Safety In Solidarity – Joint French-MUA Ship Inspection Campaign

The MUA recognises the significance and power that arises from building international solidarity networks. Consequently we devote resources and energy to building these networks. It is abundantly clear that all maritime workers benefit from ties that extend our power, leverage and influence to ports around the world.

Following the recent global automation conference in Sydney, the MUA solidified a process of joint cooperation and coordination with the French Syndicat des Dockers du Havre, who are part of the national Fédération Nationale des Ports et Docks - Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT). They are also affiliated to the International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC). Le Havre is the largest port in France.

Both the MUA and the Le Havre dockers recognised the fundamental importance of safety on the job and a union representative from the Port of Le Havre attended the MUA’s ship inspection workshop where there was an exchange of information and an ongoing commitment to work together to make the waterfront in both France and Australia a safer place to work.

With the battle over automation being faced by unions internationally it is also vital that solidarity ties are strengthened with unions in our joint struggle against the union-busting methods of the Global Network Terminal operators (for example, DP World also operates terminals in France). Joint organising around safety assists us to build unity and trust between our unions and ensures that international solidarity is not based upon a top-down approach but is something that every rank-and-file worker can participate in.

“The MUA and the Le Havre dockers' union identified the same vessel deficiency problems on the same ships between French and Australian ports, said Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith. “Accordingly we have undertaken a joint project to ensure problems on these vessels that present dangers to workers are tackled jointly. This is real and practical solidarity work that will build strong ties between our unions” said Smith.

The MUA has mapped the direct container services between Australia and Le Havre and have identified three ships calling in Le Havre, Sydney and Melbourne every two weeks and one ship each week calling in Adelaide and Fremantle.

In a follow up message to the Syndicat des Dockers du Havre and the Federation Nationale des Ports et Docks (CGT), Smith wrote, “As we discussed, our joint action and practical on the ground cooperation is a great way to establish strong rank and file relationships that can cement the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the CGT and MUA by fighting side by side against shipowners who put the lives of wharfies and dockers at risk. We propose that the 19 identified vessels be a starting point for ongoing cooperation and information sharing between our two unions. This cooperation also reflects the increased capacity and leverage that a relationship between IDC and ITF affiliated unions can produce.”

The Syndicat des Dockers du Havre have embraced this initiative and already there has been an exchange of ship inspection reports. With that focused exchange, during the conference and in the follow up communications, the MUA has strengthened yet another bridge of solidarity, which will assist in the struggle in ensuring that waterside workers in both France and Australia work have safer workplaces.

MUA members are encouraged to report vessel deficiencies via the Vessel Deficiency Register.