N 2012, French union confederation Force Ouvrière decided to take legal action to shed light on the discovery of a ‘surveillance and espionage service’ on employees of the Ikea brand by their management.
This is not the first time that the brand has committed offences and violated the rights of its employees when it considers that its own interests are superior to those of its employees, overriding French employment law.
The Directorate had invested large amounts of money in order to obtain information or surveillance on its employees with the help of police officers or former police officers.
Given the sums spent (over 700,000 euros), this is hardly an isolated act by managers.
In a case being judged from Monday March 22, 2021 at the Correctional Court of Versailles, Ikea’s management and its accomplices are having to answer for their actions.
At the time when the government is issuing a law known as Global Security which authorises the state to look into ‘union membership’ rather than the already problematic ‘union activity’ previously, we have here new proof of the serious abuses that can occur, redefining and threatening our democracy and the world of work in particular.
Force Ouvrière will wait a few more weeks for the decision of the Correctional Court of Versailles on the illegal practices of the Ikea company and is now demanding that the government withdraw its Global Security project, since it can only result in even more abuses in the future.
The French branch of Swedish retailing giant Ikea went on trial Monday accused of running an elaborate system to spy on staff and job applicants using private detectives and police officers.
Ikea France, as a corporate entity, are in the dock as well as several of its former executives who risk prison terms.
French investigative publications Le Canard Enchaine and Mediapart uncovered the surveillance scheme in 2012, and prosecutors got on the case after Force Ouvrière lodged a legal complaint.
Prosecutors say Ikea France set up a ‘spying system’ across its operations across the country, collecting information about the private lives of hundreds of staff and prospective staff, including confidential information about criminal records.
Since the media revelations broke, the company has sacked four executives, but Ikea France, which employs 10,000 people, still faces a fine of up to 3.75 million euros ($4.5 million).
The 15 people also appearing before the court in Versailles near Paris include former store managers and top executives such as former CEO Stefan Vanoverbeke and his predecessor, Jean-Louis Baillot.
The group also includes four police officers accused of handing over confidential information.
The charges include the illegal gathering and receiving of personal information, and violating professional confidentiality, some of which carry a maximum prison term of 10 years.
At the heart of the system is Jean-Francois Paris, Ikea France’s former director of risk management.
Prosecutors say he regularly sent lists of names to be investigated to private investigators, whose combined annual bill could run up to 600,000 euros, according to court documents.
The court is investigating Ikea’s practices between 2009 and 2012, but prosecutors say they started nearly a decade earlier.
Among their targets was a staff member in Bordeaux ‘who used to be a model employee, but has suddenly become a protester’, according to an email sent by Paris. ‘We want to know how that change happened,’ the email said, wondering whether there might be ‘a risk of eco-terrorism’.
In another case, Paris wanted to know how an employee could afford ‘to drive a brand-new BMW convertible’.
Such messages usually went to Jean-Pierre Fources, the boss of surveillance company Eirpace. He would then send Paris confidential information which prosecutors say he got from the police database STIC with the help of the four officers.
Prosecutors say the information flow may even have gone both ways, with an internal Ikea France document recommending handing over its report about an employee to police ‘to get rid of that person via a legal procedure outside the company’.
Emmanuel Daoud, a lawyer for Ikea France, acknowledged that the case had revealed ‘organisational weaknesses’ at Ikea France.
He said it had since implemented an action plan, including a complete revamp of hiring procedures.
‘Whatever the court rules, the company has already been punished very severely in terms of its reputation,’ he said.
Founded in 1943, Swedish multinational Ikea is famous for its ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories which are sold in around 400 stores worldwide.
- While staff from the social and medico-social sector will be on strike and will demonstrate in Paris on April 8, asking to benefit from Ségur measures, in many public hospitals, strikes and demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks.
The workers are asking for more staff, better working conditions, an end to restructuring which is continuing despite the health crisis.
Four organisations including the National Union of Private Health (UNSP-FO) and the FO Social Action Federation (FNAS-FO) call on staff in their sectors (private non-profit, home help, Ugecam, etc.) to strike and demonstrate in Paris on April 8.
These social and medico-social employees, for the moment excluded from the Ségur de la Santé measures, signed last July in particular by FO, and still being the subject of negotiations for its improvement (work rotas, bonuses, etc.), are making a claim for an additional salary of 183 euros, one of the provisions of the protocol.
At the beginning of March the UNSP-FO laid down that ‘there are still 15,000 public sector employees and more than 200,000 in the non-profit private sector who are excluded’.
The union demands that the government open negotiations as soon as possible ‘for equal treatment of public and private employees’.
Regarding public sector hospitals, even if the negotiations go well for strengthening the Ségur measures and even if the non-medical staff get the increase in pay of 183 euros, the health crisis is still putting a huge strain on workers.
To add to the stress, they also have to face, on certain sites, ongoing restructuring, mergers between organisations, the chronic shortage of personnel, etc.
In recent weeks, FO alone or with other unions has called for strikes and/or demonstrations in several cities.
On March 15, orthopedic surgery nurses at Niort hospital (Deux-Sèvres) were on strike, exhausted by degraded working conditions while half of the service has been assigned to other care units, because of the reorganisation of the service in the middle of the Covid crisis.
In Ardèche, workers at the Bourg-Saint-Andeol hospital also protested and struck in March against the abolition of a bonus and the loss each month of 45 to 130 euros.
In Dreux (Eure-et-Loir), in mid-February, the human resources department was on strike, demanding ‘human resources’ to cope with a constantly increasing workload.
In Dordogne, the staff of the Vauclaire psychiatric hospital struck at the end of February, fighting against the removal of 407 RTT day workers.
In Fourmies (North), workers demonstrated on March 11 to oppose the threat of the relocation of the surgery department to a private clinic in the town of Wignehies.
In Libourne (Gironde), in mid-February, the striking workers denounced the threat of a continuation of over twelve-hour working beyond next September within the hospital.
At the beginning of March, in Vichy in Allier, workers organised a demonstration to demand additional staff, after one hundred positions had been cut over the past four years at the hospital.
In mid-March, in St-Dizier (Haute-Marne), staff challenged the merger project between two hospitals (André Breton and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz).
And this list of grievances is not exhaustive.