A new agreement to attract more women to work in the rail sector has been reached by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

CER, which represents employers in the rail sector, and ETF, which represents rail sector employees, reached the provisional Women in Rail (WIR) agreement on June 30 in the final round of negotiations at EU level for a binding agreement aimed at promoting employment of women in the sector.

The agreement aims to attract more women to the sector, give women more protection and guarantee equal treatment in the workplace thanks to measures agreed under the general gender equality policy. This includes agreements over reconciliating work and private life, promotion and career development, equal pay, health and safety and work environment, and the prevention of sexual harassment and sexism.

The parties came to an understanding following seven rounds of intense negotiations in May and June, including virtual negotiations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WIR agreement is the first to be reached under the European Social Dialogue in 15 years, when the agreement on working conditions of mobile railway workers engaged in cross border interoperable services was reached.

“This agreement has the potential to end male-dominated workplace culture in the rail sector,” says ETF deputy general secretary, Ms Sabine Trier. “The European rail employers recognise that gender equality in their companies benefits everyone. The next steps are endorsement and swift implementation. Women railway workers have high expectations.”

Both parties will now fine-tune the wording of the agreement, which will need to be approved by their respective governing bodies. CER’s general assembly is expected to vote on the provisional agreement on September 20, while the ETF Railway Section is expected to vote on it in October. A celebratory signing ceremony will then take place later this year.

“It is my goal as CER chair and Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) CEO to achieve more diversity and a more gender-balanced railway sector,” says Mr Andreas Matthä. “An important step has now been taken. The social partners have agreed to increase the proportion of women in the European railway sector. I find it particularly positive that this excellent result could be achieved precisely in the European Year of Rail. The commitment to diversity is also firmly anchored at ÖBB which helped us increase the proportion of women completing apprenticeship training to over 20%.”

“As social partners, CER and ETF have made history for the railway sector, for our colleagues, for more women in the railway,” says president of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for Railways, Mr Matthias Rohrmann. “After almost three years and now three days of intensive negotiations and numerous virtual meetings, we have created something special with the WIR agreement.”

“This agreement is a milestone because the European social partners in the rail sector give a clear sign that they understood the challenges and want to change to make the sector fit for women to work in,” says vice-president of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for Railways, Mr Giorgio Tuti. “Without women, the rail sector has no future. This is the most important contribution of the rail social partners to the European Year of Rail. And we have shown that we have the capacity to negotiate at European level and achieve real change.”