The changes of work conditions in the Nordic countries are a serious threat to the railway security. The Nordic model, characterised by good working conditions, safe employment with a decent wage and well-functioning welfare systems is on a decline. The Nordic model is also based on union and individual worker’s involvement, high degree of labour union membership and extensive trust given to the employee to do the job and safety assessments on their own.
Many of the basic requirements for a functioning Nordic model have changed, and are about to change even more in a way that constitutes a threat to the traffic safety; Globalisation, privatisation, change of working conditions, more control systems, and destabilising work environments with up splitting of companies and their medical services are results of political decisions made outside the railway doctor’s or other health management’s office walls.
With globalisation and the implementation of ‘free trade agreements’ like TISA and TTIP, the development we have seen in the traffic sector of drastic changes in the working conditions for the employees, is likely to continue. For seamen/sailors and lorry drivers, the changes have been in effect so long that the new situation is ‘normal’. For taxi drivers, the code word Über is maybe enough to describe the decline in prestige, social acceptance and working conditions for them. If you want to make a living, you need to be on call and available 24/7 and you can forget family or social life, buying a home with a bank loan or enjoy the benefits of an employer who takes interest in workplace health promotion programs. Of course, this also has influence on traffic safety.
My worry is that these types of changes have now spread into the air traffic industry (e.g. low-cost airlines like Ryanair), bus transport companies and even in the railway sector with a wide variety between countries and operators up to now. Short –term assignments, increased mobility with flexible (and unpredictable) working hours, often change of operator when tenders are used, less union influence, increased job insecurity and less integrated occupational health professionals in the companies, all contribute to a weaker safety culture. This might lead to more accidents even if the health assessments of the individual driver not have shown any medical contradictions.
So, to me it seems that engaging in political issues with a tough defence of the Nordic model and fight against the globalisation and privatisation waves with their negative effects, is a better way of ensuing traffic safety than keeping up with the doctor’s health assessment!