Judgment No. 4194
The complaints are dismissed.
The complainants challenge the refusal to consult them concerning the use of external contractors.
cause of action; competence of tribunal; staff representative; outsourcing; complaint dismissed; plenary judgment
On their complaint forms, the complainants request oral proceedings. However, as the written submissions are sufficient for the Tribunal to reach a reasoned decision, the Tribunal sees no need for oral proceedings. That request is thus denied.
Each staff member of an international organisation has a right to freely associate and the organisation has a corresponding duty to respect that right. This is a necessary incident of their employment (see, for example, Judgment 911, consideration 3). On the assumption that, as an incident of freedom of association, an organisation has a duty to meet or satisfy a staff representative’s legitimate request for information as an element of a broader obligation to consult (see, for example, Judgment 2919, consideration 15), and fails to do so, then a staff representative would, in that individual capacity and on this assumption, have a cause of action to enforce that duty.
There is no issue that, at the time these complaints were filed, each of the complainants had ceased being a member of the Munich Staff Committee even if one or a number may have held another office as a staff representative. Thus, when the proceedings were commenced in the Tribunal, the foundation of their cause of action had been removed. Their complaints are irreceivable.
This is not a barren technical conclusion. If their complaints were receivable, the merits of the case and the grant of relief would depend on the complainants demonstrating an ongoing right to be provided with the information and a right, if it existed, to continue to require the EPO to do what had been earlier requested. An immediate and probably insuperable problem would arise concerning relief if the complainants were able to establish, on the merits, they had been and were entitled to some or all of the information they had sought or had a right to request that certain things be done. But as they are no longer members of the Munich Staff Committee, they are not now entitled to any information of the type sought in the letter of 17 September 2009 nor to assert a right that the EPO do certain things. However this conclusion is not a barrier, more generally, to the enforcement of a right a member of a staff committee may have to be provided with information or a right to require the organisation to act in circumstances where the membership of the committee fluctuates over time. That is because when a staff representative has asserted a right arising from that status, the assertion or vindication of that right in proceedings before the Tribunal can be pursued by a newly elected staff representative as a “successor in title” (see Judgment 3465, consideration 3).
That would ordinarily involve the relevant committee approving the new staff representative assuming the role of the former staff representative. If approval was given then all steps taken by the former staff representative could be treated as steps taken by the new staff representative. In this way, steps taken by the former staff representative to pursue the grievance by way of internal appeal can be treated as steps taken by the new staff representative. The prosecution of a complaint in the Tribunal by the new staff representative would not be defeated by an argument that the new staff representative had not exhausted internal means of redress. She or he would have done so vicariously because of the actions of the former staff representative.
Jugement(s) TAOIT: 911, 2919, 3465
cause of action; internal remedies exhausted; duty to inform; freedom of association; staff representative
In these proceedings, there are three complainants [...]. Each was, at the time the grievance initially arose, a member of staff of the EPO and a member of the Munich Staff Committee [...]. Their complaints raise the same questions of law and are based on the same facts. They are joined and will be the subject of a single judgment.