Thirteen trade union organisations and health campaigning groups came together on 14 February to strike and join demonstrations calling for urgent action on the funding and provision of health and social services. This follows the previous national action on 17 December (EPSU CB News 24, December 2019). The key demands are for an increase in funding, action on recruitment and training, recognition of the arduousness of work in the sector, a stop on closures of facilities, opening up governance of hospitals to workers and patients and ensuring equal access to quality services.
Safe and effective staffing levels
Quality public services depend on having safe and effective staffing levels. This is crucial in health and social services but is also important in a range other public services. It is also about ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff who are otherwise overworked and under pressure to cover for staff shortages. Recruitment and retention and training and continuous professional development are key elements in working to achieve and maintain safe and effective staffing levels.
The public service federations of the CGIL, CISL and UIL confederations have come together to set out their platform of key demands for negotiating the next three-year agreements in local government and health. The unions have underlined the need for urgent action to boost recruitment and reclassify jobs in recognition of the value of the work of public service employees. They are also calling for measures to reduce precarious work, currently affecting some 350,000 workers across the public sector. The unions also want to see improvements to industrial relations in the sector and measures to
The HSSMS-MT nursing union has joined with other nursing organisations in submitting a series of demands on the government to address the urgent problem of understaffing resulting from emigration and retirement. The joint document highlights the increased pressure that the health service faces and the failure of recent governments to provide solutions. The unions and associations want to see proper recognition of qualifications and responsibilities in the job and pay structure and recruitment of more staff. They are also calling for clear plan to address training and education needs.
The health and social service federations - CCOO-Sanidad and FeSP-UGT - are planning to mobilise workers in the care sector in March to put pressure on employers to negotiate a collective agreement. The unions will organise protests outside the head offices of the main companies in the sector highlighting the problems in relation to low pay, health and safety and inadequate staffing that face the 250,000 overwhelmingly women workers. The unions are also calling on the government to tackle underfunding of services and to ensure decent working conditions through procurement.
Public and private sector health unions (younion, GÖD, vida and GPA-djp) have joined with the chamber of labour and chamber of doctors in a campaign - "health offensive". The aim is to achieve major change across the health and long-term care sectors and tackle some of the long-standing issues of understaffing and overwork that have been exposed by the impact of COVID-19. The unions have managed to establish a structured dialogue with the health ministry to address seven key issues - staffing, working conditions, training, career development, investment and ensuring service provision.
Vision and Kommunal, the trade unions representing workers and managers in eldercare, have issued a joint call for action on working conditions and work organisation to address the long-standing problems in the sector that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis. The unions underline the importance of continuity of care that they say is best delivered through a stable base of long-term and full-time employment. They have set a target of increasing the proportion of permanent employees to 90 percent. They also want to see a benchmark of 25 employees per manager in the elderly care to help
The FOA trade union has called for urgent action to address training and recruitment in eldercare. It quotes a new report revealing a sharp decline in the numbers of people being trained to work in the sector. It was already forecast that there would be a staffing shortage of around 40000 by 2028 but the figures on training - a decline of 36% in the number of young people on training courses - suggest an even greater shortage. The government has agreed to a request by FOA to convene a summit of politicians, employers and unions to debate how to tackle the problem.
Health and social care unions have reacted differently to the government's €7.5 billion package on pay and jobs. The CFDT has welcomed the proposals that it says will mean a €90 net increase a month for most health workers from September with a further €93 increase from March 2021. On top of this a working group will be set up to look at revaluating pay for certain occupations which will be implemented in January 2022. The lowest paid workers in the sector, currently on the minimum wage should see their pay increase by 15%. Around 8000 jobs will be created and 7300 vacancies filled. The FO
The national nurses' association is threatening strike action if the government doesn't agree to talks to address serious understaffing and low pay. The union says that there was already a shortfall of 1500 nurses before the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation has seriously deteriorated as the country has been hit by a second wave. Infection of health staff is increasing with around 1000 nurses now in quarantine while those at work are facing increasing workloads, long working houjs and greater stress. The government has promised some additional funding but the union wants to see urgent action
After negotiations dating back to November 2018 the public and private sector health and care unions (younion, GÖD, GPA-djp and vida) have secured a €34 million package of improvements to the pay and conditions of workers in the Upper Austria region. As of 1 February 2021 qualified nurses, midwives and clinical social workers will get pay rises ranging from €97 to €194 a month. Improvements to other conditions include a second night shift in care homes with more than 60 beds, additional support staff and the right to full-time work for part-time staff. The measures will be implemented directly
The UNISON, Unite and RCN health trade unions have voted to approve a new agreement on pay and staffing in Northern Ireland. The three unions were involved in various forms of industrial action at the end of last year, including the first full strike action in the RCN's history. The unions now have agreement that pay rates in Northern Ireland will be increased to be in line with those in England and measures will be discussed to increase staffing. A fourth union NIPSA did not support the pay deal but recognises that there was a majority vote in favour. In the meantime it is continuing its
The FOA trade union highlights figures from the VIVE research organisation that show massive variations in staffing levels in eldercare establishments across the country. The staff to resident ratio at night ranges from 1:8 to 1:41, while the evening shift ratio varies from 1:2.7 to 1:11. The variation of ratios on day shifts is less dramatic but still ranges from 1:1.4 to 1:4.2. FOA argues that the varying needs of residents can't account for such variations and that in many cases homes have failed to increase staffing to cope with the higher demands of older residents with health problems