Union responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and a strong recovery that puts social first were at the heart of discussions when ETF affiliates came together online last week. The crisis has further exacerbated the effects of long-ignored structural issues in European transport. But ETF and its affiliates are ready to fight for change, for a fair recovery and win.
ETF President Frank Moreels opened the discussion and expressed his gratitude and pride towards ETF’s affiliates who have been at the forefront of the crisis; fighting for transport workers in exceptional circumstances. “The work of the ETF has been profoundly affected, but we will continue to put pressure to change the industry. Recovery must be worker-focused!”
We only got so far together – cross-border union cooperation is key!
Highlighting that international trade union cooperation remains essential, discussions first examined the effects on different transport sectors, transport workers, and transport unions. Speakers were united in their depiction of sectors still struggling – from maritime workers unable to access their place of work or return home to aviation workers’ jobs at risk to the long-standing effects of social dumping and unfair competition. Workers’ rights are under attack as governments and employers attempt to not “let a good crisis go to waste” with blatant disrespect of social dialogue and union-busting actions. Affiliates were unanimous: “Unions must, more than ever, stick together to protect union rights – now and in the future.”
Only a break with the past can bring about sustainable recovery!
Looking towards the future, talks focussed on recovery, new transport policies and the future of work in transport. ETF General Secretary Livia Spera set the tone by underlining that “though this crisis applauded transport workers, they are continuously left out of the policies that concern and affect them.”
The recovery from the crisis presents an opportunity to shape future transport policies with a social dimension at the centre of all upcoming initiatives within the European Green Deal. But also, a genuine chance for the sector to become more inclusive by improving working conditions and ensuring higher involvement of women and youth by mobilising financial instruments to create stable employment, promote diversity, access to work. However, speakers warned that the recovery can only be successful if it breaks with the past – Europe can no longer subscribe to blind liberalisation of transport modes.
Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary, joined the discussion and emphasised the need for the EU and member states to prolong their job support schemes, as well as improve their coverage and adequacy. Many negative effects of the crisis are already felt by workers, yet Visentini warned that worst is yet to come if we fail to stop “the 40 million of workers who are currently supported by short term measures, from slipping into unemployment and poverty.”
So what does the future hold for transport workers?
ETF affiliates are united in the belief that we have an opportunity to make the future better if we continue to work together in our fight for fairness and equality. The pandemic and its exacerbation of working conditions have made it clear that unions, together, must make their voices heard to ensure that the recovery is not just a way to go ‘back to normal’, but towards a fair future for all transport workers.