UNI Global Union is calling for better working conditions for care workers and all essential workers, on World Health Day 7 April.

This year, World Health Day focusses on building a fairer, healthier world. COVID-19 has highlighted how some people are able to live healthier lives than others and exacerbated inequities in access to health care services. The World Health Organization is therefore calling on global leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health.

“The irony is that many of the essential workers who care for the sick and elderly are themselves subject to poor living and working conditions, either through poverty-wages and precarious contracts or through a lack of PPE, sick pay and other protections at work. The vast majority of people working in care are women, and many are migrants or from ethnic minorities who are often more vulnerable. To build a fairer, healthier world, we also need to care for those who care,” said Adrian Durtschi, Head of UNI’s UNICARE sector.

A UNI study of 3,000 care workers in 37 countries showed that, a year into the pandemic, more than half of care workers surveyed said their pay did not provide them with a decent standard of living, meaning they were unable to secure basic needs such as housing, food and transportation.

Over 30 per cent are still without adequate access to PPE, and the percentage is higher in the countries hardest hit by the virus. Three-quarters said that inadequate staffing had an impact on their ability to deliver high-quality care.

Further research by UNI has found that long-term care work has become one of the most deadly jobs in the world. A study of nursing home workers in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK and the U.S., showed that hundreds of thousands of workers have contracted coronavirus and thousands have died. UNI is calling for COVID-19 to be recognized as an occupational disease for all long-term care workers.

More than 17,000 health workers have died from Covid in the past year and UNI has joined Amnesty International and Public Services International in a call for urgent action to speed up the vaccination of millions of frontline health workers around the world.

“Workers – especially essential workers – have been under immense pressure during the pandemic, and whether they are in Ireland or India, they should have the same access to live-saving protections – including vaccines. Unfortunately, access has not been equal, leaving millions unprotected and all of us exposed,” said Christy Hoffman, UNI General Secretary.

UNI has released guidelines for trade unions to help advocate for systemic changes in the nursing home industry to provide a Shield against Covid-19 for both workers and residents.

In adddition, UNI has joined the Global Call for Vaccines for All on World Health Day.