(22/9/2016, BRUSSELS, BERN, WARSAW) UNI Europa, Unia, OPZZ, and PICUM welcome the European Economic and Social Committee (ESSC) opinion on the rights of live-in care workers in light of widespread exploitation of care workers across Europe.
The opinion is the first policy document on European level addressing the issue of unregulated working conditions of live-in care workers and was approved at the plenary session on 21 September 2016 in Brussels.
The number of live-in carers in Europe is increasing. In many cases their working conditions are appalling: Workers can be isolated, subjected to violence or abuse, forced to work 24/7 without an adequate standard of living including limited or no private personal space and confinement to the work place.
Live-in carers are both European citizens coming predominantly from Central Eastern Europe and citizens of third countries, often without regular migration status. In addition to the challenges European live-in care workers face, migrants and undocumented migrants, face additional risks of exploitation because their residence status is dependent on their employer or irregular. They are unable to challenge abusive conditions and access protection and redress for exploitation.
Adam Rogalewski, the author of the EESC opinion said: “Live-in carers are the most hidden and vulnerable part of the long term care workforce in Europe. Consequently, not only their rights are not adequately protected under the existing legal frameworks at European and Member State levels but also their safety. We need to begin a discussion on how we can regulate the working conditions of live-in carers for their and the care recipients’ benefits”.
The opinion calls on the European Union and its Members States to recognise the existence of live-in care workers in the European labour market, to consider introducing a common occupational definition of ‘live-in’ care work in Europe, to include live-in carers into a long term care provision planning and conduct European research on their working and living conditions.
Michele LeVoy, Director of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) said: “It is essential for the vital live-in care services provided by undocumented workers to be recognised through rights-based labour migration policies, and for there to be effective complaints mechanisms that ensure equal access to rights and justice for victims of labour rights violations, regardless of residence or migration status”.
Aurora Garcia, Head of the Migrant Workers’ Department of Unia in Switzerland explained: “We have a long experience in providing support for live-in carers. However, we need more engagement from the state and cantons to regulate the sector. The opinion provides recommendations which should be used to regulate the employment conditions of live-in carers in Switzerland, too”.
“This opinion has engaged a wide range of policy makers and stakeholders from different perspectives and interests. It is clear that a broad coalition stands in support of rights for live-in care workers. A better system of long term care that ensures decent jobs is a core issue for aged care groups, employers, unions and migrant rights organisations”, said Karol Florek, research consultant for UNI Global.
Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa concluded: “We see here a milestone in beginning the discussion on how we can regulate working conditions of live–care workers. Basically. A new occupation within the care sector is being created in Europe and UNI Europa will play an active role in regulating and improving conditions of live–in care work”.
The opinion established a set of recommendations to the EU including:
- To include the rights of live-in carers and their care recipients in future revisions or proposals of European and Member States’ legislation;
- To promote and support the establishment of organisations and cooperatives of live-in care workers;
- To implement processes for recognition, harmonisation and transferability of qualifications and experience acquired by live-in care workers;
- To monitor and improve posting of live-in carers.
Key recommendations to Member States include:
- Ratifying and implementing ILO Convention No 189 and regularising the status of undocumented live-in care workers;
- Proactively regulating the long-term care sector, especially in relation to compliance with employment laws;
- Allowing labour inspectorates and other relevant state and non-governmental organisations to access workplaces in private households.
UNI Europa, the European Services Workers’ Union for 7 million service workers, speaks for sectors that constitute the backbone of economic and social life in Europe. Headquartered in the heart of Brussels, UNI Europa represents 272 national trade unions in 50 countries and the largest region in UNI Global Union.
Unia is the largest trade union in Switzerland. It counts over 200,000 members and has around 110 local offices. Unia has negotiated hundreds of collective labour agreements improving the working conditions of more than one million people in the country. With the exception of the communication sector, Unia represents employees in nearly all professions within the private sector. Unia is founded on the core values of fair and just working conditions, social security, international solidarity and an economic system that is oriented toward the needs of the people.
OPZZ is the Polish confederation of trade unions.
PICUM – the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, is a non-governmental international organisation (NGO) that promotes respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants within Europe. PICUM represents 155 member organisations in 31 countries.
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