Post-pandemic Hopes and Disappointments

– Perspectives of Care Worker Unions in Seven European Countries

During the pandemic, staff working in long-term care have been at increased risk of infections and deaths and have experienced particularly stressful and distressing situations, and huge increases in workload, resulting in negative impacts on their mental health.

In the report series On the Corona Frontline – Care Workers in Nine European Countries, the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal), in co-operation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the progressive think tank Arena Idé, mapped out how the elderly care sector was affected by the spread of COVID-19 in a selection of countries between the onset of the pandemic (in December 2019) and December 2021. The report series highlighted the trade union perspective and the challenges faced by frontline workers in social care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report series also identified a number of needed actions and reforms. The summary report listed the following policy recommendations:

  • –  Ensure adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all
  • –  Ensure access to testing
  • –  Give care workers a say in the development and communication of safety guidelines
  • –  Insist on health and safety inspections of all workplaces
  • –  All care workers should have the right to adequate sick pay
  • –  Recognise COVID-19 as an occupational disease
  • –  Increase mandatory staffing levels
  • –  End the precarisation of care workers
  • –  Insourcing instead of further outsourcing
  • –  Further reform of the care system

It is now high time to evaluate what reforms have been un- dertaken in the different countries. What change have trade unions and their members been able to make? What strate- gies were successful, and what battles have not yet been won? What are the current priorities of trade unions in the care sector?

This report summarises presentations and exchanges held at a follow-up conference in Stockholm in June 2022 and detailed follow-up of seven of the nine country reports.