is to take a further step in our joint endeavours to find the best way forward for the Office. It is the beginning of a process. Through an exchange of views between staff members, in presence of representatives of the member states of the EPO, we will progress towards better common understanding and a common approach to prepare the future." He emphasised that the conference provided an opportunity for all internal stakeholders to gain further information on the studies and to express their views on the findings in a dedicated forum.
The day's agenda included presentations by the authors of the studies, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, and a question and answer session to ensure that participants had the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the methodology used and the findings. Plenary sessions and workshops then focused on Social Dialogue, Financial Sustainability and Social Package, Wellbeing in the Workplace, and Change Management and Readiness to Change. Staff members, union officials, staff representatives and delegations of the AC had the opportunity to exchange views and make common proposals for the future. The participants expressed their high satisfaction after a successful event.
The studies and the feedback obtained from the conference will now be discussed with the different stakeholders in various EPO fora, starting with the Administrative Council in its October session, currently underway.