Transport is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it contributes to five percent of the EU Gross Domestic Product and employs about eleven million people. Thus, from the Austrian Chamber of Labour’s point of view it is clear that we need a sustainable transport system, which provides more fairness for its employees.
The disadvantages of transport growth are becoming increasingly obvious: congested infrastructure, rising noise and pollution as well as an increasingly unbearable pressure on employees, particularely for those working in the international transport industry. With its White Papers Transport 2001 and 2011, the Commission had already tried in the past to make this sector more environmentally friendly and fairer and at the same time more competitive. Now, within the scope of the Green Deal, the Commission is working on a new strategy for a future “Sustainable & Smart Mobility Strategy”, which is to be presented on 9 December 2020. Previous to this, the Commission launched a consultation, where the Chamber of Labour outlined its key demands.
Wage and social dumping must not remain a competitive advantage
The impact of the ruinous race for even cheaper transport on the eleven million employees in the transport industry is disastrous: both remuneration and working conditions of employees are almost the last levers in the business calculation, as all other expenses (e.g. toll, fuel, vehicles) are identical for all companies. Hence, wage and social dumping are in particular the rule in road and air transport – in form of long working hours, poor pay, miserable resting conditions, tiredness and long periods away from the family. This is why rules are required, in particular for road freight transport, aviation and for parcel services. Fair working conditions (training, working time and rest periods, remuneration, occupational health and safety etc.) must be regulated in a simple, clear and controllable manner; at the same time, violations have to be met with more severe sanctions.
AK demands: fairness between modes of transport
Over the past years, the EU has tried with various market opening packages (Railway Packages, Mobility Packages for Road Transport, awarding of public contracts, single aviation market) to establish free market rules in the transport sector. However, there are still unequal conditions between modes of transport, even though they are directly competing for passengers and freight. In particular air and road transport do by no means bear the external costs caused by them (e.g. with regard to pollutants, land usage, climate costs). These are still passed on to the general public. For example, collecting the rail toll is mandatory, whilst HGVs sometimes do not have to pay any toll at all. Railways pay an energy tax and have to collect and pay VAT; air transport enjoys tax-free tickets and tax-free kerosine.
Environmental transport transition requires more than green headlines
From the AK’s point of view, the focus at European level lies too much on major cross-border projects. As 80 to 90 % of transports is generated and ended in urban areas, it is there where the choice of the means of transport is made. Hence, the reluctance of European institutions concerning regional infrastructures (e.g. cycling, walking, rail) is counterproductive, because in the end these ensure the relief of European corridors in those (mainly urban) areas, which have the biggest bottlenecks. Hence, the European Union should do more to address and support sustainable transport development in cities and regions.