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No to violence at work

6 August 2006

Urban Transport Meeting*
Delegates at the Urban Transport meeting*

The Urban Transport Committee today identified health and safety, public transport policy, and multinational companies as priority areas for its work programme for the next four years.

Violence, though varying widely in its level and severity, appeared to be a growing problem for most union memberships. Speakers on the subject felt that deregulation or lack of regulation had exacerbated, and in some cases, created the problem. This was due to the impact of unregulated competition for routes between drivers or to falling service standards, which could prompt aggression among disgruntled passengers.

At the same time drivers were still targeted because of carrying money, and because of lack of practical protection such as CCTV and, especially, low staffing levels.

The meeting also accepted the need to adapt its work and structure to reflect more fully the key public transport realities for developing countries – many of which have traditionally fragmented and “entrepreneur based” services, with no history of state-run provision.

Unions related their experiences of the privatisation of passenger services, which were threatening citizens’ access, particularly in rural areas. The meeting heard how the German railways had invested huge sums of money following privatisation, acquiring new vehicles and new lines. However, manning levels in the railways had dropped by 50 per cent since 1996, and the multinational companies were beginning to move in.

Affiliates in Europe have been working together, and reported significant headway in influencing proposed liberalising legislation on its way through the European Parliament. Stefan Heimlich of Ver.di reported that the unions had coordinated an action day in 10 countries. In June, he said, the European Union transport ministers met and agreed to reintroduce social standards, which can be imposed by local authorities.

“It shows what we can do if we work together,” he said. “It was very important that we agreed a basis for lobbying at the national and European levels.”
Alejo Mara Sayas of the National Transport Workers’ Union of the Philippines talked about the ongoing challenge of organising the large number of unorganised, informal workers operating public transport services in developing countries.

Jane Barrett of Satawu drew the attention of the committee to the success of a process of “collectivisation” going on in parts of South America, where public service provision, like that in most African countries, was dominated by highly fragmented, small entrepreneur-based services.

The trend, she reported, has also been taken up in Tanzania, and has brought regulation and a degree of consolidation into the existing services:
“The result has been protection of jobs, lower fares, higher wages, and even an increase in profits overall.”

Barrett requested that the committee should formally extend its remit to looking at the public transport concerns of rural areas. She was among several contributors who encouraged committee members to focus on environmental matters.

“We need to refer to the importance of public transport as part of a strategy to save the world from global warming,” she said.




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ITF House, 49-60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DR  |  +44 20 7403 2733   |  mail@itf.org.uk