(17 February 2021) The EPSU General Secretary joined a panel discussion with European Commissioners Breton, Schmit and Kyriakides to underline the role of the social partners regarding skills in health and care. Supportive of the Pact for Skills, EPSU stressed that focusing on skills is not sufficient if we do not tackle the issues of achieving higher pay and improved working conditions and solve staff shortages. Many workers are leaving the sector as stress and low pay are not addressed.
The roundtable focused specifically on digital skills and the challenges for health and care workers. Addressing skills and training is an integral part of our agenda and including in negotiations and collective bargaining. An example at European level is the agreement with the employers HOSPEEM on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Life-Long Learning (LLL) for All Health Workers in the EU (2016). The points we addressed are comparable to the principles in the Pact for Skills. Both the employers and the unions stressed in the roundtable that upskilling opportunities all along the professional career should be accessible in an equal manner across all age groups, gender, occupational groups, working patterns and types of contracts. Employers and unions share the understanding that this needs sustainable funding. Investment in continuous skills development will be critical to ensure that technologies and AI are properly supervised and managed, and do not add to the workload of health workers. EPSU and the professional organisations of doctors and nurses underlined issues such as digital confidence, technology built around clinical practice and intuitive to clinical workflows, digital leadership and understanding of data. All staff should have training in how to accurately capture data digitally, how to use data to improve care and outcomes, and also how to store and share data safely within healthcare systems and between healthcare professionals. Representative of patients underlined the importance of involving patients in the development of tools and when teaching skills to students to ensure their experience is integrated. EPSU underlined that good collective agreements will assist building the trust and confidence needed for workers in our health and care systems to use digital tools. Digital tools like geolocation can be abused as happened with home workers e.g
Commissioner Schmit and EPSU stressed the role of social dialogue in the pandemic. We underlined that the European Commission should also consider extending its work to the Western Balkans and Eastern partnership to support the development of digitalisation and digital skills.
The meeting took place 16 February 2021 online. It is part of a series of meetings the Commission organises to promote the Pact for Skills and what the European Commission can contribute to develop it.