A new study of the impact of the pandemic in social care in eight countries reveals the problems faced by social care workers and the extent to which trade union action has helped to address issues around personal protective equipment (PPE), sick pay, working time and understaffing. There has been a shortage of PPE in all countries, but it was only in Sweden that a trade union had to take legal action for its members' right to use personal protective equipment. Increased overtime was a challenge in all countries but with split shifts being a particular problem in Sweden. The pandemic exposed understaffing and a lack of staff with the right skills in all countries and highlighted the continuing problem of low pay and poor and precarious working conditions for the overwhelmingly female workforce.
Study highlights union role in response to pandemic
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Public services union UNISON has called for a £2000 a year pay rise for all health workers in recognition of their continuing work and commitment in the fight against COVID-19. The union underlines the importance of giving health workers a boost before the end of the year particularly as the virus is in resurgence. The RCN nursing union has called for a 12.5% increase for nursing staff in an important step to help address the staffing crisis, in recognition of their skills and to compensate for cost of living increases. The GMB general union, meanwhile, is calling for a 15% pay increase again