An overview of union, government, and employer actions worldwide to improve conditions in the Long-Term Care sector during COVID-19

Mary Catharine Breadner and Adrian Durtschi (UNICARE, UNI Global Union)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, emerging and re-emerging around the globe, we see the disastrous outcomes of a poorly funded long-term care sector (LTC) in virtually every country. Older adults are the most susceptible to COVID-19, and this pandemic is a clear call for immediate action to protect older people, improve our LTC systems, and address the systemic problems which have led to higher levels of deaths in nursing homes. 

In addition to identifying these weaknesses, we have had a unique opportunity to shed light on practices that have brought dignity, compassion, and, most importantly, quality care to vulnerable populations around the world. With so much attention on death, sickness, and transmission, this paper is an opportunity to acknowledge progress and to provide hope for both people who use care and workers in the system. Better is possible. And better must happen now.

This paper was prepared by UNI Global Union’s UNICARE sector and draws on the experience of our members, representing over 2 million care workers in 80 countries, on all continents.

The full document is available here:

Key points:

  • Inadequate staffing levels have been a major problem in long-term care (LTC) for decades. Coronavirus outbreaks have exacerbated long-standing problems, and a growing body of research shows that low staffing levels are related to negative outcomes for people living in care homes during COVID-19.
  • Pandemic pay, hazard pay, and bonuses have been part of the response for frontline workers, but these interventions will not have lasting impacts on working or living conditions.
  • Low wages have hindered the retention and recruitment of new workers to this industry. Inadequate pay also forces many workers to have more than one job, leaving them more vulnerable to increased coronavirus exposure.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution and access to testing was a problem at the beginning of the pandemic, and it continues to be an issue to this day.
  • Vaccines are an important part of the solution, but until more is known about the longevity of the vaccine or if it prevents transmission, other infection control measures remain essential.
  • PPE and testing continue to be needed to protect workers and people who use care from the virus
  • Sick pay is essential so workers can isolate while they wait for testing results or recover from illness.
  • Unionization and access to collective bargaining is an essential element to improving working conditions and living conditions in LTC.

Leave a Reply