COVID-19: ETF reacts to EC’s guidelines for travel and transportation

20 May 2020

On May 13, the European Commission adopted guidelines and recommendations to “help Member States lifting the travel restrictions”In turn, the ETF has sent its comments and recommendations to the European Commission.

We welcome the emphasis on the protection of transport workers’ health and safety which is identified as a key principle. Overall, however, the ETF has mixed feelings with regard to the real added value of these guidelines for transport workers in the EU.

Regrettably, while there is an improvement in the inclusion of transport workers’ health and safety, the main focus of the European Commission remains on the smooth running of the internal market and while safety measures are promoted; the Commission underlines that they need to be cost-effective.

It is unacceptable to talk about cost-effectiveness when it comes to the protection of transport workers. Safety measures must be decided based on legislation in force and with the full involvement of the workers and their representatives.

The European Commission’s list of health and safety measures remains vague and on several points, it is unclear who is actually responsible for their implementation which can create confusion and lead to abuse.

We also regret the lack of binding measures.  Guidelines remain a “soft” instrument and have proved to be a tool that results in minimal success. It is not enough to say that Member States and operators need to coordinate. Instead, bilateral or multi-country agreements should be promoted to guarantee an identical level of protection for transport workers defined through standards to be applied in all countries.

A recommendation, at the very least, to Member States to reinforce controls in a coordinated way should also have been included. Our members are reporting even lower levels of controls during the crisis and rules are disregarded by many companies in the transport sector.

Most importantly, we would have preferred a stronger recognition for the role that social partners can and should play, instead of the references to “stakeholders” in the guidelines. Indeed, since the beginning of the crisis, the ETF has called for a task force composed of EU-level transport social partners to be put into place at EU level to advise on health and safety measures during the crisis, and an exit strategy focused on the safety of workers and passengers. Such an involvement would have allowed for a better and deeper understanding of the priorities to be tackled for a safe restart.

Our full comments and recommendations, as well as sector-specific remarks, can be downloaded at your right: