Information published on 12 May 2020 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 691.

UIC internal measures to fight against the economic impact of Covid-19

  • Freight
  • Cooperation
  • Covid-19
  • Projects
  • Task Force
  • Video Conference

A company agreement

In order to help UIC HQ to absorb the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, and to relieve its Members of these same effects, the UIC Management has on the one hand adopted a company agreement concerning exceptional measures to set up within the framework of French Government ordinance n° 2020-323 from 25 March 2020 relating to emergency measures regarding paid holidays, working hours and days of rest.

This applies to all employees of the economic and social unit formed by the International Union of Railways association and its three subsidiaries: UIC-Patrimoine (Room hire for events), Langues et Techniques (Technical Language Services) and Editions Techniques Ferroviaires (Railway Technical Publications).

This agreement is therefore implemented on all the association’s sites, including the Brussels offices. It was presented and validated by the representative bodies for staff in April. This agreement, of a duration of nine months, entered into force on 22 April.

As a result of the drop in activity suffered by UIC:

  • Partial activity measures were taken from 23 March until 15 September
  • An annual closure of two weeks from 25 July to 9 August, which will concern all employees and secondees, has been put in place
  • Other provisions related to employees’ days of leave should also make it possible to relieve the accounts of UIC in summer and at the end of 2020

A contingency plan

Moreover, UIC has set up a contingency plan following the Covid-19 crisis and has made all possible efforts to remain operational since the lockdown decided in mid-March by the French government. Thanks to the main lines of action of the UIC work programme, the association has anticipated fostering the use of video-conferencing. It has therefore been possible not to interrupt its different workflows. The work of the different forums and platforms has remained mostly unchanged.

Over the last number of weeks, at the various platform forums, UIC has been able to appreciate the extent to which all its members continue to support UIC’s project activity. However, it is quite clear that not all the projects initially envisaged will be able to be carried out on time in 2020. UIC HQ has therefore carried out a thorough analysis in order to evaluate which projects could be delayed or even cancelled. In addition, savings measures both on expert contracts and, of course, on hospitality, travel and operational expenses, have also been looked at closely.

UIC, at the instigation of the Director General François Davenne, and with the approval of the UIC Chairman Gianluigi Castelli, has been developing and deciding upon a contingency plan that will be able to guarantee financial stability during the crisis, as well as an orderly recovery. The measures taken have been developed by UIC management with the involvement of the staff, who have showed their dedication in accepting stringent measures with regard to the organisation of work.

  • Due to the interruption of all congress activities, UIC has had to cancel most of the events in the first half of the year, such as the UIC High Speed Congress in Beijing and the UIC Global Rail Freight Congress in Riga. It will be possible to manage this drop in activity by using legal measures on short-time working and on leave management implemented by the French government.

UIC is highly confident that the association will be able to overcome this crisis through the measures below:

  • €750,000 of the project fees will be redistributed to the UIC members (mainly in the form of credit) by postponing or cancelling 2020 projects that are impacted by the crisis. The vast majority of the projects will be maintained, fewer than 10 projects should be heavily impacted, mostly in postponing deliveries to 2021
  • €300,000 is to be found in travel savings on HQ (-50%) and €250,000 in the project budget (-30%). The budget monitoring procedures to be implemented in UIC in the coming weeks will be applied for close follow-up
  • €180,000 in savings will be found on cancellations of major events due to coronavirus and by reducing unnecessary representation travel
  • 80% short-time working from 9 April to 15 September 2020 and better annual leave management will result in a saving of €400,000, shared between our staff cost at HQ (€221K) and on the project budget (€179K).

François Davenne will monitor the evolution of the situation closely and will adapt the measures to the situation if need be.

  • Every two months, UIC will issue a “UIC Covid-19 Economic Report” based on monitoring of the main financial indicators.

The support of UIC Members

More importantly, UIC needs the support and commitment of its Members to continue their involvement in the association’s projects and activities. This is the only way for UIC to continue demonstrating the added value of international cooperation in delivering efficient operational solutions for the railways. As an example, the Covid-19 Task Force that comprises most of the world’s railway companies under UIC coordination was implemented in just a few days and demonstrates the great value of collective efforts.

Based on the valuable input of its Members, a first guidance document on measures has already been published by UIC. A second document pertaining to the actions taken by the taskforce members has also been published recently. A further guidance document concerning the recovery phase will also be developed end of May (RAILsilience: How the rail sector is fighting Covid-19). To prepare this third document, UIC issued on 27 April a very practical and concrete document “Potential measures to restore confidence in rail travel following the Covid-19 pandemic”. It is a further demonstration of the key role of UIC in sharing the practices of its members and proposing recommendations in order to have coherent solutions around the world. All these documents and actions have the common aim of preventing customer distrust. This is show the importance of the measures taken to prevent the spread of contamination.

Next steps: build trust and advocate

UIC is now entering a new phase. That of gradual resumption of activity. Railways have huge advantages to defend. What is at stake is the confidence of passengers in public transport. The railways have remained very active during the crisis for the transport of goods. A further campaign of Rail Freight Forward (RFF) will highlight it in a very near future. Among others coming from the railway sector.