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Fresenius Global Union Alliance demands an end to workers’ rights abuses

From the floor of German union ver.di’s congress in Leipzig to shows of solidarity across the world, members of the Alliance are taking action on the job and online.

The Alliance is calling for Fresenius to enter into a global agreement to address its track record of failing to follow international labour standards in countries like Peru and the United States.

In the United States, Fresenius has a long history of using third party consultants to stop employees from forming a union at its clinics. The company has paid out more than US$400,000 to “union busters,” who often use fear tactics and other questionable methods to stop organizing efforts. U.S. workers have been forced to attend anti-union indoctrination sessions, and others report “one-on-one” interactions to pressure them from supporting a union.

In Peru, workers have filed complaints that the company is unlawfully using temporary contracts for 258 workers. In addition, workers allege that the regional management at the company’s hospital management division, Quirónsalud, have harassed and targeted union activists. It recently terminated the employment of five activists, and last year, it fired two union leaders—who have since been ordered to be reinstated.

Sofia Espinoza, national leader of the Fresenius union in Peru said, “After we handed out information about the union to colleagues, management told me I would have to ‘assume the consequences’ of leading the union.”

Unfortunately, workers around the world report similar problems throughout Fresenius’ operations. This behaviour is especially troubling because Fresenius announced an expansion of its operations in Colombia, a country with notoriously bad protections for labour unions. 

“Fresenius’ track-record is deeply troubling,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “The company has a pattern of disregarding the rights of workers—and international standards—and must immediately take concrete steps to address these systemic problems.”

Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International, agreed, “The problems in the United States and Peru are not isolated. They are structural problems with the company and must be addressed on a global level through negotiations with unions and involvement with other stakeholders. Our goal is to ensure that profits are not made from driving down wages and lowering working conditions and patient care.

“IndustriALL Global Union joins the calls on Fresenius to ensure respect for the core labour rights of all employees, everywhere,” added IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan.

In May 2019, more than 50 representatives of employees and trade unions from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia met in Frankfurt to launch the Fresenius Global Union Alliance. The Alliance is coordinated by global unions IndustriALL, UNI, and PSI. The unions seek a global agreement with the company covering its 280,000 workers in 100 countries.

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