European Commission’s “efficient and green mobility package” lacks ambition to achieve social sustainability in transport

15 Dec 2021

The European Commission’s efficient and green mobility package” – a series of initiatives that will affect transport workers in the long term, regrettably leaves them out of the picture – forgetting that environmental sustainability can only be achieved through social sustainability.

The Package aims to align infrastructure policy with the objectives of the European Green Deal to better decarbonise transport and complements the Fit for 55 Package, with a key focus on rail passenger transport and urban mobility.

The ETF welcomes the focus on rail and urban mobility and agrees that investing in sustainable and safe infrastructure to promote social and economic cohesion and multi-modality in passenger and freight transport is key for a sustainable transport system.

However, as the voices of over 5 million transport workers in Europe, we cannot condone the fact the Commission’s proposal is void of any consultation with social partners and workers’ representatives on the development of these infrastructure projects and governance of the network.

The TEN-T proposal put forward includes elements on the operation of infrastructure, for example, multi-modal terminals, and digital and automated technologies without considering the impact on workers operating on the infrastructure or using these technologies.

We cautiously welcome that in parallel to the Package, the Commission proposes a “Council Recommendation towards a fair transition to climate neutrality” to tackle the social and labour impact of the green transformation.

But cautious is the key word here: the initiative is far from ambitious, especially compared to the Fit for 55 Package based on legislative texts. The Council recommandation is just a soft measure. We expect more like for example a legal Just Transition Framework covering all sectors and regions affected by the green transformation of the European economy.

On rail and urban mobility, while we agree with promoting these two modes of transport, we are critical of the Commission’s measures to achieve this.

Both action plans worryingly omit transport workers – there are no concrete plans to improve social aspects, attract new workers, and guarantee improvement of jobs.

First look

In a first analysis, the ETF has picked up points that the European Commission must urgently look at if it wants its action plans on rail and urban mobility to successfully achieve sustainable transport.

Action Plan: Boosting long-distance and cross-border Passenger Rail

4th railway Package: By promoting the full and strict implementation of the 4th Railway package, the action plan creates a breeding ground for more liberalisation and fragmentation. Despite recommendations and an ETF analysis clearly showing that liberalisation has not benefitted the rail sector and its workers, the European Commission has not evaluated its effects.

Investments: If the plan goes ahead as it is now, it will be detrimental to investments and national networks development.

The plan aims to concentrate Member State’s investment and capacity on rapid development of cross-border networks, although this corresponds to only 7% of rail passenger travel. Although the EU is ready to make more financial instruments available for rail, this will impact national investments. Similarly, the Commission’s aims for the faster deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System will also be very costly.

Moreover, the Commission will further invest in pilot projects – we see this as a non-transparent way of introducing changes impacting railway staff without involving trade unions, such as the introduction of automatic translation tools for drivers.

Regrettably, on two key points that would improve workers’ conditions, there are no concrete action points:

  • A tool to measure working and driving time is mentioned but not translated into an action point.
  • There is no guarantee for the application of the equal pay for equal work equal value in cross- border railway transport.

Action plan: Urban Mobility Framework

 ‘Efficient zero-emission urban logistics and last-mile deliveries’: this can only be achieved via EU measures to support a fair cost of delivery by regulating and enforcing pay and working conditions for delivery drivers.

At the moment, delivery companies work with bogus self-employed drivers, circumventing working time limits, labour rights and social contributions, making delivery businesses artificially cheap and encouraging unsustainable consumer behaviour and expectations, such as fast delivery for free or at low prices and convenient return options.

To counter this, as a starting point, we need delivery vans to be equipped with digital tachographs even when engaged in national transportation, and EU and the Member States must clamp down on bogus self-employment.

 ‘More sustainable and well-functioning passenger transport-on-demand services and Private Hire Vehicle licences’: To achieve this, EU legislators must ensure that ride-hailing compete on the same grounds as traditional taxi services and follow the same labour and competition rules. Moreover, the Commission must take into account that the expansion of ride-hailing platforms increases congestion in cities, creating a notable environmental impact.

More work to be done

From ETF’s initial analysis, it’s clear that there is still more work to be done by the European Commission. Most importantly, we call on them to engage with workers’ representatives in designing these plans – we are, after all, the voices of the transport workers that make transport possible, and they cannot be left out of the changes that will affect them.