Ulf Jarnefjord from the Swedish Transport Workers Union talks about his experience at the ETUC’s seminar on sustainable mobility in urban areas.


Dear colleagues and friends of the ITF climate network

On 4-5 February, I participated in an ETUC workshop on ‘Sustainable Mobility in Urban Areas’.

I was invited by the ETUC to present Sweden’s efforts to implement the ITF report in Sweden and the ITF’s web-based training platform for members on climate change and transport. This course is part of IFWEA’s online labour academy.

Moreover, I came to present two local projects in my hometown Gothenburg in which unions are involved. One concerns the congestion charge introduced in the town centre at the beginning of the year in which our local trade union has a campaign for a referendum on the congestion charge.

The second project involves the delivery of parcels in the town centre with a mini electric trucks. The goods are shipped to the city and then then our security guards drive the goods to customers.

My presentation also focused on a number of important reflections on growth, economic systems, working hours, cheap transportation, social dumping, standardisation and not least climate psychology and wellbeing.

In addition, there were many good and interesting talks from researchers, the European Commission and trade unions from other countries.

Worth mentioning is the City of Gothenburg’s representative description of the city’s climate policy, Gothenburg and the Environment, the work they done and their future projects.

The Spanish trade union CCOO (also an ITF affiliate), described the process of getting sustainable and efficient public transport from workers’ homes to workplaces. There are great difficulties to arrange cheap transport to and from the outer areas for workers’ commute to work.

Andrew Cassy from UNISON (working for British Telecom) described a project where the ‘green reps’ meet, organise training and network to spread awareness on climate transition. This was very interesting and I love the word “green reps” and hope we get many more!

In Brussels, the authorities have introduced a requirement that companies with more than 100 employees must have a transportation and environmental manager responsible for the company’s transport policy. It will describe how to transport the employees in an environmentally effective way between home and work. They have also introduced restrictions on the number of parking spaces allowed in the workplace.

The Commission described the TEN-T project, where several cities get help and support in developing sustainable urban transport, such as the train tunnels in Gothenburg and Malmo.

It was also good discussion in which both the Commission and companies had to admit that neoliberal ideas within the EU have failed climate targets. As cheap transport and social dumping means that goods are sent back and forth enormous distances in the EU, which increases CO2 emissions.

Another problem is the public procurement rules, e.g. that locally produced food in school lunches is not promoted. It is the cheapest price that applies. Instead of buying potatoes or chicken from the farm near the school they have to accept a bid from a supplier that will perhaps drive the goods 2,000 km with a truck if it is cheaper.

Other examples from participants included successful car pooling, car sharing and bike-borrowing projects.

Employers may, in some countries support and promote cycling among their employees by providing subsidised bikes, free bikes or good cycle parking and servicing.

The seminar was very interesting and good from an environmental perspective. The only problem is that action is happening far too slowly and the growth and emissions are increasing all the time and we have only one planet. Despite this, it is important for us from the trade union movement to be involved and work actively for a fair green transition.

In solidarity

Ulf Jarnefjord

Regional Safety Official, Swedish Transport Workers’ Union 

(Svenska Transportarbetarförbundet avd 3)