Belgium: care workers call out dangerous levels of understaffing in Orpea nursing homes

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Care workers from different unions have come together to call out dangerous levels of understaffing in Orpea nursing homes across Belgium. After having brought the issue to the attention of management numerous times without it being adequately addressed, SETCa and CNE have together set up a picket line outside one nursing home today, 10 March 2020.

“Often, a worker will find themselves alone to take care of 15 residents between 7:00 and 11:00 AM. Concretely, that means 16 minutes to bring breakfast, provide assistance for eating, clean the bedroom, clean up after breakfast… and it’s becoming recurrent,” explained local union representative Claudia Reckinger.

Orpea have been singled out as bringing down standards across the whole sector. Staff at four separate locations have sounded the alarm. As well as understaffing, they have highlighted a lack of supplies. This is the first of two days of strike announced in Belgium, the next scheduled for 16 March.

“This is truly unacceptable and at UNI Europa, representing care workers across the continent, we stand with SETCA and CNE workers every step of the way. How can workers be expected to provide people with the level of care and dignity that they deserve under these conditions? We’re talking about a sector made up mostly of women. Only two days after international women’s day, Orpea yet again demonstrates precisely how lowering the standards for care workers perpetuates gender inequalities in the world of work. Orpea’s behaviour is particularly alarming given that they are present across many European countries. They are showing their bottom line is profit, ours is decent jobs to deliver a quality service. It is time that Orpea commit to finding real solutions together,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

Last year, unions across Europe set up the Orpea Solidarity Network. In that time, they have coordinated their approach to the company’s corner-cutting tactics and built on successful organising approaches to ensure that private care workers across the continent have a voice in their workplaces.

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