The GPA and vida trade unions that organise in private health and social care have launched a new campaign, “Words are not enough” with the support of their confederation, the ÖGB. The unions are calling for increased funding for the sectors to improve pay and conditions, increase staffing by at least 20000, reduce workloads and provide a further COVID bonus and additional time off. The unions say that applause and praise for health and social care staff is not enough and action is needed to increase the funding that covers private health and social care.
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 FNV and other unions that organise in the eight university medical centres (UMCs) are planning a third day of industrial action on 25 November unless the employers show willingness to re-open negotiations over pay, workloads and staffing. This will be the third day of action in the UMCs that employ around 80000 workers. The employers have said that they will negotiate over allocation of the extra €60 million of funding for pay provided by the government. However, the unions argue that even with the additional money this would still leave a below-inflation pay rise for the next three years
Health unions organising in both the public (GÖD and younion) and private (vida and GPA) sectors united with other health organisations in a major nationwide action on 10 November to highlight the state of the health service and the need for urgent action. The unions stress that staffing shortages were already apparent before the pandemic and their impact now is to leave most health and care workers both physically and mentally exhausted. They underline the need for increased staffing, improved and additional training and better employment conditions if a dangerous crisis is to be avoided. On
Following last month’s strike in university medical centres, the FNV and other trade unions organised another national strike on 26 October, this time affecting more than three times as many departments across the eight centres. The action is effectively imposing a Sunday service across 279 departments including operating theatres, radiology services, laboratories, outpatient clinics and various nursing departments. All emergency care continues. The unions are calling for a 3% pay increase for all workers and action to tackle understaffing and excessive workloads.
The vpod/ssp trade union is mobilising for a national demonstration of health workers in Berne on 30 October. The aim of the protest is to highlight the efforts and sacrifices that health workers have made in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Key demands include a COVID bonus but also action to deal with the long-standing problems of pay and understaffing in the sector. The union is also calling for measures to improve training, work-life balance and retirement provision and argues that pay increases should reflect the arduousness of many health workers’ jobs.
A new report from municipal services union Kommunal reveals how the pandemic affected workers across the sectors in which it organises. Based on interviews with nurses, cleaners, paramedics, caretakers and other workers, the report confirms the huge impact on healthcare where workers’ efforts have been central to the management of the pandemic. Employees have had to make huge sacrifices, working extra shifts, double shifts and overtime, with many authorities having to hire temporary staff, get pensioners back to work and with staff having holidays cancelled or being transferred to different
The ver.di services union is celebrating a major victory in Berlin where members in the health sector have been on strike for 31 days. Workers at the Charité university hospital, Vivantes clinics and their joint subsidiary, Labor Berlin, have now suspended the action, pending negotiations over new collective agreements. The key points in the new deal at the Charité hospital include more than 700 additional nursing staff to be hired over the next three years and there will be new benchmarks for staffing for specific wards such as intensive care units, operating theatres and central emergency
On 28 September workers at seven university medical centres took strike action with only emergency services being maintained. This is the biggest ever action in academic hospitals which employ around 80000 workers. The FNV and CNV trade unions have rejected the employers’ latest offer which would have meant only a 1% pay rise and EUR 750 lump sum in a three-year agreement. They are calling for a 3% pay increase for each year and a minimum increase of EUR 75 a month as well as urgent action on workloads. The unions argue that excessive workloads are creating problems with increasing sickness
The vpod/ssp public services union has launched an initiative to support its local activists in mobilising to win better pay and conditions for health workers across the country. The strike at the CHUV University Hospital in Lausanne was the starting signal for the union’s “Road to Strike” organizing campaign. Vpod/ssp argues that the situation in health establishments has worsened due to the pandemic with many workers facing burnout and leaving the sector. The persistent staffing shortages undermine working conditions and further pressures come from private health companies’ search for profit
The ver.di services union has called a three-day warning strike from 23 August in the hospitals in Berlin run by the regional government’s Charité group, including its Vivantes subsidiaries. The union gave the employer 100 days to initiate collective bargaining to tackle overwork by hospital employees and trainees and to bring pay in line with the public service collective agreement in all Vivantes subsidiaries. The strike will go ahead if the deadline of 20 August is missed. Ver.di says that Charité has failed to make any serious offer and it has called on the employer to conclude agreements
With forest fires and flooding posing increasing demands on the fire service, the Fp Cgil public service union has called for employee numbers to be increased to 40000. The union argues that the current complement of 35000 is inadequate with many firefighters working double shifts, longer hours and more overtime. Fp Cgil says that excessive workloads leave workers no time for training and is worried that in the next negotiations the fire service will actually push for longer hours rather than address the staffing shortage. The union says that recruitment is crucial to reduce the average age
A new report from the Eurofound research agency analyses the extent of labour shortages across Europe and some of the measures being taken to address them. One of the main sectors of interest is health and social care and the report highlights the risks posed by such shortages to the viability of high-quality care provision. These were seen as particularly acute in Germany and in the Nordic countries, where shortages of skilled staff have led to long waiting times for patients. They also mean high workloads for professionals, ultimately contributing to higher turnover rates and reducing the
The FNV trade union’s campaign for urgent action on workloads in childcare has been stepped up with some regional mobilisations cancelled in order to concentrate on a national strike on 8 July. The union is angry that calls for increased staffing and reduced numbers of children per worker have fallen on deaf ears and the employers have offered nothing to address the problem.
Services union ver.di coordinated demonstrations across the country on 16 June to coincide with a meeting of health ministers. In the lead up to the general election in September, the union has been determined to show members’ anger over the failure to deliver improved working conditions for health and social care employees. A survey of over 12000 workers commissioned by ver.di revealed that 78% could not imagine staying in their profession until retirement under current conditions. Almost three quarters of respondents reported excessive workloads and understaffing. The union is concerned
Several unions representing workers in early years education came together on 5 May in a day of strike action and a demonstration in Brussels. Workers are angry about the impact of the pandemic on the sector and the failure of the authorities in the Wallonia and Brussels regions to address their concerns. The unions were also demanding a revaluation of pay in the sector and a range of other measures to deal with staffing issues, leave, contracts and increased public funding.