"Care means a radical change in outlook, from top to bottom. It has enormous political strength"

Mar 08, 2022
On this 8th of March, joining the demands made by the feminist movement, ELA has called for public care for everyone. In the morning it organised a central act in San Sebastian, where it analysed the care situation in Euskal Herria. After the event held in the Kursaal, a demonstration crossed the centre of San Sebastian. ELA’s militants from the Bizkaia cleaning sector concentrated at midday in the Plaza Arriaga to vindicate their struggle and highlight ELA’s trade union victories; victories that help to improve many women’s quality of life. ELA joined the marches in the afternoon that had been organised by the feminist movement.


Amaia Pérez Orozco, a member of ‘Colectiva XXK’, a group that fights for social transformation from a feminist point of view, held the leading role at the event held at the Kursaal. Alongside her workers took part, talking about their experiences in the care sector. In the first place, before developing her intervention, Amaia Perez Orozco underscored the importance of ELA’s feminist trade union fights. In this context, it is worth remembering that in the sectors where care is professionalised, ELA is promoting many strikes. The situation is serious and the administrations accept that the workers have insecure conditions. The public authorities manage these care services and consequently, they are responsible for these conflicts.

Pérez Orozco attempted to answer three important questions during her intervention: What do we understand as care; what is and what isn’t included in it. What is the current care situation? What are the feminist movement’s demands regarding care? This is a short summary of her speech.

1.-What is care and what isn’t?

Amaia Pérez Orozco defined care as “a need by everyone to regenerate life every day. The essential work that has upheld life in an invisible, feminised way must be vindicated.” Work, she insisted, that has never been considered as the object of a political struggle, when the truth is, it definitely is.

It is time to vindicate all this essential, invisible work that has upheld life and infuse it with this character of political struggle. Today, care is not a priority and it is only used to uphold some lives, specifically, the lives that make up the ‘BBVA’ group: blanco, burgués y varón (white, bourgeois and male). Women have never depended on care companies. The situation is completely the opposite: the care companies depend on the women. This puts us at the centre of the struggle. We do not want to contribute to a world where care is squeezed, and to do this a change in taxation is essential, in order to be able to fund care.”

Amaia Pérez Orozco denounced the role of the companies and institutions in the care world and she underlines that even within the care workers themselves there are inequalities, according to social class, migratory status… “Within the care sector there are inequalities and exercises of power that it is essential to overcome.”

2. - What is the current care situation?

Amaia Pérez Orozco underlined the unfair social organisation of care, because there are no group care structures. “Today, care still remains in the household area, the family, which is where the care of dependent people is being carried out privately, on their own.”

In this context, Amaia Pérez Orozco asked out loud: What happens when this care that has been left in the hands of the families becomes integrated into the labour market? To do this, she asks another question: What happens once care enters the labour market with companies in order to make it profitable? “The companies do three things: they take advantage of the public funds, they make the workers jobs’ insecure and they exploit them with an ethical feeling for care by the workers. That is to say, they use mechanisms such as emotional blackmail or care ethics to continue exploiting them. In this process there are three pillars: unpaid care work; household work that is mainly carried out by migrant women in irregular situations; and finally, professionalised, but insecure work.”

When talking about the families, it is important to analyse how we think about care. For this there are three pillars. The first one would be care in the family. We have yet to break away from the family ideology of care. That is to say, families have the ethical obligation to care for dependent people without the State or the Government having to provide any solutions. The second pillar would be the essential nature of care as something that women know how to do just because they are women. Supposedly, we are faced with something, caring, which is something that women know how to do and should do just because they are women, that is to say, it seems that it is in our DNA. This idea pushes the thought that women are obliged to do it for love. The third pillar would be the outsourcing of care. It is increasingly outsourced, either for it to be done free or another woman is paid to do it. We must create a social care organisation and to do this, it is essential to transform a care system that even today is based on the accumulation of capital. How can we turn it round? Through public services and taxation that allows funding to go beyond a mere political slogan.”

3. - What are the feminist movement’s demands regarding care?

Amaia Perez Orozco also talked about the rights of the care-giving group, which must always be linked to labour rights. “We need legislation that protects us as people, not as the labour force that cares for people, because the care-workers are still seen as hands that care, not as people. Today this care system does not exist, because the systems we have at present only offer partial rights. Therefore, we need benefits and services that allow the right to collective care.”

In this context, she endorses three political directions. “The first would be to collectivise care that to date is privatised and carried out in the families. That is to say, the home must be a complement, with other public services; all the responsibility for the care cannot fall on the family. We need to de-familiarise and de-commercialise care, which at present is a niche business. An injection of public money is needed to ensure that in the households care does not only fall onto the private, household sector.”

The second political direction that she backs is to dignify all care work, but professionalise only some of this care work. “There is some care work that must be professionalised, but there is another part that should not be commercialised, but always given dignity. One mechanism could be to vindicate universal pensions for all the women who have cared for people, free of charge, all their lives. It is not a professionalised job that has to fall into the labour market; however, it is necessary to give them the right to receive a universal pension.”

The third political direction she is endorsing is changing the care model. “Care must stop being a thing, so that the carers can become subjects with rights. We cannot continue seeing care in a subservient way, as we have done up to now. What we should see is a worker with life. We must fight for a model based on human relationships. Technology must be a backup for this human relationship, but the basis must always be a human relationship with mutual commitment.”

Do these three political directions that we are championing have to be reached through a public system or a community public system?” Amaia Perez Orozco tried to answer this vital question. “A community public system has something to do with our idea, not that they are public organisations, which in many cases outsource and transfer the money to private companies, but rather community belongs to us, to everyone. We must take back the public services, because the public systems are changing and they are being derived towards private systems. Backing a community public system would be one way of taking back the public services and knowing that it is ours. Community, also, fills the gap between the family home and the institution. Things are not as simple as ‘family home’ and ‘institution’; there is a limbo in between the two that could be filled by a community public care system.”

Having said this, Pérez de Orozco acknowledges that the community public system has risks, because the institutions could stop being involved in the subject. “It is very important to position this debate correctly and the feminist movement is involved in this, but always taking into account that care is a field that has always fought strongly that allows us to link feminism, both inside and outside the trade union. This entire system must be approached in a different way.”