Fresenius unions from around the world spotlight workers’ rights violations


Fresenius unions from around the world spotlight workers’ rights violations

Ahead of the annual general meetings of Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) and Fresenius SE, on 16 May and 17 May respectively, the Fresenius Global Union Alliance, an alliance of unions from around the world, and the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany are raising concerns that both multinationals do not fully comply with their standards for adequate human rights due diligence. Representatives from the Alliance will attend the companies’ annual general meetings, both in Frankfurt am Main, to call for effective due diligence and unions being actively involved in the process.

The risks for workers regarding their freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in Colombia have been known for years and have been taken into account by Fresenius SE in its own risk assessment. Nevertheless, workers reported that negotiation processes in the clinics were delayed due to managements refusal to bargain in good faith. Conflicts were taken to arbitration, and after workers won in arbitration over Fresenius’ refusal to bargain, management requested the annulment of arbitration awards at three clinics.

David Boys, Deputy General Secretary of PSI and representative of the Fresenius Global Union Alliance: “It is widely known that Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists and activists. Accordingly, we welcome the fact that Fresenius SE has finally identified the disregard for freedom of association, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining as prioritized risks in its own businesses. But that is not enough. Fresenius has been aware of the incidents in Colombia for years, and yet our comrades continue to be exposed to these rights violations on a daily basis. We call on Fresenius to take immediate action to remedy the situation.”

In the United States – Fresenius Medical Care’s largest market – workers went on strike at over a dozen FMC clinics in the fall of 2023 because workers reported that they were threatened, intimidated and some cases even terminated at the clinics for trying to form a union, and that the company was refusing to bargain in good faith and making illegal changes to their working conditions. In addition, Fresenius Medical Care has spent three million dollars on union busting since 2018. “Even though this is not illegal in the U.S., it shows the company’s attitude towards workers exercising their right to organize. And yet the workers continue to fight for change, having organized at 15 clinics and hospitals,” says Cass Gualvez, Organizing Director and Executive Committee Member of SEIU-UHW.

Manny Gonzalez, a certified hemodialysis technician at Fresenius Kidney Care Juniper Fontana in California, said of the high workload: “We spend more time with our patients and coworkers than with our own families, and management knows we are chronically understaffed and underpaid.”

“But the U.S. is not the only country where unions have criticized Fresenius Medical Care management’s labour practices”, says Alke Boessiger, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “In the Philippines, inspections at various dialysis centers have revealed violations of labour laws as well as health and safety regulations. In addition, the company recently implemented a conflict-of-interest policy that risks undermining workers’ ability to exercise their right to freedom of association by limiting workers affiliation with other organizations as well as prohibiting political contributions. Fresenius needs to take immediate steps to solve their labour problems, including negotiating a global agreement on trade union rights as a meaningful tool to implement the German supply chain act and the European due diligence directive”.

About the Fresenius Global Union Alliance

Over 50 trade unions from all over the world have joined forces in the Fresenius Global Union Alliance, which is coordinated by Public Services International – PSI, UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union. The alliance seeks a global framework agreement to secure workers’ and trade union rights.



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