ETF affiliates united across Europe to claim a European Year of Railway Workers

27 Oct 2021

Policymakers made 2021 the European Year of Rail but forgot about the railway workers making trains possible even though:

a) It takes over 300 railway professions to move just one train.

b) The Connecting Europe Express – the main highlight of this year – wouldn’t move a single kilometre without all the workers making it happen.

Despite the overwhelming popularity of rail and its role as a champion for greening the transport sector, workers in the industry face critical challenges.

Years of liberalisation have not seen the promised returns on improved services or increased use of rail for cargo and passenger transport. Meanwhile, working conditions are under pressure, less than 20% of workers in the sector are women, and a large share of the workforce is expected to retire over the next years.

That’s why all throughout the month-long journey of Connecting Europe Express that started in September, the ETF and its affiliates made sure that the voices of railway workers weren’t left out with actions, conferences, statements and meetings with the European Commission, employers and policymakers. For the trade union movement, this year is the European Year of Railway Workers.

United together across Europe:

Our young railway workers made a video to voice what is needed to make rail more attractive for young workers.

  • Germany:

Transport policies: EVG organised a conference on German and European Transport Policies during which ETF Railway Section Chair Giorgio Tuti and ETF Deputy General Secretary Sabine Trier took the floor to talk about what we need to achieve a successful public transport system, and that transport policies need to have a social dimension and take workers into consideration. They also met with DG MOVE officials aboard the Connecting Europe Express to discuss current revision of the Train Drivers’ Directive.

  • Austria:

Railway needs women: The Women’s Chair of vida, Olivia Janisch, took part in a media event with the ÖBB (employer) to underline the need to increase efforts to get more women interested in a career in railways.

Safety before competition: Gerhard Tauchner of vida spoke to newspaper Tiroler Tagezeitung to denounce the promotion of the cross-border deployment of train drivers in view of improving competition – this would lower standards, dangerously increase working hours and create a social dumping situation similar to that of the road haulage industry: a huge threat to safety of workers and passengers.

No chance for social dumping: At a press conference with ÖBB, Günter Blumthaler, vida Chariman, of the railway department took a stand against unrestricted, cheap competition and demanded the continuation of the direct awarding of contracts – emphasising that we must protect railway workers from boundless competition and social dumping; wage and social dumping must not gain the upper hand.

  • Italy and Austria:

Regulation and safety: vida and Italian unions FIT-CISL, Filt-Cgil and Uiltrasporti called on the EU to do more for regulation and safety through uniform training standards, recording of working time and language requirements.

  • Switzerland:

The future of rail: ETF Railway Section Chair Giorgio Tuti shared a video message in front of Connecting Europe Express to explain why there’s no future for rail without workers! Swiss union SEV welcomed the CCE in Switzerland with flags. You can find a summary of SEV’s activities here.

  • Sweden:

Quality jobs: The Nordic Transport Workers’ Federation, alongside Seko and Norsk Jernbaneforbund welcomed Connecting Europe Express – MEP Johan Danielsson joined as well – to deliver messages to policymakers about the need for safety, investments and to say no to driver-only operated trains.

  • Belgium:

It takes 300 railway professions to run just one train: Alongside our young railway workers, Belgian unions ACV-CSC Transcom, ACOD Spoor/CGSP Cheminots, and French union CFDT, ETF President Frank Moreels welcomed the train as it stopped in Brussels and shared a message with all those present: it’s time to invest in the workforce to achieve a social and equitable rail sector.

  • Paris: 

Railway workers are the future of rail: At the train’s last stop in Paris, ETF affiliates from all over Europe: CGT, CFDT, UNSA (France), EVG (Germany), CCOO (Spain), FNCTTFEL (Luxembourg), FILT CGIL (Italy), ACV-CSC Transcom, ACOD Spoor/CGSP Cheminots (Belgium), SEV (Switzerland), ASLEF (UK), vida (Austria), gathered in front of the station to make their voices heard: railway workers are the future of rail. ETF General Secretary Livia Spera addressed the crowd with strong words on the need to move away from privatisation and competition.

On the train, an ETF delegation met with the European Commission and the SNCF to voice railway workers’ concerns, denounce the pitfalls of liberalisation and privatisation, and voice safety concerns and our opposition to lowering drivers’ language requirements.


Coming up in Czech Republic: Our affiliate, Czech Railway Workers’ Trade Union will host a conference on  Privatisation, liberalisation and outsourcing in the railway sector and their impact on trade union work.

Connecting Europe Express may have finished its journey across Europe, but the ETF’s work is certainly not over. We will continue our work to ensure policymakers take our concerns on board!