“More of us. Better for all of us.” It is with this in mind that a coalition of labour organisations are launching a renewed health offensive in Austria.
On Thursday 24 February, care workers are gathering for protests in front of hospitals and health care facilities. The solidarity actions and demonstrations are taking place across the country and the coalition is launching a citizen’s initiative to drive through quality care improvements.
Care unions GPA and Vida have joined forces with the Chamber of Labour as well as the national Medical association. Together, they aim to leverage this moment of heightened recognition to secure better conditions for care workers and for the communities of care they serve.
They are also sending a clear warning that “an adequate care service can no longer be guaranteed under the current circumstances,” said Michaela Guglberger of Vida union. “With the citizens’ initiative, we hope to raise the profile of our demands and win many more supporters to instigate political will for reforms.”
The GPA union has been busy activating workers’ structures from the workplace level, upwards. Across whole swathes of the country it has been working with its representatives within works councils to use all avenues to improve working conditions in the sector.
Results from a recent survey amongst the workers sounds the alarm on a worrying situation. It highlighted widespread working conditions, ever-longer hours, increasing admin burdens and poor pay. Rigid working time models and outdated workplace equipment add fuel to the fire. It is no surprise that more and more people are leaving the sector and few are joining.
Mark Bergfeld, UNI Europa Director of UNICARE, added: ‘The Austrian unions are showing that care is at the centre of the discussion of what our societies will look like post-Covid. Their coalition is a testament to their strength and that unions are the solution to the crisis in care. UNICARE Europa stands in solidarity with our Austrian colleagues. We will ensure that their campaign demands are also reflected in our advocacy work in the upcoming European Care Strategy.”
The Austrian trade union campaign will also be featured as one of the best practices to tackle labour shortages, staff turnover and retention in the long-term care sector, as part of UNI Europa’s RETAIN project.