(16 August 2018) The French multinational company ORPEA specialising in elderly care, psychiatry, rehabilitation, home care and other assistance to dependent people is massively violating trade union rights of workers in the clinics of Celenus, one of its subsidiaries in Germany. The company has sacked workers engaged in strike action, is threatening to outsource cleaning staff without a social plan, puts pressure on worker representatives and pays wages below the German standard for elderly care in its clinics in Bad Langensalza.
Workers have now been engaged in strike action for 6 weeks and held a protest march through the town on 24 July. They are calling for respect for their union, better pay and conditions and a collective agreement. Local and regional politicians are worried about the impact the company’s behaviour has on the Kur-Ort (Spa) culture and fear the negative image of working in care. Germany like other European countries is confronted with a lack of staff for elderly, home and health care. Companies that treat their workers badly have an impact on the whole of the sector and its attractiveness.
Celenus management has declined offers for mediation from the local mayor. A similar offer from the responsible minister of the state of Thüringen has been flatly refused. This signals that local management has a union-busting attitude and overall is more concerned about its profits than about creating a climate of well-being for staff and patients. The company harasses workers by forcing works council and the union to take legal action. The company has lost several cases before the Courts over the violations and its illegal behaviour.
EPSU unions expressed their solidarity during a meeting of ORPEA shopstewards from several countries on 25 April 2018 in Bischoffsheim, France. Unions in other countries most importantly Belgium and France, other large markets of the company, have reported similar anti-trade union attitudes. During an EPSU meeting in May they reflected on the situation in ORPEA. EPSU has now written to the management, demanding progress in reinstating the trade union representatives and reaching a collective agreement. EPSU will be holding further meetings with the shopstewards in September.