Whatever the nature of the emotional bond between carer and caree, however much carers feel a duty of obligation towards their caree, the fact is that part-time or full-time, they are doing a job of work. If they didn't do this, often demanding and arduous, work, the state would have to provide it in some other way, probably at great expense.
Family carers are actually unwaged care workers. The hours they work, frequently much longer than normal employment, may consume a life-time of 24/7 care for some, and can be destructive of the carers own health. Carers ought to have social rights. In my view, we need a trade union to campaign for those rights, to negotiate on behalf of carers and to fight for a wage for currently unwaged care workers.
The discussion about the need for a trade union for carers, which has already taken place on the Carer Watch Forum and elsewhere, suggests that some carers are unable to get away from traditional views of family caring as a vocation, supported financially only by the miserable Carers' Allowance. They prefer to work for marginal improvements, largely in concert with the carers' charities. This doctrine of gradualism has not worked, does not work and will not work in the future. It is a doctrine of despair.
The formation of carers' trade union would mark the beginning of a new consciousness for carers of the reality of their situation, as unpaid care workers. It could be the beginning of a long process of emancipation for carers. It would not be about pleading for the recognition of carers' rights, but the beginning of a long process of struggle in which the awareness of the plight of carers' would be raised among the general population. Much more importantly the consciousness of carers themselves as unwaged workers would be raised. The moral blackmail which keeps carers in a situation of exploitation, would be undermined and exposed as the hypocrisy it really is. I believe that carees would greatly benefit from having carers whose worth was recognised and who are paid a proper living wage for the work they do. Let us work together in dignity and mutual respect.
Towards a carers trade union.