Public service workers across the UK have been involved in number of disputes over pay, jobs and safety. Waste workers in Birmingham and Doncaster are taking or planning action over pay and safety while cleaners at four hospitals in East London are continuting their campaign for a higher pay increase against outsourcing company Serco. Meanwhile in Sheffield members of the PCS civil service union are taking strike action in protest at the closure of a local Job Centre, part of a campaign against government proposals for closures across the country. Finally, janitors in schools across Glasgow
Health and Safety
Workers at the Charité hospital in Berlin, members of the ver.di services union, organised a day of action on 8 August in protest at the stalled health and safety negotiations on the question of staffing and overwork. The workers put on rose-tinted glasses in response to the claims by the hospital management that things were improving at the hospital. Ver.di wants the hospital to agree binding rules on how it deals with understaffed shifts but so far the management has failed to move towards an agreement.
The Danish nurses' union (DSR) reports that hospitals are being given red or yellow smileys by the Labour Inspectorate to indicate that they are failing to tackle serious problems to do with the mental and physical working environment. The hospitals categorised with red smileys are those with the most serious problems arising from years of cuts that have left overworked staff struggling to maintain services for patients. The union has called on the regional authorities to take urgent action.
Eight years on since the renewal of the last collective agreement, the Ministry of Public Administration has confirmed the timetable for negotiations over firefighters' pay and conditions. The FP CGIL union is looking for a pay increase to recognise the professional responsibilities of firefighters with a minimum €80 a month as agreed in the initial public sector pay talks last year. The union will also be looking for improvements in pensions and ways of dealing with accidents and occupational diseases.
The GPA-djp private services union is campaigning to defend workers' rights on working time and against pressure from employers for more flexibility in working time legislation and a move to a 12-hour maximum working day. The union points out that Austrian workers already have a 41.5-hour working week on average, among the highest in Europe, and often have to work overtime at short notice. The GPA-djp also highlights the evidence of increased health and safety risks once the working day goes over nine hours.
On 2 June 2017 the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Bulgaria, together with , organised a Discussion Forum in Sofia to identify and address the challenges for effective social dialogue in Bulgaria. EPSU and HOSPEEM contributed to the exchange in highlighting the role and illustrating main outcomes of the the EU-level social dialogue in the hospital sector.
Members of the FNV trade union at the Kwadrant care company have made some progress on their demands for action on jobs and overwork (see epsucob@NEWS no.15). In an initial meeting with management the workers have at least been given a commitment that travel time between clients will be fully paid working time. They will have to wait until 1 October to find out if the company will respond to their key demand not to cut jobs and to tackle the heavy workloads faced by many carers. The union has organised a petition among workers to highlight the problems they face.
Proposals to reform the labour code were published owin 31 August with some initial negative reactions from the trade unions. A common response was that the raft of reforms was being put forward before there had been a proper evaluation of the changes that have been implemented in the last four years. Unions expressed concern about rebalancing of the relationship between sector and company-level bargaining and changes to compensation in cases of redundancy. In small companies (less than 50 employees) it will be possible for employers to negotiate with non-trade union representatives and in
On 12 September, service union ver.di organised a nationwide action by healthworkers to highlight the massive problem of understaffing in the sector. Staff were asked to ensure that they followed precisely the rules for disinfecting their hands before dealing with each new patient. Ver.di selected this as one example of the many tasks that workers simply don't have time to do properly because of the pressure of work. The union points out that workers are often under pressure to make decisions about which jobs they need to do, leading to stress and even sickness. This is the latest step in ver
The GPA-djp and vida private service trade unions met with the private care employers' organisation (SWÖ) to highlight the major staffing challenge facing the sector and the urgent need for additional funding to cover better pay and conditions to increase recruitment to the sector. The unions underlined the impact of serious staff shortages that are leading to increased workloads, burnout and stress for many care workers. They want to see legally enforceable staffing levels, that set minimum standards both in terms of numbers of staff with the appropriate qualifications.
Member of the services union ver.di working in several hospitals across the country took strike action on 19 September as part of the union's campaign on safe staffing levels and reducing workloads. EPSU general secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan sent a message of support, underlining the importance of protecting the well-being of both health workers and patients by taking urgent action to reduce staff shortages in the sector estimated at over 160000, including over 70000 frontline care workers.
The HK Kommunal municipal union has received plenty of input from members and activists as it prepares its claim for the upcoming negotiations. Over 7000 contributions with 20000 suggestions have been submitted to the union covering a wide range of pay and conditions. Some of the key issues highlighted by the union include the need to maintain competence funds that provide for education and training and the call for action to tackle stress. Time off to deal with care responsibilities is also a common demand, particularly from workers with caring responsibilities for older people. There are
Members of the FNV union working at a care home in Lopik in the Utrecht region have won an important victory, securing additional night staff and security measures. The workers at the care home run by the AxionContinu company organised a petition and camped outside the company's head office in order to put pressure on management. The workers argued that it was unacceptable for only one person to be on night duty with responsibility for over 60 vulnerable residents. The union will now try to tackle other issues in the company and hopes that the commitment on staffing levels will be taken up in
The JHL public services union says that it will aim for a flat-rate rather than a percentage pay rise in the upcoming bargaining round as a step towards closing the pay gap between the low and high paid. Another priority for the union is more control for workers over working time and shift work, seen as crucial to improve well-being at work. JHL will also be looking at initiatives to address the cut in holiday bonus in the public sector and action on zero-hours contracts.