• The Union of Public and Rail Transport (UTP) published the new edition of its Mobility Observatory on Tuesday.

    If the French tend to reuse public transport regularly, we have not yet returned to the level before the health crisis.

  • One of the expectations identified for taking more public transport is to increase the supply.

    Not easy when transport operators are facing a shortage of drivers.

  • The UTP advances as main causes the massive retirements, the increase in absenteeism since the Covid-19, the competition of the other sectors in tension.

    But Eric Dugon, of the CFDT Transport Urbain, evokes a deeper crisis.

A supply shock.

This would be a strong demand from the French for urban transport in order to use it more in the future, a key issue in the ecological transition.

This is highlighted by a new edition of the Mobility Observatory that the Union of Public and Rail Transport (UTP) published on Tuesday.

The 1,501 French people surveyed, aged 18 or over and living in an agglomeration of 50,000 inhabitants or more, are 93% to consider it necessary to develop public transport, four points more than last year, specifies Ifop , who conducted this survey.

4,000 drivers in French urban transport

The catch is that this “more offers” also means more drivers.

But they've been rare lately.

The first alerts had already been issued at the end of the summer, as the start of the school year approached, on the shortage of coach drivers.

The National Federation of Passenger Transport (FNTV) then reported 15,000 vacant positions in France, “unheard of in the sector”.

Last week, it was Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile-de-France region, who called on transport operators – the RATP in the lead – “to put all the means at their disposal” to make up for the lack of bus drivers. , which is beginning to seriously disrupt traffic in the area.

In the process, it announced the doubling to 2,000 euros of the regional bonus paid to those who will enter driver training.

For its part, the RATP said "to work twice as hard", "in particular with a major communication campaign in the first half of October to attract more drivers".

“We have around 15,000 drivers, and our goal in 2022 was to recruit 1,500,” recalls Marie-Claude Dupuis, director of strategy, innovation and development within the Parisian management on Tuesday.

“At the end of August, we were at 700 recruited drivers”, she continues.

Far from it, then.

But the shortage does not only affect the Parisian management.

Marie-Ange Debon, president of the UTP, evokes;

55,000 drivers employed in urban transport (bus, metro, tram, etc.) in France, and between 3 and 4,000 missing at the end of the summer.

Mainly bus drivers.

And if we take Keolis, one of the main operators in France, “we estimate the number of missing positions out of our approximately 15,000 drivers at 400”, continues Marie-Ange Debon.

High age pyramid and rising absenteeism

This shortage is unprecedented.

“Until the start of the school year in September 2021, we had absolutely no shortages, on the contrary”, points out Eric Hugon, secretary general of the CFDT Urban Transport, himself a bus driver.

How to explain it?

There is already a high age pyramid which works against the sector.

The share of employees over 55 represents more than 20% of the driver workforce and rises to 40% if it is extended to 50 and over, recalls the UTP.

What lead now, and even more in the future, increased recruitment needs to compensate for retirements.

At the same time, the UTP points to the problem of absenteeism, which has worsened since the Covid-19 crisis.

The average number of days off per employee and per year was 39 days in 2021, compared to 31.5 in 2019, notes the professional union in the urban social report it draws up (excluding RATP).

The Parisian management is not spared either.

"Absenteeism is an indicator that we follow closely," says Marie-Claude Dupuis.

We have been fighting for a long time against cheating on work stoppages and have just reported to the government the problems of abuse that we still encounter today on the isolation certificate, which should allow the base to protect our most fragile employees. of Covid-19.


Competition from other sectors

Urban transport is not the only sector to encounter tensions over recruitment, which again complicates the situation.

Catering, personal services, construction, metallurgy, logistics complete the list.

“These sectors compete with each other”, observes Marie-Ange Debon, citing logistics in particular, “in full growth since the health crisis and which has been able to attract bus drivers with higher salaries”.

In this context, public transport sometimes struggles to compete, if only because it often involves working on weekends and at staggered hours.

“Which attracts less and less, recognizes Marc Delayer, vice-president of UTP, referring to a trend observed since Covid-19 and “which affects all public services”.

Eric Hugon makes the same observation.

“This translates not only into a difficulty in recruiting new drivers, but also in keeping them, he observes, citing the Bordeaux network, where he works, “and where 41 people have resigned since the start of the year”.

"There again unheard of," he says.

The trade unionist does not explain it only by the growing refusal of staggered hours and weekends.

"Working conditions have generally deteriorated in all networks," he laments.

First of all, there has been an increased search for productivity on the part of operators over the past decade, with increasingly reduced travel and turn times (between two rounds).

"" One of the consequences is absenteeism, which in turn degrades the situation a little more, since the pressure is increasing on those who remain, continues Eric Hugon.

If you add wages that have not evolved in the right direction, you get this cocktail that makes the job no longer attractive or that people leave it.


A vast national communication campaign in the fall

Wages, however, is one of the assets that UTP wants to highlight in the vast communication campaign it will launch this fall, in addition to that of the RATP.

“80% of urban transport jobs are paid 40% above the minimum wage, slips Marie-Ange Debon.

Either a good salary for a job that does not require, to enter it, a high level of qualifications.

adds often stable jobs: "98% are on permanent contracts and 94.1% full-time", specifies the UTP.

For his part, Eric Hugon rather quotes the figure of the Dares, given last year.

“Since 2013, the salary of a driver at the conventional minimum has only come closer to the minimum wage.

It is only 6% above the minimum wage, compared to 13% in 2013,” he reports.


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