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As Switzeland finds itself immersed in a second COVID-19 wave, the Swiss service union Unia is taking swift action to demand better conditions for essential workers, echoing UNI’s #EssentialRights campaign.  

Retail employees, long-term care workers, and logistics workers mobilized on 31 October to kick off a campaign for fair pay, adequte staffing, and collective bargaining agreements covering workers across alpine nation.  

Having barely recovered from the demanding and exhausting situation of the first Covid-19 wave this spring, retail, care and logistics workers are once again being challenged by the pandemic.

Absences from work due to illness and quarantine mean extra work for many. On a psychological level, the situation is also distressing: the caretakers in nursing homes look after residents who receive hardly any visits, and the shopworkers are dealing with more harassment and violence. Many are afraid of getting infected and of bringing the virus home.  

 Applause is not enough

“As we enter a second wave, action is needed in Switzerland and around the world to guarantee that essential rights workers get more than symbolic shows of grattitude. They need wages with dignity, sick leave, safe jobs, and union representation,” said Christy Hoffman General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “Unia has our support and solidarity to fight for a sectoral agreement that brings essential rights and dignity to our second wave heroes.”  

In a press statement, the union said, “Many applauded the employees who work in difficult conditions and suffer from understaffing, stress and health risks. But applause is not enough. Now, more than ever, action is needed. Switzerland is being hit hard by the second wave. Once again, it is the sales people, caretakers and logisticians who play the main role in providing basic services in Switzerland.”

Unia is also part of the alliance “Together with health care workers” and is now participating together with the SSP, the ASI, Syna and other organizations in the actions in support of better working conditions for health care professions. It is precisely the employees in long-term care, who have been severely affected by the pandemic, who need rapid improvements to continue to ensure good care.