Marking one year since the start of the global pandemic, UNICARE today released new guidelines outlining key changes in the industry that will help keep nursing home workers and residents safer during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Building A Shield Against COVID-19: Guidelines for Unions to Respond offers principles for change in the field as well as case studies to guide unions in their work to combat the coronavirus and to make fundamental changes in their industry. UNICARE unions, which represent two million care workers worldwide, have seen their membership traumatized by the physical and mental toll the pandemic has put on the sector.
Twelve months since the first of the global lockdowns, the situation in nursing homes around the world is still critical. Nursing home residents have had the highest death rates in many countries. Last week UNI Global Union released a new report showing coronavirus has made long-term care work one of the most dangerous jobs.
Building A Shield offers key guidelines for unions to use their bargaining power to improve conditions in their workplaces and in the industry as a whole.
These guidelines recommend that unions and the industry negotiate and advocate to:
- Ensure that all care home workers have proper PPE, access to the COVID-19 vaccine and free COVID-19 testing
- Set safe staffing levels that ensure quality care for residents, a manageable workload and family-sustaining wages for workers
- Create and enforce infectious disease protocols in care homes
- Provide infectious disease training to nursing home workers so they can protect themselves and residents
- Recognize COVID-19 as an occupational disease in the long-term care industry
- Secure paid time off and quality medical care for all workers who get sick
- Form or use existing occupational health and safety committees to address all of these issues with management
- Support access to union representation and collective bargaining
“The scale of death and infection in nursing homes during COVID-19 should serve as a call for action. We know what it would take to create change in this industry – the studies are clear. Together, we must act on this advice – there is no reason for further delay. It is time to make care homes safer for all now and for the years to come.”
Pushing for systemic change is not easy but global solidarity and sharing of best practices will help unions make life-saving changes in the sector.
“This has been a year of immense sadness and struggle as we’ve lost residents we cared for, many members of our union family, and non-union sisters and brothers,” said Miguel Zubieta, Global President of UNICARE. “We mourn those we lost but we will take up the fight in their honour to use collective bargaining and new organizing to ensure workers have PPE and vaccines and raise standards in the industry to help end the pandemic and make nursing homes safer for everyone.”