On 9 December 2020, the European Commission presented its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, which specifies the contribution the transport sector should make to achieving the Green Deal. In its statement on the Communication, the Austrian Chamber of Labour concludes: There are many climate related projects, but few for the workforce.
In order to ensure that the mobility sector also makes a contribution to turning the EU into a climate-neutral area by 2050, the European Commission has set itself the target within the scope of the Mobility Strategy to reduce transport emissions of greenhouse gases by 90 % by 2050; the aim is, above all, to use new drives, with electromotors leading the way. In its position, the Austrian Chamber of Labour welcomes the target on principle; however, it is concerned that it cannot be achieved by propulsion technology changes alone, in particular as they are not able to solve other transport problems, such as noise or land consumption. Hence, from AK’s point of view, measures to avoid transport and the increased use of energy efficient modes of transport (rail, bus, cycling and walking) have to take priority.
The Commission remains disappointingly non-committal with regard to the over 10 million transport workers, who kept the Union going in times of crisis and will do so in future. There is a lack of binding rules or clear goals for improving their working conditions, even though slave-like conditions still dominate the working life of many transport workers. Instead, in the Strategy, the Commission only talks of wanting to consider measures to improve employees’ living conditions. Employees need and deserve to be recognised for the service they provide on a daily basis – with common Europe-wide regulations and improvements of their working conditions. To be more specific, employees need good and clearly regulated working conditions (working times, overnight accommodation, periods away from the family, etc.), and fair pay (equal pay for equal work in the same location) and a harmonisation of their training (duration, content) for all modes of transport.
The Austrian Chamber of Labour also regards it as essential to maintain and develop well-functioning systems, rather than to restrict them. Rail transport liberalisation, for example, was started 25 years ago to increase rail performance. Analyses on rail liberalisation show that there is no connection between liberalisation and the development of rails. Rail transport is developing very differently within the Union – in spite of the same framework regulations. With regard to the share in total traffic volume, very liberal countries sometimes perform poorly; however, sometimes they are able to record rising passenger numbers. The same applies to customer satisfaction. It is evident that the instrument of direct award has to be maintained, and that no further liberalisation of transport services, is required; instead, the regulations for subsidies for required transport operations should be simplified.
From the Austrian Chamber of Labour’s point of view, it is also important to increase fairness between the modes of transport. Hence, it has to be welcomed that the Strategy announces the end of subsidies for fossil fuels, in order to at last adequately tax aviation and marine fuels EU-wide. However, it must be possible to just disallow short-distance flights if rail alternatives exist or to impose minimum ticket prices and minimum airport fees. The statement of the Commission that the polluter pays principle must be more firmly established with regard to toll fees on Europe’s motorways, is also positive. The Commission also mentions the charging of higher fees at peak times in congestion areas as a possible instrument. From the transport policy point of view this instrument might be effective. However, for social policy considerations it must be firmly rejected as only a small part of employees is able to organise their working time so freely that they can completely avoid tailback situations.