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UNICARE: fast growing sector with drive to succeed in future world of work

UNICARE, the fastest growing sector in UNI Global Union, held its international Organising & Steering Committee meeting in Geneva last week.

At the meeting, SIPTU representatives made a presentation to delegates on the progress the union is making in organising migrant workers and shared stories of the successes and challenges migrant workers experience in Ireland.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell told delegates the SIPTU Migrant Workers Network has four main objectives:

  • To organise migrant workers and ensure their full participation in union activity.
  • To educate ALL workers, regardless of their country of origin, that we have a shared objective in sustaining & improving working conditions
  • To grow a union Support Network that enables migrant workers to support themselves & their communities.
  • To work in collaboration with like-minded groups to organise & campaign for a just, inclusive & equal society for people to live & work.

Speaking at the meeting Paul Bell said that largest percentage of migrant workers in the health service worked in the Care Sector and that union is campaigning to reimagine the provision of home care. “The first steps towards truly valuing home care is valuing the people who are using the service and the workers who are providing the service. By creating decent jobs with a living and social wage in the sector we are giving the workers, service users and their families the respect and recognition they deserve.

At the meeting, delegates were told that by 2030, it is likely that we will have a shortfall of 18 million care workers globally. The best way to combat this potential crisis is by trade unions working together to ensure that the home care sector has decent jobs that people want and aspire to work in, that enable home care workers to live full and decent lives.”

UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman underlined UNI’s total commitment to growing UNICARE and the sector.

Hoffman, described by UNICARE President Carlos West Ocampo, as the moving force behind UNICARE, outlined the four ways in which UNI could contribute to the sector:

  • We understand corporate power: we must be strong to act as a counterweight to corporate power in care
  • We put a worker face on worker policy: we want decent work and our job to is give workers’ a voice  and we’re proud we did this recently for UNICARE at ILO
  • We support organising in care: for example see our successes in Colombia, Nepal, New Zealand and elsewhere
  • We are facing up to the challenges of the future world of work in care: more independent work, homecare, platform work – and actively looking for solutions.

President Carlos West Ocampo said, “Undoubtedly the global care sector will grow because while technology will take over certain jobs, lots more people will need care as the world population increases and we live longer. Therefore, hundreds of thousands more workers will need to be unionised because growth doesn’t necessarily mean decent work. Our job is to be visible and impactful because UNICARE can bring them decent work.”

Adrian Durtschi, Head of UNICARE thanked all the affiliates and speakers who made the meeting vibrant, interesting and focused.

Those unions which spoke and presented at the meeting included:

  • SIPTU from Ireland about organising migrant workers
  • FIST-CISL about their organising in elderly care
  • FATSA about their training program for care workers
  • SINTISSSTE from Mexico about the challenges in their country
  • HSWU from Ghana about their successes in private care organising
  • FO-FEC from France about the need for strong social security systems
  • NCCU from Japan about Robots in elderly care
  • UNIFOR from Canada about their success in Fight for 15 in Ontario

Video messages from many of the contributors to the meeting on the UNICARE are on the website

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