Improving services and sustainability through better jobs and democracy


Around 13 million people are employed in public transport around the world, and expanding and improving it could provide millions more green jobs directly, as well as supporting job creation in other sectors.

The International Public Transport Association (IATP) wants to double the market share of public transport by 2025, and estimates that this “would create jobs for a further 6 million people, even factoring in labour productivity gains”.

Public transport workers do not necessarily drive or even work on vehicles. Many work behind the scenes, providing all the services that make transport systems work — cleaning, security, planning, administration, and so on.

Yet, although quality transport systems and services need quality workers to provide them, many do not enjoy secure and regular jobs. Some work in the informal economy, while even in formal transport systems there are many who suffer from precarious employment and poor terms and conditions.

All workers are entitled to decent treatment and to have a voice at work. In fact, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency governed by representatives of governments, business and unions, insists that ‘decent work‘ requires that those rights are honoured.

But quality employment is good for passengers too. Just because a person has a good job doesn’t mean he or she provides a good service, and many who are in relatively poor jobs still manage to provide good service. But we all know that the more respect a person has in the workplace the better they are likely to perform.

Transport workers and passengers have duties to treat each other properly, and they have a common cause: high quality services in which the rights and dignity of both workers and passengers are respected.

There is a lot more to good jobs than basic rights at work, fundamental though they are. Quality employment also means enabling workers to provide good services — and that means high quality approaches to organisational development, workplace relationships, and training and other supports.

Learning from experience is essential — and relevant experience can be found not only in public transport itself but also in other areas of public and private service delivery.

Online resources

Partnership and Productivity in the Public Sector

The high public price of Britain’s private railway

Unions say no to violence at work

Cutting costs and improving public services in Sweden