COVID-19: A call for social dialogue in Inland Waterways

19 Mar 2020


This morning, European Barge Union released a statement, calling for the free movement of vessels and crew members, as well as flexibility in the application of the working time directive crewing regulations. On top of that, they propose the elimination of penalties in cases where these regulations are not respected. While the ETF supports the call to guarantee the free movement of crew members in Europe as it allows crewmembers to reach home or their vessels, we cannot allow for the working time directive and crewing regulations to not be enforced.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis and its effects in inland navigation, the ETF calls upon:

  • All EU Member States to guarantee – in line with the guidelines of the European Commission – an unhampered safe movement of transport workers including the European IWT crewmembers;
  • All EU Member States to alleviate all local taxes/levies for inland vessels such as waste collection, sailing dues, etc. to support this sustainable transport mode in these extraordinary times;
  • EBU and ESO, to the negotiations table, be it a digital one, where we can jointly look for solutions in these exceptional times.

Respecting safety standards is vital – not only in the current situation caused by COVID-19 but always.  Both the directive on working time and the crewing regulation, provide minimum safety standards. In fact, they already offer some flexibility – the working time directive offers barge owners and operators full flexibility over a 12 month reference period.  The same goes for the crewing regulation that offers minimum crew settings according to the business model.

While these are extraordinary circumstances that call for extraordinary measures, the safety of transport workers needs to remain a priority.

In response to the EBU statement, we sent a letter to EBU and ESO, emphasising the need for social dialogue in Inland Waterways in these difficult times. The letter can be downloaded here.