Fit for 55 – environmental sustainability must be matched by social sustainability – with a just transition for transport workers

15 Jul 2021

The adoption of the Fit for 55 Package by the European Commission is of high importance for European transport workers. Almost all of the 11 legislative initiatives impact the transport sector, four of which are transport specific. The Fit for 55 Package is considered to be the Commission making good on its commitments to the European Green Deal. The European Transport Workers’ Federation calls on the Commission to make good on its commitments to the affected workers.

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) welcomes the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ in principle, but it must be backed by Just Transition measures and a comprehensive package of tools that better meets the needs of transport workers. All while ensuring and encouraging a strong emphasis on company and sectoral social dialogue from the outset, so that transport workers do not pay the social costs of the green transition.

ETF fully supports the objectives of the European Green Deal and the goal of a decarbonised transport sector. We support the application of the ‘polluter and user pay principles’ for all transport modes and welcome the establishment of a level playing field among transport modes for CO2 pricing and taxation. But we insist that the green transition must be just and socially sustainable. Abolishing tax exemptions and pricing carbon emissions, while allowing social dumping in transport – in addition to facilitating a race to the bottom in workers’ pay, conditions, and rights – will not deliver sustainable transport. The Fit for 55 Package must be complemented by initiatives to stop social dumping and make transport socially sustainable and just. We insist upon an initiative to include labour costs based on living wages and social contributions under the concept of fair transport pricing.

The presentation of the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ by the European Commission went hand in hand with the promise for a Just Transition. The current Just Transition Mechanism and the Just Transition Fund are not suitable for transport workers; not for maritime, not for aviation and not for road transport workers, who all work in challenged and changing sectors.

ETF will analyse the Commission proposal for a “carbon border adjustment mechanism, to ensure that it respects the needs of the aviation sector, preventing carbon leakage and ensuring a level playing field in the sector.

ETF opposes an extension of ETS to road transport, in particular to private car use. This will affect commuters inequitably, particularly those of the working-class and those in economically and/or socially precarious situations. Public transport must come first. It is necessary to support the development of sustainable collective transport alternatives first and foremost, without forgetting those in sub-urban, rural and peripheral areas. A ‘Climate Action Social Facility’ to reimburse commuters or subsidise electric vehicle purchase will not prevent transport poverty. It will not ‘make sustainable alternatives widely available to enable better modal choices’, an objective of the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. Other instruments are preferable, such as CO2 emission standards for vehicles, the revised energy efficiency directive or the new ‘effort sharing regulation’.

Increasing the share of alternative and renewable fuels – as well as encouraging energy efficiency and fleet renewal – is a realistic approach to decarbonise the aviation and maritime sectors. However, alternative and renewable fuels pose new challenges for the operational safety and for the health and safety of workers who are handling those fuels. This is relevant for dockers, airport ground-staff, sea-farers and workers on inland waterways. Workers need to be trained to handle complex hybrid and zero emission systems and fuels, and, therefore, require investment in up- and re-skilling, in addition to investment in occupational health measures. These need to be a part of the legislative requirements of the Fit for 55 Package. Carbon leakage, as well as circumventing EU policies by tankering fuel, present problems in the context of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The Social Partners in Aviation have already developed concrete and constructive proposals to avoid carbon leakage in this case, and these must be a part of the legislative requirements.

The Fit for 55 Package will have a huge impact on the sustainable recovery and future resilience of the EU, its industry and its transport. It will inherently and inevitably have an effect on all workers. This transition must be just and social.

ETF is committed to ensuring a socially sustainable future for European transport. A sustainable and Just Europe must strengthen and enforce labour standards and stop the ongoing race to the bottom in workers’ pay, rights, and conditions. In light of the ongoing existential climate crisis, the transport workers of Europe and the citizens of Europe need bolder action:

  • We need transport to be recognised as a public good
  • We need transport based on cooperation rather than wasteful competition
  • We need public collective transport to be the backbone of the transport system
  • We need investment in up- and re-skilling and occupational safety and health and safety
  • We need sustainable supply chains. We need to make sure nobody gets left behind
  • We need a Just Transition