The future of maritime activism - unionists gather in Montreal

One hundred and thirty maritime workers from across 56 countries are meeting in Montreal, Canada tomorrow to help shape the future of trade union campaigning in the industry.

It’s the second ever ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) Maritime Roundtable (MRT), bringing together activists from affiliated unions in all continents.

Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of the dockers’ section, explained: “Dockers and seafarers face more potential issues at work than ever before: automation, subcontracting, the race to the bottom on health and safety standards, the rise of multinationals. Employers are thinking about profit margins, and in a lot of cases that’s it. If it means workers are impacted then so be it. There has to be someone there that says that’s not ok and that’s us, maritime trade unionists. We’re here to fight the fights that need fighting to ensure safe, fair workplaces for ordinary people.”

Joining Mr. Crumlin opening the event will be Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers’ section. He said: “This isn’t just a meeting. The MRT is about bringing forward a new generation of activists by raising their skills to face the challenges, and recognise the opportunities, that they will deal with as maritime workers, trade unionists and potentially the movement’s future leaders.

“This event is practical and it’s also representative of what the ITF family is all about – solidarity and collective action.”

Sujata Dey, lead trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians, is also due to attend the opening of the MRT.

The maritime activists will take to the streets of Montreal on Wednesday in a rally to celebrate the gains made by trade unions for ordinary people.

Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) president Jim Given said: “We are proud to host trade unionists from all over the world. This week they will join us in rallying in to give a simple message – trade unionists are the voice of the 99%, the ordinary working men and women whose voices are being drowned out by the 1% - the richest in society. One maritime example is the proposed free trade agreements in Canada that would have a huge impact on the shipping industry, and ultimately on workers, both in and outside the country. The bottom line is we want fair trade not free trade.”

Find out more about the event and follow news updates here and via #MRT2016 on social media.