Korian Workers are organising across borders

(7 September 2017) Workers and union representatives in the French social service multinational specialised in elderly care, Korian, met in Brussels, in order to better coordinate their struggles and strategies to secure better pay and conditions for the almost 47.000 workers employed in 4 countries.

The meeting, which took place on 5 and 6 September, followed on from a series of events organised by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), which represents care workers in the public, non-profit and private sectors across Europe.

This network meeting took place in the framework of the EPSU work to build up networks of workers in multinationals that provide social services to ensure that all care workers enjoy a structured and effective trade union representation from local up to European and international level, also to improve the quality of the service in the interest of all European citizens. The meeting followed a similar event organised with the trade union representatives and workers from ORPEA, another multinational leader in the social care business

During the meeting, representatives from Trade Union federations from Italy, France, Germany and Belgium shared their experiences and discussed what their unions can do to get a better deal for the Korian workers. Jane Lethbridge, Public Services International Research Unit, presented her research results about the recent development in the Korian business model in Europe.

An issue of particular concern for workers is the lack of information on the Company’s strategy and developments, as well as the growing need for trade unions in Korian to coordinate across national borders. Participants in the meeting received training by ETUI trainer Jan Voets on how to effectively engage in negotiations with the company at central level, better connect and bargain with the local management as well as on how to create an effective trade union network at cross border level, overcoming cultural and linguistic problems and taking strength from the diversity of experience in different countries.

There is a trend across Europe towards greater private provision of our vital care services.  Unfortunately, to maximize profits, enterprises like Korian are increasingly keeping wages low and keep staffing levels to a bare minimum.  Despite the fact that private companies in the sector like Korian realize huge profits, insufficient pay, part-time contracts  and precarious working conditions are commonplace.

Guillaume Durivaux, EPSU’s policy officer for multinational companies, commented, ‘We need to reverse this trend: Inadequate staffing leads to poorer care for users in a sector that is becoming key in view of an ageing population. Access to quality elderly care services for everyone is becoming more and more important and this is why it is crucial to have highly trained and professionally satisfied workers who can deliver a quality service for all. Clearly workers need a seat at the decision-making table to reverse this trend and ensure good care for users and quality working conditions for employees.

EPSU is standing up for care workers who deliver a vital public service, whether  the provider is a  private, non-profit or public service. EPSU will continue to help Korian workers to get organised and fight for their rights’, added Durivaux.

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