Health and healthcare, health and safety at work

The second online workshop about “Health and healthcare, health and safety at work” within the EZA series of workshops about the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) took place on 16 December 2021, organized by EZA, with the support of the European Union.

The main ideas/proposals/results of the workshop are:

  • There is a destructive circulation in the EU that is completely undermining access to quality and affordable healthcare. This destructive circulation is based on the medical tourism from the West-Europeans to the Eastern private healthcare sector and on the other side the migration of Eastern European higher skilled healthcare workers to lower skilled jobs in the Western European facilities. This must be stopped by the EU. This is the result of measures following the very complex construction of the EU single market that has resulted in privatisation taking over public services.
  • It is important to use the European Pillar of Social Rights (principle 16 and principle 18) to bring changes in this destructive circulation. Everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality (principle 16). Everyone has the right to affordable Long-Term Care (LTC) services of good quality, in particular home-care and community-based services (principle 18).
  • As outlined in the 2021 long-term care report, challenging working conditions are reflected in the significant share of LTC workers facing work-related health issues.
  • Strengthening public health sector in a cross-border way. Stop privatisation.
  • Promote relevant transnational Trade Union action.
  • After the financial crises the austerity-policy was the common belief of getting out this crise. We must avoid that this will come back now after the pandemic crise. The actual RRF-national plans show not really another way.
  • Establish in the health sector working time schemes allowing for health workers a healthy live.
  • Struggle against bullying/mobbing in the health sector and in general.
  • Important for the tele-working (in par example the banksector) is creating legislation for the right to disconnect.
  • Promoting (inter)cultural, sports and socializing activities/events of Trade Unions to prevent health risks.
  • The request about actions regarding stomach obesities (was not clear for me)?
  • Reflecting about the competence division (EU/member states) regarding health issues. The legalistic approach of EU competences in matters as healthcare and minimum wage is in fact only a strategical approach for those member-states against social evolutions. There are examples that it can be done otherwise: the directive on equal pay. And there was no obstruction or discussion of competence when they decided to decrease the number of hospital beds.
  • Struggle for political coherence inside of EU institutions to avoid contradictions (i.e., suggesting of privatisation and decreasing salaries in health sector in the process of the European semester/ relying on having no competence in health issues if it is about workers’ issues in the health sector). Political will to boost social policy is the key-factor.
  • The actual system for workers’ mobility only increase the social inequality.
  • To distinguish on EU level between “competences” and “responsibility” to use “responsibility” to get in (voluntary) cooperation of national health systems and structures. A good example to look at is education. There many factors like a co-operation with OECD, the voluntary path initiated by the national educational councils and worked as a bottom-up initiative.
  • It is important in this discussion (EU competences) to start from the needs of citizens, to use arguments and not alibis, to connect competences with responsibilities, to use the multi-level governance as a tool, to base it on common interests and to work step by step.
  • Strengthen the political will to promote health and relevant workers’ issues all over Europe and use the momentum of the pandemic for this.
  • A real single market project can only survive with a real social harmonisation project.