Labour leaders from around the world came together at UNI Global Union’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, this week to shape a new strategy for raising standards in the care economy.
The leaders discussed a myriad of challenges they face across six continents, but care unions see a common solution: organising.
“The home care sector is frequently referred to as an ‘invisible’ one – professional work is being done in private homes and casualization of labour is rife. This makes organising workers much more difficult, as the workplace is mobile and subject to frequent change,” said Carlos West Ocampos, President of UNICARE and General Secretary of Argentine care union FATSA. “But organising all care workers is fundamental to our ambitions for decent work, wages and collective agreements in this growing sector.”
Meeting participants heard several inspiring stories of care unions making it happen. Luz Fany Zambrano Soraca, of SINTRASALUDCO in Colombia, desribed persevering to victory, despite death threats and hostile employers. International solidarity is critical, she said, because of the reality of the care economy.
“Many employers have merged and gotten bigger, and they have gone into new countries. They are only interested in profit wherever they go, and through the international support–through UNI’s support–we have made workers aware that they are not in this fight alone.”
Rojila Karki Basnet, of UNIPHIN in Nepal, agreed. She told how support and training from UNI helped her union organise two private hospitals in the past year. Not content with those successes, UNIPHIN will continue to push a sectoral agreement for the private health industry.
Other unions detailed successful anti-privatisation campaigns and their ongoing struggles to establish formal workplace protections in home care, a sector that is often regarded as “informal labour.”
“Right now, we have a unique opportunity for unions and our allies to change the rules of the game,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “This meeting is an important step in intensifying our cooperation and improving the lives of workers in one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world – the care sector.”
In addition to UNI Global Union/UNICARE, the meeting was organised by the ITUC, Education International, PSI, IUF, and IDWF.