New EPSU report chronicles the downfall of for-profit care giant Orpea

The rise and fall of Orpea, report EPSU July 2023

(4 July 2023) EPSU has launched a new report chronicling the dramatic collapse of Orpea, one of the world's largest for-profit care chains. This report unveils a profit-driven system that prioritises shareholder interests over the well-being of care home workers and residents.

At the beginning of 2022, Orpea stood as the leading private, for-profit European care provider. However, the publication of "The Gravediggers" by French journalist Victor Castanet marked the company's downfall. Based on three years of research and interviews, including those with trade union representatives, the exposé exposed a system of profit-making at the expense of workers and residents. These revelations were not new to EPSU, who had long warned of the consequences of the commercialisation care, but they sparked shock and anger in the general public.

Initially, Orpea's management denied the systemic nature of the problems and even secured a global agreement with other trade unions endorsing their corrupt practices. But within a year, the management was replaced, and the company faced a major legal defeat for intervening in workplace elections to obstruct EPSU affiliates.

The publication of "The Gravediggers" sparked further investigations into working conditions, the use of public funds, and corruption. Legal action ensued, including lawsuits by families of residents. As Orpea's value plummeted, a public finance institution rescued it from bankruptcy to prevent the closure of elderly care homes and job losses, underscoring the significance of public involvement in elderly care.

Throughout the scandal, EPSU brought together trade unions from across Europe to share their experiences, inform of developments and to determine a joint course of action. EPSU
supported the chair of the European Works Council (EWC) in the face of management harassment and worked to enhance the functionality of the EWC. French unions also initiated an investigation into tax avoidance practices.

The new report by researcher Karol Florek documents the rise and fall of a for-profit care giant, and the dedicated work of EPSU unions to support Orpea’s workers. It serves as a stark example of the problems with the commercialisation of care, revealing the exploitation of residents and workers while benefiting from public funding. EPSU remains committed to fighting against the commercialisation of care and invites everyone to join their cause.