European Commissioner leaves truckdrivers out in the cold

15 April 2014

European Commissioner leaves truckdrivers out in the cold

Members of the European Parliament from every major political group, under the leadership of the SP’s Dennis de Jong, today met with European Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas. De Jong handed the Commissioner the first wave of protest letters from Dutch, Belgian and Danish drivers. The meeting followed yesterday’s appearance of an investigative report on the transport sector from Kallas, a report which, in De Jong’s view ‘fails to come up to scratch in any way. The Commission predicts with confidence that wages in Europe will even out: in other words, the Dutch driver must simply be content with half of his or her customary salary. It does acknowledge the existence of social problems, but fails to see in these any obstacle to the liberalisation of domestic road transport. Kallas confirmed that the Commission is not itself intending to propose further liberalisation, but for fully a year he has made no move whatsoever to tackle appalling conditions in the road transport sector.’

Dennis de JongAll of the transport sector’s well-known problems are gone over once more in the report, but no solutions are included. ‘On the one hand the Commissioner does acknowledge that there are major problems in the sector, on the other these are all the fault of the member states and not of the European Commission,’ says De Jong. ‘The only bright spot is that today the Commissioner has promised that our broad ten point plan will be discussed at next month’s meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers. The ministers should, without needing to propose any new legislation, quickly make improved agreements on, amongst other things, cross-border checks and an approach to post-box companies.’

The protest letters, which continue to pour into the SP’s European office, offer a glimpse into the huge problems with which the truck drivers have to contend. ‘Kallas turned out not to be all that impressed by the letters,’ said De Jong. ‘Maybe that will change, as more and more letters come from drivers in more member states. We’re working hard on this at the moment. I’m hoping for lots of letters from Polish drivers who are also sick and tired of the degrading conditions in road transport. The stories you hear are awful: one driver was fired after thirty-four years working for the same boss and replaced with cheaper drivers from eastern Europe.’ A year ago the SP survey of 3,000 Dutch drivers revealed an alarming picture of the sector. The resulting report was presented to Commissioner Kallas, who at the time promised to propose measures.

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