‘ETF Talks’ launch on World Day for Decent Work: Trade Unions Build Back Better!

7 Oct 2020


In honour of World Day for Decent Work, the ETF is launching ‘ETF Talks’ – Conversations that Put Social First! As trade unions’ fight is to ensure decent and fair work, our very first episode is quite rightly named ‘Trade Unions Build Back Better!’.

ETF President, Frank Moreels, and Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary focus on the effects of COVID-19, the vital role of trade unions, the road to recovery, and what the future of transport could look like and what it will look like if workers are not an integral part of it all.

COVID-19 laid bare the cracks in the foundation of transport, and the ever-present contradiction: Transport workers carry out an essential job, and yet they don’t get the respect they deserve from employers and from the political world, which ETF has been denouncing for years, was made glaringly obvious.

Livia Spera and Frank Moreels explore the issues faced by transport workers throughout the crisis, and underline that trade unions stood by their workers throughout the crisis, and as Moreels puts it “if we, the unions, had not been there, it would have been a massacre in the transport world!

Spera describes the work of the ETF throughout the pandemic which continues today: ‘We were really acting on the whole front’ – influencing political discussions and initiatives such as health and safety protocols but also concretely assisting ETF’s affiliates, for example, with problems in information and consultation rights’. ‘The role that our trade unions played at workplace level shows how important it is for trade unions to be active internationally and engage internationally because we could have a voice that we would not have had if we were divided and action all on our own’. Moreels adds ‘These are problems you cannot solve as a local union, as a national union. You really need to be part of a global network or an international network and it will be the role of ETF and ITF to continue doing so.

Spera goes on to the list ETF’s three strategies that need to be combined for a new transport policy: the recovery strategy from the crisis, digitalisation and automation: ‘Transport work is changing constantly and we feel that transport policies lag behind and that the involvement of workers and trade unions is not sufficient yet.’, and the climate emergency: ‘Our point of view there is that we cannot have serious discussions on the future and environmental sustainability of transport without talking about the social dimension because we know also that if we want to have modal shifts from more polluting to less polluting modes, it will not happen if the price of certain transport modes remains so low due to artificially low labour costs (…)’.

What is clear is that trade unions need to be involved in every process, and especially the recovery process that we are currently in. Moreels emphasises: ‘If we are not involved in the whole process, it will be an economic operation (…) if the social emphasis is not there, it could be a disaster for the workers but they should not worry about it. If we are not involved, we will make sure that we will be involved.

And on World Day for Decent Work, Livia Spera and Frank Moreels both have a message for all transport workers:

‘If I could say one thing to the workers that we represent is join a union if you are not part of a union and if you are part of a union, be active, shape the policies, be a pain in your union, make a lot of noise and engage because this crisis showed that the union could make the difference whenever there was something to change or to negotiate, to fight for, there was a huge difference on how the crisis impacted workplaces that are unionised and workplaces that are not unionised’. – Livia Spera

Decent work is not something that comes by itself. We [trade unions] always had to fight for our rights, we always had to bargain if it was possible and to organise action if it was a necessity and it will be the same thing with decent work. (…) It will be something that we create by ourselves’. – Frank Moreels.

Happy World Day for Decent Work to transport workers everywhere.

This ETF Talks will certainly not be our last, and we invite everyone to check our social media and our website for future announcements. In the meantime, the ETF invites you to listen to this first episode as a podcast or to view as a video above.