Our major priority is the continued effort to establish a European legal framework for the European inland waterways sector. Some progress has been made, with the newly implemented Working Time Directive and the adopted Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. However, two more major building blocks are needed to make inland waterways socially and ecologically sustainable: a harmonised European manning regulation and digital controlling capacity.
Alongside a clear European framework for the sector, workers in inland waterways also need harmonised social security coordination. Boats can cross several European countries in just a few days, with crew on various contracts. This makes social security complex, and many workers miss out on the protection they deserve. For the ETF Inland Waterways Section the principle of one social security regime for all workers on the same vessel is sacred. Fair Transport in European inland waterways transport will only become reality if the last remaining loopholes are closed.
We are an associated partner of CESNI – the European Committee for drawing up standards in Inland Navigation. This body could be the genesis of a European Inland Navigation Agency, and we will contribute to the establishment of rules and standards in order to further harmonise the sector on European level. We also represent workers towards the various River Commissions that govern traffic on Europe’s biggest rivers. These Commissions are very influential, so this is a constant priority – especially the Rhine Commission, which is the largest and affects the most workers.
2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the inland waterways social dialogue, the only European platform where representative trade unions and industry organisations meet, discuss and resolve issues facing the sector. The ETF Inland Waterways Section will continue to reinforce the European Social Dialogue Committee and work with the social partners when possible.
We place a lot of emphasis on strengthening our affiliate unions by organising annual seminars that bring together union officials and the front line membership. We carry out joint campaigns with our affiliates, such as the long-standing River Cruise campaign. We will push on with this campaign to organise workers in the river cruise sector, since the industry avoids meaningful dialogue and we see no improvement in the often shocking conditions for workers aboard Europe’s river cruise ships.
Another sub-sector where we are expanding our work is tugs and towage. Workers in the tug industry are facing major consolidations, so we are coordinating a joint response between all the relevant workers’ representatives: our affiliates unions, the ETF Dockers’, Maritime and Inland Waterways Sections, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
ETF position on Inland Waterways Transport’s role in the green transition
European waterways are highly vulnerable to changes in climate. They heavily depend on natural precipitation in all its shapes and forms. Glaciers, for example, play an important role in the water supply of the Rhine. Climate change already does and will continue to drastically reshape the form, volume, and spread of precipitation. This has a constant and, above all, an unpredictable impact on the navigability of the European waterways. A far-reaching climate policy is urgently needed, and structural measures that shape the future of inland navigation and its role in sustainable transport are necessary. You can download the full position paper here.