Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

A proposal to start changing the care model

  • Under the name Caring for Life, six domestic workers have created a non-profit partnership focused on the social economy in Urola Kosta (Gipuzkoa). The idea is simple: to make company profits available to workers. They will keep market prices, i.e. users will pay for surveillance, but because it is a non-profit association, the company will not profit. In return, the salaries of caregivers working in the association, and in general working conditions, will improve significantly.
Ezkerretik eskuinera Bizitza Zaintzeko elkartea sortu duten sei langileetatik bost: Lillian Torrez, Yelba Marin, Virgenza Marenco, Ivone Robles eta Karla Montenegro. Argazkia: Dani Blanco / ARGIA CC SS-BY
Ezkerretik eskuinera Bizitza Zaintzeko elkartea sortu duten sei langileetatik bost: Lillian Torrez, Yelba Marin, Virgenza Marenco, Ivone Robles eta Karla Montenegro. Argazkia: Dani Blanco / ARGIA CC SS-BY

Human rights, social justice, equality, guaranteeing labour rights and the intersectional perspective are the axes of the non-profit association created by Carla Montenegro and its members to offer home service at Urola Kosta. Six women with extensive experience in care tasks have started this project. Everyone has their own life experience, but everyone has been a professional caregiver for over ten years. Montenegro, for example, arrived in Euskal Herria in 2010 and has been living in Zumaia for fourteen years: “We have always had in mind creating something that dignifies working conditions to improve our quality of life.” Because in the end they have made their intentions come true, and after a brainstorm, the association is called Caring for Life. Montenegro explains that at the heart of the name there is a basic idea: “What makes us human is to take care of ourselves since ancient times and we wanted to bring forth that value.” However, as in most projects, the time elapsed from conception to the beginning of the idea, and in this

case it has also been. In 2019, when they were about to launch the project, they also got the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a change of priorities and, consequently, a delay in the project to date: “The pandemic continued beyond confinement times, where priorities were different and we could not start the project.”

They don't want to leave the weight just in the hands of families. They are aware that families cannot cope with the cost of 24-hour care.

Little by little, but with the direction in which they have taken the well thought out steps, the new journey has begun. They say that in Euskal Herria the transformation of care is necessary and have had the courage to jump from theory to practice. Therefore, they have placed the initiative in a transformative social economy, because they want to transform care from the place and the community: “We want to bet that each of our partners takes care of their community, their environment.” They will start operating in Zumaia, Azkoitia, Azpeitia, Zestoa, Getaria and Zarautz, as they belong to this valley: “In this way we will have more opportunities to build relationships with citizens and to be part of the community.” To

dignify working conditions,

members of the association have Argi: “This cannot continue.” They consider that the organization of care in Euskal Herria is “unacceptable”: “Care tasks cannot be left alone to women”. Because in an increasingly aging society, the challenge is to know how to build a sustainable surveillance system, and the model we have at present “deepens the violation of the rights and precariousness of caregivers”. The current surveillance system does not respond adequately to the difficulties we have and considers that, among other reasons, it is why society needs resident domestic workers: “Because it’s easy and cheap to care for families like that.” However, not only do they want to leave the weight in the hands of the families, but they are aware that nowadays the families cannot cope with the cost of meeting the care needs 24 hours, which is also evidenced by the association, asking the institutions directly: “The work that two or three people should do is left to one.”

In the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of care in society was evident and the need to change the care model was claimed aloud. In the photo the relatives of the residents of the nursing homes of Gipuzkoa. Photo: Dani Blanco / ARGIA CC SS-BY

The association will not offer the possibility of having a caregiver as a resident household employee (who will work throughout the week and all day), has been clear from the start. The members of the association have worked as residents, such as Montenegro, which has spent half of the fourteen years in the Basque Country. He says it is not easy to get out of this situation and find a new job and accommodation: “Working as a resident household employee there is no room for life.” Therefore, we will try to offer families with this type of alternative care to adapt the service to their needs: “We will offer them the opportunity to supplement the service between two people and, of course, we also need community participation.” They want to care for and work

on it, but they also understand care as a community responsibility: “We will offer professional service at the necessary times, but then there will be a community to care for it.” They are professional workers, trained and experienced, and the employment contract should also reflect that: “We are not going to have a minimum wage or an agreement from home employees, we are care professionals and we want to have the working conditions they deserve.”

