The ITF’s railway section held a vibrant conference with delegates from 75 countries. The day began with an excellent demonstration of democracy in the railway section, as affiliates elected the section chair, vice-chairs, and reps for women and youth. The nominated candidates shared their vision for the railway section’s work and priorities over the next 5 years. The election process fired the room up with enthusiasm , which is vital for a section fighting the global challenges of privatisation, outsourcing and technological change.

Looking at these challenges, the railway section agreed to build on their consolidated efforts to further activate unions in the railway sector. In particular, they aim to bring women and youth workers into the decision making levels of union activism. This was further emphasised by the outgoing chair of the railway section, Øystein Aslaksen, who advised “all the railway affiliates in the room to include as many youth and women railway workers in their structures and in every area of work.”

At the conference we witnessed a wide range of affiliates expressing their commitment to organise workers in restructured railway companies. In doing this, they will stand in solidarity with each other and exchange experiences to better fight privatisation. Motion 10 calling for safe and accessible railways, proposed by the UK’s RMT union was endorsed unanimously.

Giorgio Tuti, chair of the railway section at the European Transport Workers’ Federation, correctly summarised the essence of the conference by saying that “privatisation, competition and deregulation are all going in the same direction and we know what that means. It brings companies to the market and maximises their profits, but I don’t know any private company that takes care of workers’ wages and benefits. That’s why we need to fight against that and re-nationalise the railways. We demand good service, decent wages and good working standards for railway workers. Only public railways can bring high safety standards for the public.”