Trade unionists from all over Europe agree to step up efforts to build networks in health and social care multinationals
(7 September 2018) On 4 September, more than 40 trade union representatives from 15 European countries met in Brussels to discuss how to coordinate their activities in multinational enterprises in the health and social care sectors.
This was the final conference of the project “Building company networks and European works councils in health and social services” that brought worker representatives in key social care multinationals together to discuss how they can improve their coordination and cooperation and share experiences from across the sector.
The conference reviewed the work done in setting up European works councils (EWCs) in Korian and Orpea, leading multinational enterprises in the elderly care sector that have been the main focus of the project. Negotiations are underway to establish EWCs in both companies before the end of 2019.
Jane Lethbridge, director of the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) presented an overview of the strategies of the two companies, together with other health and social care enterprises that are potentially eligible for EWCs. Robert Textoris, secretary of the EWC at French energy multinational ENGIE shared his experiences on what makes a good EWC agreement.
The meeting was an opportunity to assess EPSU’s future work in the sector and what needs to be done to promote a fruitful social dialogue. During a roundtable on how to organise workers for better services in health and social service companies, EPSU vice-president Françoise Geng from CGT Santé in France, linked the efforts to organise workers at enterprise level with the need to provide a coherent framework for quality for both carers and patients. In the same session, Sigried Caspar from the European Commission’s Social Dialogue Unit outlined the role that social dialogue plays at European level reflecting on good practice in other sectors.
The afternoon session was devoted to planning future work to strengthen union networks and it was agreed to target at least two new multinational companies to extend information and consultation rights at European level to more workers in the sector.
Finally, participants expressed their support for and solidarity with workers mobilising against the management of Celenus, one of Orpea’s German subsidiaries. The company has sacked workers engaged in strike action in its clinics in Bad Langensalza, is threatening to outsource cleaning staff without a social plan, puts pressure on worker representatives and pays wages below the standard for the elderly care sector.
Commenting the action, Jan Willem Goudriaan – EPSU General Secretary said “standing up for care workers who deliver a vital public service is a priority for the trade union movement in Europe: EPSU will continue to help Orpea workers to get organised and fight for their rights.”