The European social partners, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) organized in 2015-2016 a joint project Promoting employment and quality of work in the European rail sector, balancing the strengths and weaknesses, potential and improvement options for the employees as part of the social dialogue.
As a strength, the project revealed a surprising common point of view shared by all generations and employee groups independently from their country or their profession category. Indeed, among the criteria the most important and relevant for their professional choices, the greatest importance was given to job security. Besides, in the actual context of liberalization of the market, social partners found out that the big national rail operators still offer good working conditions and a certain job security. While social partner agreed the sector has a lot to offer in terms of diversity of professions for example, the real weaknesses are still the aggressions on on-board personnel and rail station staff and the complexity of work-life balance for operational professions. Thus, the overview of the project clearly sets out that the internal perception of the attractiveness of the sector from the employees’ perspective is quite positive regarding job security, good employment conditions, meaningful and sustainable activities or the diversity of the sector.
On the other hand, as lever for improvement, some external factors still influence the public perception of the rail sector’s attractiveness for job seekers. The image of the rail sector and efforts to promote employment in the sector in the European Union are impacted by policy, media, technological and socio-economic developments which have affected the labour market more broadly and the rail sector specifically.
Social partners at sector and company level have an important role to play (through collective agreements) to set standards for wages and working conditions in the sector which are attractive when compared to other sectors.