Health Unions discuss staff shortages and industrial actions

EPSU Standing Committee on Health & Social Services, 4 October 2022, Brussels

Meeting of EPSU Standing Committee of Health and Social Services, 4 October 2022

(13 October 2022) EPSU and EPSU affiliates gather in person for the first time after pandemic at the 57th meeting of the  Standing Committee on Health and Social Services (SC HSS).  

The meeting started with a summary of EPSU’s HSS accomplishments since the 56th SC HSS by Adam Rogalewski, policy officer for the health sector at EPSU. Adam reported on  EPSU work to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational ‘Covid-19 as an Occupational Disease’. The list of occupational diseases will be updated with  COVID- 19 by the end of this year. Thanks to EPSU, for not only  health but also social care and domestic workers, COVID-19 will be recognised as an occupational disease.  He moved on saying that the ‘Framework of Action and Recruitment’ has been translated into all European languages and is ready to be implemented at a national level. It was reported that the EU-OSHA is in the process of creating a guideline for dealing with carcinogens and mutagens partly due to the success of the ‘Stop Cancer at Work’ campaign. Moreover, an EPSU delegation attended the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2022. Importantly, PSI and EPSU released a joint statement on the ‘Action Plan for Sexual Reproductive Health’ demanding better working conditions for care workers in gender and sexual reproductive health and rights services.

Next, EPSU affiliates talked about the ORPEA European Works Council (EWC). For instance, in France ORPEA manipulated the trade union elections in favour of Arc-en-Ciel. In May 2022, EPSU and EPSU affiliates released a joint statement denouncing ORPEA’s misuse of public funds and mistreatment of its workers and residents. In total there will be 7 EWCs in health and social care sector, that EPSU will be involved with.

The affiliates discussed developments and current status of industrial action and possibility of organising an European demonstration on 9 December.

The meeting continued with a presentation on staffing levels in the European health sector. The data was collected from the responses of 22 EPSU affiliates in 22 countries. The results showed that 6 out of the 21 countries do not have any official recommendations on staff/user ratios in the health sector. The Belarusian, Romanian and Cypriot affiliates reported that their governments need to update the current recommendations on staffing ratios. The English, Scottish and Hungarian affiliates state that the current staffing levels are lower than the official requirements partly due to government inaction. The presentation was followed by a discussion led by Sarada Das who is the general secretary of the Standing Committee of European Doctors.

Finally, members were informed about EPSU’s ongoing projects. Firstly, EPSU along with AIAS-HIS at the University of Amsterdam and the European Psychiatric Association (EPA)  has launched a new project called ‘COvid-19 crisis, Mental health of workers and Trade union actions’ (COMET). The project will focus on the psychosocial risks in the health sector intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was also discussion about Eurofound’s End Stress Campaign demanding the European Commission to create an EU directive on psychosocial risks at work. Secondly, EPSU is part of the BeWell project led by the European Health Management Association (EHMA) which aims to train healthcare workers in the necessary skills to prepare for the green and digital transition in the health sector.

The next important meeting for the Health and Social Services unions will be a Pan-European Health Conference on 24 October.

  • EPSU Standing Committee on Health & Social Services, 4 October 2022, Brussels