Female rail workers. Source: Women in Rail

CER decided: more women in rail with equal conditions

Source: Women in Rail

CER unanimously adopted the Women in Rail agreement during its 68th General Assembly on 20 September 2021. The agreement focuses on promoting women in the sector, from the recruitment process, female employee retention and promotion, to enabling them to access management levels.

According to the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), “this is the first autonomous agreement at the European level on gender equality”. Moreover, “it is also the first autonomous agreement in the railway sector for over 15 years”. The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), representing railway workers, will vote on the adoption of the text on 27 October.

Long process to the agreement

CER and EFT went through seven rounds of negotiations until reaching the first phase of the agreement. In June, the two parties agreed to proceed with the agreement’s adoption on a verbal level. Its official adoption by CER and the upcoming vote from EFT will make it valid.

Marjan Rintel, CEO of NS, applauded the first step taken by CER: “of course, it shouldn’t matter whether you are a man or woman when you want to work in rail. But to achieve just that, we sometimes need to reflect on the fact that more women are needed in the sector,” she commented.

Giorgio Tutti, vice-president of the EU sectoral social dialogue for railways, had stated in June that the Women in Rail agreement is a milestone “because the rail sector gives a clear sign that it understands the challenges and wants to change, and make the industry fit for women to work in. Without women, the rail sector has no future”.

What does it mean?

This agreement aims to attract more women to the rail industry and create the right working conditions for them. In a sector dominated by men, it is about time that women get equal treatment, equal pay and career opportunities. Moreover, the agreement targets a better work-private life demarcation for women, which is essential, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance between career and family.

Most importantly, CER and EFT want to create a working environment where sexism and sexual harassment will cease to exist, and women will have the safety they need to thrive. Both agree that reaching consensus in such a matter is a milestone for an equal sector and society. The fact that this consensus comes during the European Year of Rail gives a more symbolic layer to the journey of equal opportunities in rail.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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