ETF meets with Commissoner Schmit to discuss key issues affecting transport workers

18 Nov 2020

On 17 November, the ETF met with Commissioner Schmit to discuss key issues affecting transport workers.

Together we agreed that sustainability is about people: this means that a social dimension has to be mainstreamed in the upcoming EU smart and sustainable mobility strategy and Commissioner Schmit confirmed his commitment towards this goal.

Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary, extended an invitation to build, together with Commissioner Schmit, a new vision for the future of transport work. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the pitfalls of the transport industry, and the imminent publication of the future EU transport strategy should be an opportunity to create a new social agenda for the sector:

“We cannot go back to the ‘old’ normal. Social dumping, precarity, lack of social rights and all other problems affecting transport workers are mostly the consequence of decades of social irresponsible transport policies. Allowing and tolerating letter-box companies in road transport has triggered social dumping in the sector. Permitting EU-owned ships to fly flags of convenience has exacerbated the crew change crisis, as flag states are not taking their responsibilities. The liberalisation of the aviation market has set the conditions for the current state of affairs on social rights for aviation workers.”

Among the points brought forward by the ETF delegation is the need to link climate target to social policies.  The European Green Deal and the upcoming Smart and Sustainable Mobility can’t just be about targets, fuels and electrification. Without a social dimension, the European Union cannot hope to achieve its climate goals in transport.

Automation and Digitalisation are often cited as a means to achieve the EU’s climate goals and also have a deep impact on jobs. Transport workers can’t be left out of the conversation. The ETF reacted to the recent Passau Declaration signed by EU and EFTA transport ministers pointing out the unacceptable lack of attention to workers. Similarly, upskilling and reskilling strategies to prepare the workforce for the future won’t work without workers’ involvement. Meaningful social dialogue and collective bargaining are the right tools to shape the future of work!

Concerns over a possible dismantlement of the Mobility Package were voiced by the ETF during the meeting. This is a hard-fought compromise that was agreed by the three EU Institutions, and we expect that they defend the Package against attempts to dismantle it. Commissioner Schmit confirmed his support for the Package and agreed that the adopted measures are key in the fight against social dumping.

Many transport workers are mobile workers and suffer from specific problems. Among those, the ETF highlighted the lack of enforcement and monitoring, especially when it comes to cross-border transport. For example, in rail, there is no effective monitoring of enforcement for working time rules for cross-border staff; The recent CJEU Dobersberger case threatens the principle of “equal pay for the same work in the same place”. In fisheries, there is a shocking abuse of migrant fishermen and third-country nationals whose conditions amount to modern slavery. These situations need to be tackled at EU level!

In addition, the ETF believes that an EU social security number would contribute to improving the conditions of mobile workers.

The discussion also included an exchange on the European social dialogue. ETF is happy with Commissioner Schmit’s plan for relaunch and renewed attention to boosting EU social dialogue. The ETF gave specific examples on how to improve this tool.

Livia Spera concluded:

“It was good to hear that Commissioner Schmit has a good understanding of transport workers’ priorities. We are ready to work closely with him to build fair transport for Europe.”

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