RETAIN project: key documents


RETAIN project: key documents

Description of the project

Labour shortages, high levels of labour turnover and high staff attrition have become a common occurrence across all sectors in the European economies, leading to tight labour markets. Over its two-year period, UNI Europa’s RETAIN project (VS/2019/0292) focused on trade union strategies to tackle these issues in the Industrial Cleaning, Private Security and Long-Term Care sectors.

The project makes a unique contribution to develop policies and enhance unions’ strategic capacity at the company-level, in relation to clients, at the sectoral level, country level, and EU-level. Beyond that, the project also has pioneered new union approaches to lobby institutional investors.

The project finds that labour shortages and high levels of staff turnover are associated with understaffing, higher levels of work stress and ultimately decreased quality in service provision, which undermines the attractiveness of the sector. This vicious cycle particularly affects trade unions who are no longer able to represent workers and employees adequately. Across these sectors, we identify a gendered dimension of the problem.

Due to Covid-19, the project was forced to hold all planned meetings and workshops online. Yet, this allowed more persons to participate in the project activities who otherwise would have not been able to participate. These meetings identified further issues arising from high levels of labour turnover, cutting edge practices, as well policy proposals. These were complemented with in-depth interviews, as well as an academic literature review. The published reports and literature review thus provide trade unions, policy-makers and employers with novel perspectives on the subject matter.

The respective publications, a social media package and animated videos will allow UNI Europa to continue to disseminate the project findings to a wider audience.

Key results:

  • Publication of Sectoral Reports – Improved expertise and understanding of the role that trade unions can play in addressing labour shortages, labour turnover and retention
  • Social Media Package & Animated Videos – Ability to continue to disseminate project results among a wider public
  • Investor Briefing – Enhancing unions’ strategic capacity and ability to raise attention of issues associated with labour turnover, labour shortages and retention with institutional investors and Asset Managers
  • Policy advice to European Works Councils – Labour shortages, retention and turnover to be standing items at European Works Councils annual meetings
  • New trade union affiliates in the long-term care sector – Higher degree of representativeness in the social services sector at EU-level
  • Advisory Board meetings – Expansion of relationships and deeper cooperation with different stakeholders in the Industrial Cleaning and Long-term care sectors
  • Thematic Input into EU Sectoral Social Dialogue – Improved evidence-based discussion at EU Sectoral Social Dialogue level in the Industrial Cleaning and Private Security Social Dialogues, as well as mutual recognition with EFSI in the Personal Household Services
  • Increased Capacity to Advocate in regard to the EU Care Strategy – Worker-centred perspectives to enrich discussions in terms of EU policy-making in the EC’s dedicated hearing, the EP’s INI Report and the EC’s Care Strategy
  • Cross-fertilisation with on-going EU-funded projects – Preliminary results fed into the application of the PROCURFAIR project; results have been fed into on-going INTEL social dialogue project with CoESS.
  • Orpea Global Agreement – Improved trade union access to Orpea nursing homes + joint working group on labour turnover and staff retention

For more information, please contact Mark Bergfeld

The following documents were produced in the context of the projects:


Best Practice Report (DE, ES, FR)

Tackling labour shortages and turnover in the long-term care sector (ES, DE, FR)

Tackling labour shortages and turnover in the Property Services sector (DE, ES, FR)

Literature Review: Labour Shortages and Turnover in Industrial Cleaning, Long-term Care and Private Security

Investor brief & Annex


This Summer’s Airport Chaos shows that Security Guards and Cleaners Remain Essential


Tackling the labour turnover in the care sector

Meetings & Events




Sectoral SD Committee Temporary Agency Workers Working Group Meeting

Agency Workers

Timing: TBC



UNI Europa Finance SD Bank Preparatory Meeting




Bank Sectoral Social Dialogue Working Group Meeting