Defending workers’ rights – standing up for care workers in multinationals like ORPEA

Friday, 18 October, 2019

In recent weeks public services workers have mobilised to demand respect for their work and their rights. We have seen several actions and protests of firefighters in France, Lithuania and Spain. The precarious situation of many care workers was the focus of attention on 7 October, the World Day for Decent work, and French care workers organised strikes on the 8 and 15 to demand concrete solutions. EPSU published a video to support these workers with a focus on the French multinational company ORPEA. Workers make clear that this company does not respect its workers nor the users of its services. It is not acting in good faith regarding negotiations on setting up an European works council, refusing to make proposals to strengthen the information and consultation rights of its European workers.  

At our regional meeting in Moscow with affiliates in Russia and Central Asia this week we organised important support for the Kazakh health workers’ trade union which reports violations of union rights. There are more positive developments in Uzbekistan where the president of the health union and a representative of the ILO briefed us about the ratification of ILO conventions and measures to tackle forced labour.

Overall it has been a hectic few weeks for EPSU. Along with the meeting in Moscow, we have been involved in a wide range of regional and sectoral meetings as well as organising a large conference on the EU’s economic semester. The leaders of our sectoral and regional groups have been elected and I wish them all much success in promoting the work of the Federation over the coming years. Hundreds of you have joined in the discussions in these meetings on the implementation of the EPSU Congress Programme of Action. I thank you for your active engagement and the many contributions and we will bring all this together at the EPSU Executive Committee on 5-6 November.

The Executive Committee will allow us to take stock of European developments. As I write, the European Commission and the UK government have reached a deal for the UK to leave the European Union. Based on the first reports it does not look as if will ensure the rights of workers in the UK in a future trade relationship. The Conservative government would like to make the UK more competitive versus the EU by reducing workers’ protection and lowering environmental standards. It is still up to the UK and the EU parliament to approve the agreement. While all (ok, most of us) have had enough of this saga, an agreement that undermines workers’ rights in the UK is a high price to pay. We should know more by this weekend (19 October), after Saturday’s vote in the UK parliament.

This weekend will also see elections in Switzerland. Our comrades in the VPOD public services union are mobilising to get a progressive vote out. The results of recent elections elsewhere, as in the mayoral elections in Budapest, have shown that changes are possible and we wish them well.

The results of the European elections have had their ramifications on the Commission, on its programme and on the new set of Commissioners,. The Commission has announced proposals to guarantee workers a fair wage, for a Green deal and to address the gender pay gap. All of which will be discussed at the ETUC Executive Committee on 22-23 October.

24 October will be the moment the General Court in Luxembourg will announce its verdict on our case against the European Commission over the agreement on information and consultation in central government. We are realistic about our chances. The morning of 24th I know will be a nail-biting one for me. We will inform you as soon as possible.