EPSU Social Services Working Group discuss labour shortages, legislative developments and European Work Councils

EPSU Social Services working group 27 February 2024 Brussels

(5 March 2024) On 27 February 48 participants, including affiliates from Turkey and Kazakhstan, gathered in Brussels for the Social Services Working Group 1 to discuss, among other things,  European Works Councils in the care sector (Long Term Care and Early Childhood Education and Care), staffing levels and digital care platforms. 

There was an exchange of  information on the latest news from private for-profit multinational companies operating in the care sector, and two years after the Orpea scandal, the sector is experiencing a crisis. Orpea, alongside Clariane and Médicharme (whose bankruptcy was recently announced) are in deep financial difficulties with Clariane having recently announced the sale of their properties in the Netherlands. It has always been clear that it should not be possible to make profits from personal care which are not protected and re-invested in the workers and services, and we are now seeing the disastrous consequences of these practices.  EPSU is concerned by the general lack of transparency on the economic strategies taken by these multinationals. 

The UPDATE on the Commission Early Childhood Education and Care working group by the Finnish trade union SuPer included the Policy Brief on Staff Shortages in the ECEC Sector, and highlighted the work program for 2024. Participants agreed that staffing issues not be tackled by a general lowering of skills requirements or by an unequal brain drain towards peripheral countries. The shortage needs to be addressed by investing more in training and improving the quality of working conditions in the sector.

The  PRESENTATION from Ver.di, Germany on Good Practices in Long Term Care in relation to staffing level following the new German legislation, was followed by a lengthy discussion. The upward trend of use of digital platforms in care was also discussed with a PRESENTATION which highlighted that this growth (from 0.8 billion in 2016 to 1.5 billion in 2020) is increasing the job insecurity of workers. It was disappointing to note that the Council and the European Parliament provisional agreement on a proposed directive to improve working conditions for platform workers was not in fact passed and no agreement was reached.

Participants agreed for the need to continue to strengthen the sectoral social dialogue, and the discussions for the next Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee meeting for Social Services (July 3, all day hybrid) included information on the priority for the SSDC SS work program being Retention and Recruitment and staff shortages.

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