Through the eyes of transport workers: more needs to be done for the rights of migrants!

18 Dec 2019

The work of the ETF has always been about decent work, decent life, and justice. All of these themes are central to today’s International Migrants Day, the day that combines the aspirations of migrants – people searching for a decent life, decent work, and struggling for justice.

The nature of transport work in itself is intertwined with the word “migrant”. Transport workers are often on the move, working across borders, allowing us to swiftly travel from one place to another and granting us unprecedented mobility that we often take for granted.

This same mobility has allowed many transport workers to become migrants by leaving their hometown and searching for work elsewhere. All transport workers deserve respect, regardless of where they come from. Racism and acts of hate have no place in transport work – work that is by nature “international”. We demand respect for all workers – local and migrant.

Given the international nature of transport work, we would like to highlight some of the policy failures in connection to the rights of migrants, as seen through the eyes of transport workers. The “migrant crisis” has been an ongoing topic in Europe for years now. Transport workers are directly impacted by governments’ refusal to take action when it comes to the rights of migrants. They then experience the consequences first hand especially when faced with having to take responsibility for rescuing people at sea, and also as migrants themselves, being left out of some of the workers’ protections that locals enjoy.

The European Union and member states have so far failed to ensure decent work for transport workers, and have also refused to take responsibility for migrants’ lives at sea. Instead, they have stood idly by, and persecuted seafarers and fishers for fulfilling their moral and professional obligations by rescuing these same migrants.

Governments must take responsibility, and can no longer abstain from taking action. Transport workers should not be made to bear the burden alone. What we are witnessing is a humanitarian crisis and it needs to be dealt with as such.

Transport workers are bearing the burden of inaction: as workers that are subjected to social dumping and discrimination, and as workers that fulfil their obligations at sea and face criminalisation for it. On International Migrants Day, we demand:

Stop social dumping and discrimination of migrant transport workers!

Stop criminalisation of seafarers and fishers that rescue people at sea!