Not so brave new railway world: TRAN S&D MEPs take note of social situation in railways

23 Oct 2020

This week, ETF Railway Section Chair Giorgio Tuti and ETF Deputy General Secretary and Political Secretary for Rail, Sabine Trier joined the Transport Working group of the S&D Group in the European Parliament to give an overview of the social situation in the rail sector. The meeting was chaired by Johan Danielsson, the S&D TRAN coordinator.

The European Parliament’s TRAN Committee has just adopted its position on the European Commission’s proposal for a European Year of Rail 2021 and Giorgio Tuti welcomed the initiative as an opportunity to promote railways as the backbone of a sustainable transport system.

However, he stressed that the rail sector has a demographic problem and urgently needs to attract young workers and women. The share of women in rail in Europe is less than 20% in average and European Social Partners in rail, ETF and CER, are currently negotiating an Article 155 autonomous agreement to promote women’s employment in the sector. Nevertheless, he highlighted that the sector needs to offer good quality jobs and good working conditions to be attractive but current developments are going in the other direction.

Sabine Trier underlined that after four railway packages and the progressive liberalisation and privatisation of the sector, the same social shortcomings in other liberalised sectors are appearing. Indeed, there is a common misconception that the rail sector is free of social dumping practices, but this is not the case: social dumping exists in and through working time, training, temporary work agencies, multiple subcontracting, wage dumping, outsourcing, driver-only operations and competitive tendering. The lack of monitoring and enforcement of driving and rest time, and the outsourcing of catering, cleaning and on-board staff to avoid collective bargaining agreements are concrete examples among many.

For example, one can cite the “Henry am Zug” case with multiple sub-contracting and wage dumping: catering staff was hired for an Austrian operator through Hungarian subsidiary of the sub-contractor with TWA staff for cross-border services. The intent of the company was to clearly practice social dumping by using Hungarian sub-contracted workers without paying the correct Austrian salaries.

But also, driver-only operations and cost-saving measures resulting in continuous pressure to reduce on-board personnel. ETF has been demanding to keep staff on-board of trains for years. On-board staff is needed for safety, for security, for passengers’ comfort, and inclusiveness, and if we are to boost rail passenger services, we need qualified personnel on board of trains.

MEPs Isabel García Muñoz, Rovana Plumb, Bogusław Liberadzki, István Ujhelyi, Vera Tax and coordinator MEP Johan Danielsson all confirmed the importance of rail and railway staff and voiced support to ensuring fair working conditions for railway workers. MEP Vera Tax, as the S&D spokesperson for women in transport ensured support for the ongoing negotiations on Women in Rail.

The ETF looks forward to working with the S&D MEPs, and is committed to ensuring fair working conditions for railway workers.