The Franco-Canadian group Orpea, which runs private retirement homes and health clinics, has been using “observers” to spy on its workforce and in particular trade union activities, according to documents seen by Mediapart. When the French trade union in question, the CGT, decided to make a formal legal complaint, the group offered it a deal worth four million euros in return for withdrawing the complaint and keeping quiet about the snooping – a deal the union ultimately refused. Mediapart can also reveal that the three “spies” used by the healthcare firm came from a company which is linked to allegations that furniture retailer Ikea spied on its staff and customers in France. Mathilde Goanec and Mathilde Mathieu report.
Following disturbing recent incidents of espionage, break-ins and intimidation targeting the French press, and notably this website, editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel reveals here what Mediapart has discovered about official attempts aimed at destabilising journalists involved in investigations, notably the Bettencourt affair, that have embarassed President Nicolas Sarkozy. Some of the accounts beggar belief. He calls here for politicians and institutions to stand up an be counted for in defending the essential right that is the freedom of information.