Digitalisation & Automation: Passau Declaration on Smart Mobility excludes transport workers and just transition

9 Nov 2020

On 29 October, the EU and EFTA Ministers of Transport adopted the Passau Declaration on ‘Smart Deal for Mobility’.

The Declaration promotes the benefits that automation and digitalisation can bring to European transport but leaves out those who will be directly impacted by the implementation of these new technologies: the millions of transport workers that move Europe forward.

The ETF has written to the Council of the EU, EFTA Secretariat, German Presidency, Permanent Representations of EU Member States to express our concerns regarding their lack of reference to transport workers.

The Declaration reads: ‘Enjoying mobility is part of our personal freedom and a basic need’. On behalf of the millions of European transport workers we represent, the ETF highlights that the right to decent work is also a basic need and should not be treated as a side topic. It is the workers, not robots and automated processes, that pay taxes, vote in elections and build communities. Their omission in the Passau Declaration is therefore very concerning. Consequently, as ETF we are calling on the EU and EFTA governments to include the workers’ dimension in the discussions on digitalisation and automation in transport.

Though the ETF is not against technology, we strongly believe that automation and artificial intelligence solutions should be limited to situations where there is a clear societal – including workers – benefit in doing so. Trade unions and workers’ representatives must be involved from a very early stage in discussions on automation and digitalisation policies or investments. Just transition is possible only through involving workers that know the reality of the workplace .

The need for training, qualification and requalification, as well as job market support, although rightly mentioned in the Declaration, lacks any reference to the social partners’ involvement. There is no consideration in the Declaration of the larger impact of new technologies on transport workers such as increased workers’ surveillance, information asymmetries, algorithmic management, AI biases.

Moreover, multiple reports have been made regarding the ‘circumvention’ of labour, social and taxation regulations by digital platforms; these platforms should be linked to public financing, access to data and MaaS solutions with fiscal, labour and social law compliance.

EU and EFTA governments should foster robust social dialogue, with workers and workers’ representatives involved from a very early stage in discussions on automation and digitalisation policies or investments. Just transition is possible only through involving workers that know the workplace reality.

Our letter can be downloaded at your right.