The youth conference session of the Women Youth and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Conference began after lunch with a rousing introduction by Assistant WA Branch Secretary Danny Cain and ended with a life raft bang in the heart of Surfers Paradise.
Cain celebrated the fact more than 70 young people were participating in today’s conference.
He called on the room to seize the day and shape our future. He explained that the MUA Youth Committee has evolved into a Youth Movement and carefully explained why social media is far more than ‘slacktivism’ – it is a conversation starter and can be the difference between engaging people or not.
“We take action, we film it and we share it on Social Media”
“We’ve got the power, we just need to believe, to understand the issue and how to use it to our advantage. “
The common theme is that we need to be educated and we rely on speaking with our older members to help to educate us.
Followed by an upbeat video created by the Youth of the WA branch, MUA members following the key steps involved in creating a protest action outside Michaelia Cash’s office. Highlight of the video was an awesome rap created by one of the branch Youth members.
“We got the skills, we’ve got the training, Aussie Ships we should be sailing”
international guests were also called to the podium to speak about their local and wider international struggles.
Alina Mulisheva from the Federation of Transport Trade Unions Bulgaria, the union which hosted the ITF Congress last year opened by acknowledging the great contribution the MUA Youth has made on the global stage, indicating that they were the brightest youth movement they had ever seen during the Sofia conference.
Mulisheva went on to explain that all young trade unionists share the same issues and that there was only one solution.
‘We need to organise, organise, organise. In Europe we have the tools but citizens don’t know how to use them,” she said.
Mulisheva said she objected to description of today’s youth as the generation of hopeless, suggesting that they don’t feel hopeless but they are fearful to stand up, to speak out.
“They tell us that we are the generation of individuals – they teach us in school to compete rather than to be a team player. Being part of the youth structure of the union, you can change things. I believe in global solidarity and in everything that a union stands for,” she said.
“I believe that together we are making it happen. We have the same problems everyone, together let’s find the solutions. We cannot just leave the institutions to propose their visions, we can propose our own.”
Torben Seebold, the Maritime Coordinator of Ver.Di opened by offering his best wishes from the 18,000 members in Germany.
Seebold went on to discuss the rise of automation in terminals as one of the biggest issues the docker’s unions are currently facing and suggested that young unionists must find ways to meet the new job categories that are coming out of the new processes, including communication tools.
He said unions require a different approach, to utilise social media , which can reach many people in a matter of seconds.
Seebold further discussed the challenges of the global network terminals.
“We need strategic solutions via global solidarity between unions, between youth in the unions,” he said.
Follwing Seebold was Sharon Li, the Assistant Secretary of the Singapore Organisation of Seaman and the Secretary of the Youth Committee, who went onto to congratulate the MUA Youth Committee and its achievements.
Li explained that in Singapore they were expecting an economic slow-down and as such the union was working on developing skills and training.
She said that young workers do not necessarily see the importance of collective bargaining and that it was important to try and educate young workers about the importance of being part of the labour movement.
It was then the Trans Tasman’s Joshua Greer from the Maritime Union of New Zealand to take to the podium.
Greer talked about the great mobilisation of the New Zealand unions around the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a document that he said undermined sovereignty.
Finalising the internationals of the youth section was Canada’s Dan Kask from the International Longshoreman and Warehousing Union (ILWU).
Kask said that when he saw a video of an Australian dispute which MUA Youth were involved in he became inspired.
“It lit a fire under us in Canada and from that the national youth conference has built its numbers,” he said.
The Youth section of the conference was closed with the West’s Phil Swanston, an active seafaring member who lead the preface for the Sunday action.
“We have to combat as youth the same things as the rest of the world including smart CBAs that consider demographic change. We need to consider how we divide the work across more shoulders. There are solutions. The Youth and their committees have to push the negotiation committees to negotiate new positions to improve the situation,” Swanston said.
It was then down to Surfers Paradise for the main event.
Buses transported the delegation to Cavill Avenue in Surfers Paradise where members handed out flyers and had conversations with community members about the situation Australian seafarers have to face.
This culminated in an orchestrated stunt including the inflation of a life raft which was filled with sinking Australian seafarers in life jackets. The rest of the crowd were taught sea shanties about the plight of the Portland 5, who were unceremoniously pulled out of their bunks at 1am by up to 30 security guards.