ETF brings transport workers’ voices to the table at social partners’ Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy hearing

17 Sep 2020

Yesterday, ETF’s sections made their demands on the future EU mobility strategy loud and clear at the Social Partners’ dedicated hearing.

One common demand resonated throughout all sections: Workers must be at the centre of the strategy if the Commission truly wishes to achieve sustainability in transport. The ETF representatives could not stress enough that environmental and social sustainability are equally important and one cannot be achieved without the other.

Statements during the hearing revolved around answers to the three questions put forward by the European Commission:

  1. Do you agree with the aims and specific objectives of the roadmap towards European mobility that is fit for a green and digital future, resilient and that leaves nobody behind?
  2. Do you consider that the Commission has correctly and sufficiently identified the challenges related to social and employment aspects? Are there any other issues that you consider should be added?
  3. In light of the sustainability and modernisation transition facing the transport sector, what do you see as the main challenges from the social partners’ perspective in the next 10 to 15 years?

Though each section has its own unique set of challenges and demands, sections highlighted that transport policies need to:

  • Result from the mainstreaming of social measures into transport policies, as these have direct and indirect repercussions on jobs, working conditions and social rights
  • Eradicate dubious business models that keep transport from being truly sustainable, and ensure proper enforcement rules
  • Address that the transport sector fails to attract young workers and women, and design transport policies that provide concrete solutions to the unattractiveness of the sector induced by poor working conditions
  • Strengthen the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining across the EU and be designed in a way that they prompt collective bargaining as a fundamental tool to address the social weaknesses of the sector

However, as we understand from the papers circulated ahead of the hearing, there is a worrying lack of attention given to transport workers, and labour issues seem to be treated as an afterthought. The Commission must avoid repeating past mistakes where transport policies negatively affect working conditions and only then are social measures considered. They must be considered from the beginning, and proper enforcement should be put into place.

Moreover, COVID-19 only exacerbated the cracks already present in all transport sectors, but these cracks were made by transport policies that enabled business models such as letterbox companies, low-cost transport that keep transport from being truly sustainable. These models have created long-term damage in terms of social and employment aspects and allowed for the circumvention of social security and social shopping withing the internal market. Instead, policies should directly address these issues to eradicate such dubious practices.

It is no wonder then when we take all of the above into consideration that the transport sector fails to attract young workers and women who are deterred by the ever-present poor working conditions across transport sectors, making them think twice about joining the industry.

Transport policies should strengthen the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining across the EU and be designed in a way that they prompt collective bargaining as a fundamental tool to address working conditions in the sector. For example, the introduction of new technologies that prompts automation and digitalisation shall be negotiated with trade unions, and social and human impacts must be thoroughly researched ahead.

The transition towards sustainability will bring its fair share of challenges throughout all transport sectors, some of which we are already facing, especially as we start the recovery process from the current pandemic. However, one thing is clear: social dialogue and reinforcing collective bargaining will be key to ensure that the transition is fair.

The ETF is currently finalising its response to the consultation launched by the European Commission on the future mobility strategy.

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