Youth Represent at NSU Conference

Norwegian Seafarers' Union held its 27th ordinary Congress in Trondheim, Norway in September. Two MUA Youth committee members – Louise Ryall from Sydney and Phil Hansen from Queensland were selected to attend Jacqueline Smith’s final conference.

An excerpt of Phil Hansen’s Report

The congress was opened by Jacqueline Smith who has stepped down to become the new Maritime Coordinator for International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). Hansen said the trip was beneficial to learn about how other international unions conduct their business.

“It was interesting to hear that the struggles they face are very similar to ours: A right-wing government, ships being flagged out, multi-nationals proliferating in the off shore and a cruise ship industry that is trying to cut costs to boost profits,” he said.

“Through the four days we heard about all regions and all maritime fields within the NSU speak about the wins and losses in their industry.”

There were youth committees, motions, debates and robust conversations on how the trade union movement can progress short-term and long-term.

Hansen said the Norwegian union had a similar commitment to training and safety as a way to better equip members.

 Phil Hansen on-the-job on the Gladstone Tugs.

The Norwegian Government has plans in the works to increase transport by 25 per cent to decrease the cost of road maintenance and protect the environment.

“It would be great if our government could adopt this idea,” he said.

The NSU have one youth conference a year and would like to make that two, they also sent six youth delegates to the ITF Congress out of a total 35 delegates.

“The youth movement is gaining traction with twice as many youth attending this year’s NSU congress.”

One major difference Hansen pointed out was that one of the guest speakers was a member of the conservative government and another was the head of a major business. “I found it very strange that there was some one from the right wing government and a company CEO speaking at the congress, but I guess better the devil you know then the devil you don't,” he said.

Hansen also described Paddy Crumlin’s speech that was delivered on day three.

“You could have heard a pin drop. He commands attention as the MUA commands respects. The way he speaks and draws in a crowd and speaks so fluently about the ITF and the fight we have can only be described as inspirational,” he said. 

“Coming home from this trip only makes me want to get more involved in the union. I want to create a career path with in the union and to keep on fight for workers rights in Australia and around the world.”

The MUA contingent got the NSU to swear the White Ribbon Oath.

An excerpt of Louise Ryall’s report Just like Australia, the NSU is facing a major struggle ahead of them, Ryall said One of the major issues she identified, that also resonated in Australia, was the prolific use of Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships.

“Data from the bureau of statistics showed that a third of Norwegian shipping is Flag of Convenience,” she said.

The current membership of the NSU sits at 10773. Officials and delegates go out to recruit members and win prizes for signing the most people.

“A good strategy that they have is they initially approach people while at school doing there training offer them free membership while studying so they can see the benefits of the union and fees start once the individual starts receiving a wage,” Ryall said.

 Louise Ryall at the October National Council

Phil Hansen and Ryall met with the Youth Committee of the NSU over several days.

“It was great to meet all the youth at the congress and discuss the similarities between the current political environment in Norway and Australia,” she said.

Ryall took particular interest in the union’s election process noting how reserved the event was.

“Democracy is alive in the NSU albeit different from ours, less robust one would say. But it was a unique experience to see.”

She said the had learned a lot from the experience and was grateful she was able to participate.

“The similarities between the struggle that the NSU and the MUA are incredible. Seeing the time and effort that has gone in by the NSU and the ITF has been amazing, they are a great Union and their solidarity with the MUA is a great thing,” she said.