The Austrian live-in care system relies almost completely on migrant workers. Tens of thousands Eastern European women are brought to Austria by placement agencies for shifts of two to four weeks to care for the elderly and sick in their private homes (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Their work is essential, but also precarious: the wages are low, the risks are high, the travel distances are long; and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. The care workers are forced into the “self-employment” system, which leaves them defenseless when facing abuse and exploitation: they have no access to unions protection or institutional support, they do not benefit from unemployment or paid sick leave, while their pensions remain unacceptably low.
Migrant care workers are currently excluded from most democratic and civic processes in Austria. Because their work confines them between the four walls of private homes, in little villages and towns spread all over Austria, it is very difficult for them to meet each other, socialize and organize in conventional ways. By strengthening their solidarity networks and granting them accessible online tools to self-organize, they will gain confidence and strength in their position as caretakers, as workers, and as active European citizens.
Thousands of Eastern European women are brought to Austria by placement agencies for shifts of two to four weeks to care for the elderly and sick in their private homes (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Their work is essential, but also precarious.
This project provides migrant care workers with the necessary information to engage in formal and informal democratic and labor processes. In order to achieve this, an initial pilot project will be carried out within the Romanian and Slovak carers’ community. The first part of the pilot project will consist of free online learning programs and events – all easily accessible and in the Romanian and Slovak languages. The second part of the project will be a series of organized online and offline community meetings, with the goal of building up new networks of solidarity and strengthening the existing ones, while also encouraging cooperation and kick-starting the initiation of local groups for the future.
The program of the pilot project will be built in the two steps highlighted below.
1. Learning Modules
Migrant care workers are currently excluded from most democratic and civic processes in Austria. Because their work confines them between the four walls of private homes in little villages and towns spread all over Austria.
Online webinars, presentations and video tutorials will be offered over the already existing online platforms, dealing with the following topics:
- Know your rights! Understanding basic civic and labor rights for migrant workers in Austria.
- Demand your rights! Tools for civic engagement such as writing petitions, organizing protests, contacting local authorities, campaigning, etc.
- How does care work? Relevant information regarding mental health conditions, care procedures, first aid, etc.
- Do only women care? Gender issues in care work and important information regarding fighting sexual harassment or violence against women.
2. Community Organizing
During the online and offline community meetings, the project will foster solidarity networks and use the skills gained through the online tools to exchange ideas and plan further local actions in Romania, Slovakia and Austria.