The global trade union federation UNI GLOBAL issued a press release announcing the signing of a global framework agreement with the French multinational ORPEA on Friday, 8 April. This agreement lacks legitimacy.
For the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), it is inconceivable to make an agreement with a company without a proper mandate from the unions concerned and without the involvement of the representative unions from the company’s own country.
For Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary, “This agreement impacts many unions and the workers they represent in ORPEA - but without their active involvement or consent. This is unacceptable.” He continues, “ORPEA has over 24,000 workers in France, most of whom have learned of this agreement through the press.”
Jan Willem Goudriaan EPSU General Secretary
This agreement impacts many unions and the workers they represent in ORPEA - but without their active involvement or consent
The agreement was negotiated without the knowledge of CGT, CFDT and FO, the representative French trade unions. These are the trade union federations representative in ORPEA who can sign the sectoral collective agreement. Other representative unions in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain were not involved either. All of these unions are affiliated to EPSU.
Even in countries where ORPEA is expanding rapidly, such as Ireland and the Netherlands, there was not a proper consultation process. The workers of these countries represent most of the ORPEA’s global workforce. UNI GLOBAL can therefore not claim representativity in ORPEA.
Rosa Pavanelli PSI General Secretary
Some unions seek their power and legitimacy from workers – others seek it from grubby deals with employers. PSI will always be the former
PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli says: "It is shocking under any circumstances for a global union federation to enter into any agreement behind the backs of the workers on the ground. This runs against the spirit of independent and democratic trade unionism. But in this case it is even worse because the main unions have not been involved in the home country and abroad. As the trade unions who represent the workers on the ground are fighting to get Orpea to be held to account for its action, this agreement gives the employer public relations cover.”
"Some unions seek their power and legitimacy from workers – others seek it from grubby deals with employers. PSI will always be the former," remarks Rosa Pavanelli.
"PSI, whose affiliates have been on the frontline of the fightback in Orpea, takes serious exception to the action of UNICARE. It is exceedingly unprincipled for what happened to have taken place. We demand a reversal of this agreement and a stop to this attitude in the trade union movement," concludes the PSI General Secretary.
French unions have recently faced ORPEA in court, accusing the company of favouring in-house union Arc-en-Ciel during trade union elections. The company has taken trade unionists in France to court due to their criticism of the company and the agreement does nothing for the withdrawal of the cases – indeed, it could be used against our affiliates.
French unions have recently faced ORPEA in court. The agreement does nothing for the withdrawal of the cases – indeed, it could be used against our affiliates
The president of the European Works Council (EWC) representing EPSU has faced repeated anti-union actions from ORPEA, including dismissal threats and criminal investigations. ORPEA lost all court cases and the EWC president was awarded €15,000 in damages on 22 March. They were not informed or consulted of this agreement to ‘improve social dialogue’. The company has a track record that cannot be whitewashed. On top of that, ORPEA's head offices have been raided by the police and it is now under two separate investigations by the French state.
ORPEA has signed many human rights and corporate governance principles, including the UN Global Compact. These ‘tick-box exercises’ did not stop the company from going after trade unionists. The new global agreement represents another ‘tick’ needed to respond to the demands of investors and show change in the wake of the ‘Les Fossoyeurs’ scandal - brought up by a recent book with the same name, widely covered in the French and international media, in which allegations were made, such as ORPEA's connections to politicians, the abuse of workers and poor care standards. Its actions and inactions in worshipping profit maximization, have led to the death and sickness of workers and residents.
The company is in the public eye in France and elsewhere for exploiting workers and residents. French inspections into its finance and social affairs showed abuse of public funds. French unions CGT and CFDT with CICTAR revealed that the company is using a complex web of subsidiaries to manage its finances, including investments in Luxembourg that were not previously revealed.
As the voice of workers in the care sector, PSI and EPSU are committed to fighting for quality care, better pay and improved working conditions in ORPEA.