“If these two pandemic years have felt long to you, imagine what it was like for the hundreds of thousands of long-term care workers when Covid hit in nursing homes around the world. As the virus spread in early months of 2020, caregivers, already overworked, overlooked and underpaid, went from having incredibly difficult jobs to having incredibly difficult and dangerous ones.
In the pandemic’s first year, nursing home residents accounted for 41 per cent of all Covid-19 related deaths, and hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers also became infected. The World Health Organization estimates that as of May 2021, Covid killed 115,000 care workers, including long-term carers.
Recently, we read a flurry of reports about deeply disturbing conditions in a nursing home run by France’s biggest care operator, including lack of adequate staff, rations for food and adult diapers with tragic consequences. These and other heart-breaking, enraging stories that have surfaced at in nursing homes have further exposed long-standing problems wrong with long-term care. But it does not have to be this way.
The broken global long-term care system can be repaired, and worker power is a fundamental part of the solution. The pandemic has proven this. During the first wave of the virus, mortality rates were lower in unionised nursing homes. And in the subsequent months, the work we have done at UNI Global Union has continued to show that when long-term care workers have a voice on the job, outcomes are better for all.”