Frontline workers in the global care sector are fighting COVID19 and fighting for their rights to be protected and respected—and they are winning. This week, unions in the United States, Italy, the UK and Austria gained significant improvements to the working conditions for hundreds-of-thousands of workers.
“It is not enough to call these workers ‘heroes.’ They deserve our applause and our gratitude, but they also deserve workplace protections and pay that recognizes their bravery and the risks they face on the job,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
Over 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois, USA called off a planned strike after reaching a tentative agreement with nursing home-owners for a two-year contract with new safeguards for both workers and residents through the current pandemic and beyond. The agreement covers members of SEIU Healthcare who provide care to residents at the more than 100 nursing homes of the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities.
The workers won significant contract gains, including higher baseline wages bringing all workers above $15 an hour, hazard pay for all workers for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, additional fully-paid sick days for COVID-19 related testing, illness or quarantine, and the right to refuse work without adequate protective equipment.
“The contract gains are a testament to the courage and commitment of workers who were poised to strike,“ SEIU Healthcare Illinois said.
Thanks to the advocacy of Italian labor unions CISL and CGIL, financial help for domestic workers, domestic helpers and caregivers in on the way. The Italian Minister of Labour Minister announced this week new financial assistance for domestic workers and caregivers who have seen their hours drop.
When domestic workers or caregivers who work up to 20 hours a week by contract suffers a 25 per cent reduction in working hours, they will receive compensation equal to 400 euros per month. For housekeepers and caregivers who work more than 20 hours a week and see a 25 per cent reduction of their working hours, the subsidy will go up to 600 euros a month.
In recognition of their ongoing dedication and hard work during the coronavirus pandemic, all social care workers in Wales will receive an additional £500. In total, more than 64,500 care home workers and domiciliary care workers throughout Wales are expected to receive the payment.
In addition, employees in Austria who work and have customer contact during the corona crisis will receive a coronavirus bonus of 500 euros. This bonus is part of a new sectoral agreement in Austria, negotiated GPA-djp and vida, which is among the best in Europe for homecare and nursing home workers.
The payments are designed to provide some further recognition of the value we attach to everything these frontline workers are doing.
“These victories are testaments to the courage and commitment of workers and union leaders. They are poised to fight for their rights and to protect themselves and the residents for which they care during this time of unprecedented vulnerability and risk,” said UNI’s Hoffman.