EU must protect all transport workers’ rights in the event of a no deal Brexit

16 Dec 2020

The ETF welcomes the publication of the proposed targeted contingency measures in the absence of an agreement with the United Kingdom on a future partnership, put forward by the European Commission last week. As we believe that transport workers’ wellbeing needs to be protected in any scenario, we’d like to point to some concerns in road transport and civil aviation that cannot be overlooked in contingency plans.

Road Transport | Waiting time at borders must not become another source of fatigue

We are happy to observe that the proposed regulation on road freight connectivity and road passenger transport is subject to the application of social rules in giving access to UK registered road operators, post-Brexit, to the EU bus, coach and haulage market.

When it comes to practicalities, however, the human elements are missing, and further clarifications are needed, through complementary control and compliance measures.

It is becoming apparent that border queues will not be avoided and to this end, the ETF and its affiliated organisations must stress as follows:

  • In terms of driver working hours, waiting times at borders can only be considered periods of availability if fulfilling the requirements of the EU Directive 2002/15, notably “These periods and their foreseeable duration shall be known in advance by the mobile worker, that is to say either before departure or just before the actual start of the period in question, or under the general conditions negotiated between the social partners and/or under the terms of the legislation of the Member States” (Art. 3.2 (b)). If this is not the case, the waiting time at borders will be considered working time. In any case, waiting times cannot be considered rest, and workers must be compensated according to the national arrangements applicable to international drivers;
  • Waiting time at borders cannot affect rest periods, be they daily rest or weekly reduced or normal rest – and for the later, there is a ban on rest in the cabin.

The ETF has recently published hard evidence on fatigue in road passenger and goods transport. 2800 bus, coach and truck drivers identified 11 top causes for fatigue, most of them relating to poor rest conditions. We must prevent additional sources of cumulated fatigue on EU and UK roads.

CIVIL AVIATION | Level playing field must be protected to prevent a race to the bottom

Similarly, and while we understand that the UK will be able to cooperate with EASA like other third-country partners, control of and compliance with flight time limitations and rest times is an issue of utmost importance.

The transport sector has faced unprecedented challenges brought about by COVID-19 pandemic. Many transport workers have lost their jobs, have fallen through the cracks of social safety nets or face other uncertainties. We fear that a no deal Brexit, in these circumstances, would add to their misery. We are also anxious about the dangers of a bare-bone deal that does not contain solid commitments to respect the level playing field to prevent a race to the bottom.

Precarious work, atypical contracts, bogus self-employment, inappropriate use of temporary work agencies, zero-hours contracts, abuse of third-country nationals, and other forms of social dumping are practices used by companies throughout all sectors. With them, companies aim to circumvent social security obligations, deny workers fair wages, social protection, and to treat them like cheap commodities. In case there are no provisions requiring both parties not to adopt or maintain any measure that weakens or reduces the level of labour rights and social protection below the level provided by the end of the transition period, continued engagement on social matters with the UK would be welcomed, given the proximity and close relationship between the UK and EU. Dialogue should be ensured in order to maintain equal standards of work, and fair competition and trade unions should play a part in the process.

The ETF is committed to working with other stakeholders to achieve the highest standards on workers’ rights for workers in the EU and the UK, and preventing a race to the bottom. All workers in the UK and the EU must be protected from the social dumping and lack of protections that could materialise in the event of a no deal Brexit.