“Who cares for the carers? Well, it just turns out it’s other carers.”
Care work has, for decades, been an undervalued and under-appreciated industry in the UK. Subject to a creeping wave of privatisation and outsourcing it is now largely provided by a complex patchwork of under-regulated and often outright parasitic companies who seek to drive up revenues and drive down costs by attacking workers’ pay and conditions. The result is that the majority of care workers share a common experience of poverty wages, long and unsociable hours, precarious conditions, lack of safety equipment and adequate training. These are issues that we have discussed previously in New Syndicalist – here and here – where workers disclosed the often nightmarish scenarios themselves and their clients were forced to accept as “part of the job”.
The Covid pandemic has shone a spotlight on these same conditions which have had absolutely devastating and deadly consequences for the vulnerable people who depend upon these services as well as the people who support them. Gaby and Andy from our Editorial Team took this opportunity to talk to Gemma – a care worker, member of UNISON and organiser for the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) – about how Covid has impacted her work, what her colleagues are doing to support each other during this crisis and what she sees as priority areas for organising in the industry for the future.