Care workers have been at the forefront of efforts to contain the pandemic. Their work is essential yet their rights are too often undermined. For many of them, regular travel across multiple locations is a daily reality. The isolation this can lead to is amplified by the fact that an estimated 50% of those who provide personal and household services are informal workers, with little to no access to social security or legal protections. However, a number of solutions are emerging which ensure these workers have the tools to lift conditions across their sector and deliver essential rights for essential workers.
Social partners from around Europe met today to mark the conclusion of a 2-year European Commission funded project on personal and household services (PHS). Participants included employers, labour organisations, patient advocates and government representatives. The PHS sector includes workers in the home care sector, disability care, and many other personal care workers. It is a broad term for direct hires, agency workers, and different types of employer relationships.
This is about recognising what is good for society & strengthening it.
Sectoral #CollectiveBargaining is vital to lift conditions across the personal and household services sector & stopping certain employers undercutting the rest by driving down working conditions.#PHSector https://t.co/rPzYhx1btM
— Oliver Roethig (@ORoethig) December 10, 2020
Social dialogue and collective bargaining were a central theme. But the discussion also included funding and tax schemes, digital platforms, worker and employer rights, professionalisation and career laddering, and building worker cooperatives. Many of these wokers are woking in the informal sector, which lead to several discussions about how to identify these workers, support them moving to the formal sector, which would, in turn, give them access to social security, legal protections, and the right to join a union.
“We have a lot more in common than we previously realised,” said Aurélie Decker, Director of European Federation for Services to Individuals, “in this fragmented sector, it makes sense to leverage our strengths as a group. Identifying and sharing best practices will help to bring better outcomes for workers, employers and end users alike. It is a natural alliance in many ways.”
The project partners are committed to continuing this work and are already planning an event to celebrate the ten-year signing of ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers. Hoping to breathe new life into the importance of this convention. The group will work together to remind stakeholders of the convention’s principles, which set out basic rights for workers and require ratifying states to take a series of measures to make decent working conditions a reality.
“Society increasingly expects support to be provided in their homes. For instance, for many persons with disabilities, this allows them to stay at home and live full and active lives in the community. The project was successful in bringing the main stakeholders involved -employers and workers- together to develop a common path on how to make that possible. In that regard, developing social dialogue will be key to achieving progress!” said Thomas Bignal, Policy Manager for the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities.
The PHS project spanned two years and engaged participants from 21 EU nations. The project website is available here. The project had three main objectives to create more transparency in the field, initiate social dialogue, and support EU member states with guidance materials. The website hosts tailored guidance, a report on promising practices, and other practical tools. On-going activities will continue to be posted and advertised by UNI Europa.