In order to

raise awareness,
they are now disseminating and seeking new caregivers and families: “We are working slowly but firmly. We do not want to create a company of 200 people, we want to move forward gradually and care for the process and people.” In addition, members of the association are working, so they are working and changing with current families: “We don’t want to be too successful, what we want is that the employment contracts and changes of all our members can be properly made.” They also want to influence consciences so that society can see and value their work: “We want people to identify the issue, know how you hire it, talk about it.” A change in the way care tasks are understood is needed and they aim to influence the “thinking” of the sociedad.Adem to offer a home care service, the purpose of

the association is pedagogy: “If we want to transform surveillance, we must start somewhere.” It was a coincidence that the association came to the door of the General Feminist Strike of 30 November, which will demand public and community surveillance, but it is perfectly linked to the demands: “You cannot focus surveillance without talking to on-call staff.” They are now of the opinion that it is up to society and institutions to take responsibility: “Sometimes we think there’s no way to do things differently, but there are alternatives and they’re going to create more.” In fact, the Association for the Conservation of Life is not the only example of the Basque Country that has been created as an alternative to large care companies. In Hernani (Gipuzkoa), several women founded the Maitelan cooperative three years ago. “Maitelan also offers an alternative, but the form and channels of creation have been different,” they explain. They hope that, from now on, more will take the step to break the “indispensable” path to solve the “crisis of care” that we are experiencing.

Families will pay what they pay today, the difference is that there will be no profit from the company

How to implement it On September 14 the

association was presented at the Women’s House* of Zumaia, and they would also like to present it in more places. At the moment, they do not have a physical location, but all the information can be obtained through the web and the interested parties to contract the association must also write it Once the request is made through the website, an interview will be arranged in which the worker of the association will go to the person's home to take care to know the place and talk about the needs. In fact, they stress the importance of looking at the workplace and analysing the needs to determine the change and the resources: “It is not the same as the house is adapted, for example, to move in a wheelchair, to have to lift the person”. A quality service, which is what you

want to prioritize. Therefore, although other companies offer shorter services, the Life Care Association will offer at least one hour of services: “To lift a person out of bed, clean it, give him breakfast and pick up the kitchen and bathroom, you need at least an hour.” They consider that shorter times do not allow sufficient attention. They are clear that people need time, closeness and respect for their rhythms, and that's what they want to offer: “The attention and time everyone deserves and needs.”

“[To people who need caregiver throughout the day] We will offer them the possibility of working between two people and, of course, we will need community involvement”

Professional, quality and sustainable. The idea is to complete a few weeks of work of 35 hours, with salaries higher than those they had hitherto with companies, with more holidays and holidays. At the moment they do not see it difficult to achieve it, because families will pay the same thing they pay today, that is, it will not be more expensive, there will not only be no profit from the company, and the money will be directly for the workers: “We are not going to be cheaper or more expensive, we are going to keep market prices, what will change is the internal organization.” They have broken a practical way to solve the precariousness of care and have put on the table a problem of social actuality, proposing a different model. Now, people and organizations think it's time to choose: “We cannot assume the entire home service of a city hall, but public institutions will also have to reflect on which models they are promoting and which ways or alternatives can be built.” With the joy, illusion, fears and doubts that always generate the transgression of the new paths, they have

begun their journey. They want to be an alternative and improve their working conditions, locally, from the community and from the transformative social economy.

In the photo, workers from the nursing homes of Gipuzkoa in a protest to demand decent working conditions. Photo: Dani Blanco / ARGIA CC SS-BY


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