Three Stories Show the British Mood Toward Commuting, Rates of Pay and Emission Zones

UK – A trio of at first glance apparently unrelated stories from around the transport sector together give a flavour of the dissenting mood with regard to working in different branches of the modern logistics industry and beyond. Firstly we hear from maritime union RMT which is maintaining its series of protests regarding the payment of seafarers working in British waters. The union is scheduled to hold a demonstration outside the Welsh Parliament on Thursday 9th January 2020 from 1600 hours as part of its campaign for the enactment of policies that will increase seafarer and docker jobs in Wales.

The meeting, outside the National Assembly for Wales (Senedd), Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA, will precede a rally and reception from 1700-1900 hours in the Senedd, and RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented on the need for action, saying: “Hundreds of RMT members in Wales run ferry services essential to the Welsh economy, but local seafarers are being undermined by the industry’s flouting of employment rights and refusal to seriously invest in training. Employers like Irish Ferries pay EU seafarers below GBP5 per hour for months at sea without compliant holiday, pension or sick pay rights.

This cannot continue and the Government of Wales must do more to impress upon the shipping industry the need to improve seafarers’ rights, including entitlement to the Living Wage for Wales. “We also want guarantees that our collective bargaining agreement is the standard for all Ratings working on all Irish Sea shipping and offshore energy routes and is not undermined by the arrival of new ferries on tax-dodgy registers. We applaud the Welsh Government’s acceptance of the Fair Work Commission’s recommendations and stand ready to work with Ministers to ensure that the commitment to collective bargaining extends to all seafarers working from ports in Wales.”

This is of course part of an ongoing series of protests against groups such as those against Condor Ferries, mainly as part of the union’s SOS2020 campaign. Meanwhile on terra firma the Freight Transport Association (FTA) continues to decry the patchwork series of restrictions being imposed on road haulage companies in the name of environmental necessity. Latest target, to add to a plethora of others, is plans for a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in Oxford, published today, and which the FTA says are effectively a tax on trucks and vans in areas of the city.

The logistics lobby group is calling for Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to reconsider their strategy until zero-emission commercial vehicles become a viable alternative for local businesses. Rebecca Kite, Environment Policy Manager at FTA, comments: “The FTA is calling for Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to reconsider their plans to restrict non-zero emission commercial vehicles operating within areas of the city.

It is simply too soon to implement such a punitive scheme. There are currently no zero-emission trucks on the market, and very limited options for vans. And, without a workable definition for an Ultra Low Emission Truck, something FTA is working with the government to develop, the scheme is effectively a tax on essential freight vehicles.

“Businesses within the logistics sector are determined to play their part in improving air quality, a recent study by the FTA showed they are investing heavily in alternatively-fuelled vehicles. But until the market for zero-emission trucks and vans has fully developed, and they become a viable option for business of all sizes, the FTA is strongly advising the councils to delay including commercial vehicles in the ZEZ. The government and local councils should instead, in the view of FTA, focus on supporting and developing the alternatively-fuelled vehicle market.

“The local economy cannot survive without products and services, all of which are delivered to the area by goods vehicles such as vans and HGVs. As it stands, the ZEZ is simply a tax on the companies working hard to deliver the goods and services needed by the residents and businesses of Oxford.” The third of our triumvirate of objectors is in the form of a poll of some 2,000 employees across the UK and conducted by the CBI and Porter Novelli/Opinium.

This claims that the average employee asked loses on average, 2.7 hours a week due to travel disruption or delays. This equates to 125 hours, or over 5 whole days, in the course of a working year. Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“As we head into a new year, and a new decade, commuters will be anxious to see what the new Government’s spending commitments will mean for them. Encountering delay and disruption far too often, employees up and down the UK want a cheaper, greener and more reliable commute. This will only be achieved by business and the Government working together to invest and deliver the right infrastructure, and make better use of existing capacity on our networks, from a plan for a more accountable rail system to expanding smart ticketing and promoting flexible working.”

As part of a new 18-month campaign called The Future of Commuting, the CBI, the UK’s largest business grouping, is working with KPMG to highlight the need to improve transport infrastructure across the UK, and make commuting greener, more affordable and more reliable for communities across the country. Ed Thomas, Head of Transport at KPMG UK, said: “The election saw a broad consensus between the parties around the importance of transport infrastructure and green investment.

However, a number of these issues have been talked about for years and commuters now want to see this talk translate into action.

“Whether it be developing new models for funding and delivering transport infrastructure in the North and Midlands, simplifying our system of rail fares or determining how government and business can work together to meet the challenges posed by net-zero, transforming the experience of commuters is an area where the UK needs to build some real momentum.”

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