COVID-19 – Railway workers keep society running!

23 Apr 2020

Whether they’re on a train, in a railway station, working in traffic management or infrastructure maintenance, railway workers are the key workers who keep Europe moving in times of crisis.

They’re ensuring that goods are transported nationally and internationally across Europe, that people can commute to their place of work, and in better times that families can easily travel to their leisurely activities.

They play a part in the supply chain, and are part of public services that are essential in daily life, and even more so in times of crisis.

This unprecedented crisis has directly exposed these key workers, and put them at risk of infection by the Sars-CoV-2 virus: on-board staff, station staff, and locomotives are working on the frontline and are in contact with hundreds of passengers every day.

Public transport workers have a strong self-understanding of delivering public services and take professional pride in serving society, and they have the right to be protected against health hazards at their workplace. They are not professionals in dealing with contagious diseases; this is not part of their job. They also have the right to be protected against economic risks and uncertainties as well as any attempt to attack their collective rights.

We, therefore, call on governments and competent authorities managing public transport services, railway companies and infrastructure managers as well as all sub-contractors delivering services to the railways to recognize the importance of railway workers and recognize their bravery in this time of crisis. We ask for clear measures to show this recognition by:

  • Respecting their health and safety – Personal protective equipment should be provided, health and safety guidelines should be respected. Railway workers in contact with passengers should be able to carry out their duties with minimum contact – if companies cannot guarantee that an on-board staff member can do his/her job safely, there shall be no ticket control and no ticket sales.
  • Respecting their employment – No railway worker including those working in out-sourced services should lose their jobs or salary
  • Respecting their financial stability – Railway companies including their sub-contractors must guarantee the income of railway workers.
  • Respecting their collective rights – Employers must respect collective agreements. This crisis must not be used as an excuse to lower standards and disrespect the rights acquired by workers.

Looking forward, we expect governments to recognise the importance of railways and in particular of railway workers for the society, the economy and the environment. We expect  European and national policymakers to adopt policies that ensure the recovery and the stability of the railway system and that railways play a vital role in providing accessible and affordable public service to the public and the communities. The crisis has shown that railway systems in public hands are more apt to continue vital services in times of crisis, in some countries governments had to intervene and take over privatised rail companies to ensure services. We call on European and national policymakers to reconsider their policies and to consider that railways should be in public hands instead of (de facto) privatising it.

Our fully detailed statement lays out what should be done to protect railway workers, and looks towards the future of railways after COVID-19, and can be downloaded at your right.